How is it the end of August already? When this post goes up, I’ll be sorting myself out in New York, having just arrived from Reykjavik and on my way to Montreal. I’ll share thoughts/feelings/etc on all that in another post but for now: Things I’ve Been Reading, the August edition.
The Wind From the East by Almudena Grandes – I just about didn’t pick this book. I picked it up two or three times before I decided to read it. While it’s a bit of a read, I never felt that it got long. About an odd family with secrets that moves from Madrid down to Cadiz, it documents their relationships with their neighbours, who also have secrets. Grandes has a wonderful way with words, even in the translated version. Flashbacks are everywhere in this book, linking the past with the present, even from paragraph to paragraph, which at first, I admit, threw me off a bit, but as soon as I got used to it, I realized how important it was that the story be told this way. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – When I first started watching football and wanted to read about it as well, Hornby’s Fever Pitch was probably the most recommended book I found. His wry, honest way of writing pulled me right in and High Fidelity was no different. About relationships and figuring out that perfect isn’t really what we’re looking for and that those ‘what if’s’ probably wouldn’t have turned out better, either. While not one of my favourite books, I still enjoyed and would definitely recommend it.
A Metropolitan Murder by Lee Jackson – I’m always a fan of books set in late 1800’s London and while this was definitely what I’d classify as an ‘easy read’ it was still a twisting, winding enough of a murder mystery that I was a bit caught off guard at the ending and didn’t quite see what was coming up. Not necessarily something I’d really recommend right off, but still a decent, quick read.
English Passengers by Matthew Kneale – This was probably one of my favourite books I read this summer. (Yes, I was sold on the front cover.) Told from various points of view and from two different decades with characters that eventually meet, it starts you off with a pastor looking for the Garden of Eden and realizing that it must be in Australia and so manages to get an expedition to take him there, while, in the past, an Australian native documents what has happened to the country since the while men arrived, the way they try to adapt and how eventually everything he’s once known has completely disappeared. Sprinkled with the captain of the ship, various people in Australia and miscellaneous other characters, it ends with what feels as suitably just, even if it is too late and the past can’t be changed. I felt such a range of emotions reading this book. From amusement at the predicament of the captain irritation at the pastor, guilt and aching for the native of Australia and utter anger at the settlers, Kneale does an amazing job on taking his readers along the years and various paths his characters follow and never gets you lost.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – I was actually very skeptical about this book, which is odd considering how popular it had been/was. But, I decided to give it a chance and I’m so, so glad I did. Another book with various viewpoints and back and forths between various years, Walter does an amazing job with his cast of characters, with the feelings he has come through the pages and there is never a misstep when it comes to transitioning characters through their years. Events are revealed at exactly the right moment and while there’s a bit of guessing that does go along with it, it’s never enough to make you feel as if you’d gotten lost. Another one of my favourite books this summer and would recommend it right away.
Lies by Enrique de Hériz – To be completely fair, I didn’t finish this book. I couldn’t. This and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth are the two novels I just couldn’t quite get into. I got about 3/4 of the way through Lies and then just utterly gave up, while White Teeth got the first quarter before I realized I was fighting a losing battle. To me, the premise of Lies was super interesting, about a woman who accidentally finds out people think she’s died in a tragic accident in South America and doesn’t contact anyone to correct the mistake while her daughter sorts through family history, thinking her mother is dead and finding some answers (and more questions) among her belongings. So, great premise, but the way it was executed just left me asking for more. It felt repetitive and much too heavy, with all the characters not quite defined and what everyone was seeking a blurry mass of….something.
The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall – This was a quick read that felt like a fall day even though I read it in a day and a half of 40C heat. It ranged in both characters and stories and the settings changed but the tone stayed the same throughout, a little dark, slightly heavy with a twist at the end that made you pause for a moment, re-read the last few sentences to make sure you got it right. So bookmark this for the beginning of October, it’ll be perfect.
Misc. (Articles/Short Stories/Lists/etc.):
How to Be Polite (Medium)
Your Spain Experience – Interview with Erin (Y Nada Mas) (This is a friend of mine and so you should read this interview because it is eye opening and wonderful. Do it!)
Big Week by Zadie Smith (The Paris Review)
No Time to Think (New York Times)
Come Out of Your Shell (The Art of Simple)
Brainstorming Doesn’t Work; Try This Technique Instead (Fast Company)
How To Tell a Great Story (Harvard Business Review)
When It’s Bad to Have Good Choices (The Paris Review)
Why Everyone Should Take Vacation (The Washington Post)
Pending Parenthood in the Digital Age (Pacific Standard Mag)
The End of Neighbours (Maclean’s)
For a More Ordered Life, Organize Like a Chef (NPR)
The Pedophiles Who Didn’t Want to Hurt Children (The Awl)
Why Names Are So Easy to Forget (The Atlantic)
Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain (The New York Times)