Lessons. I have learned many lessons this year. Reading for a goal kills a lot of the pleasure I take in reading. Television is also a thing I like to do with my leisure time and it’s easier to pursue your other hobby of knitting while engaging with it than it is with reading, although, believe me, I have tried*. One may find pretty new library books that may distract from items on one’s list. So: while I may have failed and failed hard at completing the original list, greater self-knowledge and having read a squillion more books than I’ve done in recent years is an achievement indeed.
Here’s what I’ve been reading since the last update:
- The Spiteful Planet and Other Stories by Shinichi Hoshi – I’ve never read Japanese sci fi before, and this collection was refreshing for its lack of the ideas I’ve seen worked every which way in Western sci fi.
- The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella – well, that’s the Kinsella off my list. It was fun, but I was not quite so charmed by the heroine as all the promotions said I would be. I liked Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy in the film.
- Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black – I seriously need to read some Holly Black. Progressive, thought-provoking, entertaining work from some very talented writers. So many skillful variations on zombie and unicorn themes! The introductions by the editors to each story, in which they play fought about the merits of the creatures, were more distracting than helpful or scene-setting, but they did a seriously great job finding the writers, including Garth Nix and Alaya Dawn Johnson.
- The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim – a woman’s life journey in eary twentieth century Korea. A most sympathetic heroine and… I don’t think this is precisely the author’s fault, but it’s exactly the kind of book from an Asian writer directed at a Western audience that’s being marketed as an ethnic bestseller type, with a great focus on the US and explaining every cultural element rather than challenging Western readers to fill in their own gaps. It’s playing into contemporary Western and publishing sensibilities in a way that doesn’t really work with the first person perspective and historical setting.
- Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – an intense and finely written novel on being a teenage girl, eating disorders, and loss.
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender – in a family of people with peculiar talents, a girl can taste the emotions of whoever cooked or baked a given item of food. Really, really good.
I really didn’t get into Infinite Joy as there’s only so much I’m-such-a-smart-white-dude-ing I can take. I also started Up the Walls of the World by James Tiptree, Jr., but realised it was a novel for a bit further on in my life, if ever. Right now I’m reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, which is truly excellent. It’s about life in a small town in Maine, on the coast of the United States; a collection of short stories which in some way integrate the powerful figure of Mrs Kitteridge. It may make you rethink or rediscover your ideas about love and the value of lives lived in small ways, and it’s very much worth picking up.
So, it’s probably time to pick ten of my favourites from this year! In the order in which I read them:
- Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
- Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
- The Shattering by Karen Healey
- The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels
- Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
Here’s to a long, slow summer of reading the rest of my library books and those people have kindly given me that I’ve not yet gotten around to reading. Taking my time and pleasure, this time!
* I knit walking down the street. I am that kind of person.