I have a new reading chair. It's comfy and yellow and just perfect for curling up in. I am trying to resist throwing all my clothes on it at the end of the day, so that it remains free when I have a spare minute for reading. That, I predict, will last all of a fortnight.
I've not been sharing all the books I'm reading with you here, otherwise this would become a dedicated book blog and there are others doing the whole book-blog thing far better than I can. I am recording everything on Goodreads and it's amazing how many of the books I've read since January that I have already forgotten about. There are a few that really stand out, that I have absolutely loved, but far more than fade into obscurity within a few months. You can't really know how you'll feel about a book until it's over, right? You win some, you lose some, in all things. Books especially.
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
This book has an intriguing premise, but a difficult one. Aysel is looking for a suicide partner online and finds Roman, who is determined that they should set a date for the deed in just a few weeks time. As they get closer to the date, and each other, one starts to get cold feet... I'm not sure how 'realistic' (for want of a better term) this book is in its portrayal of suicidal teens and the ending was perhaps a little predictable (not always a bad thing) but, for a book based around suicide, it was actually pretty sweet.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
This book is lauded is genius, and I can understand why, but I didn't love it in the way that I wanted. Reading the blurb, it felt like something that would be right up my street but I found it clunky and although it was interesting to read a book which explored gender, it felt like something was missing in the portrayal of Callie. There was a disconnect between Callie as a narrator of the novel, and Callie as a character, about whom we learn little other than his/her hermaphroditic status (Eugenides has explained his use of the word hermaphrodite rather than the more accepted intersex as being part of the Greek classical tradition). I wanted it to be two stories - the story of Callie's incestuous grandparents, and the story of Callie; although it was written in the Greek epic style (a little joke about Homer in the introduction did amuse the classicist in me) it felt too long and disconnected. There were moments of brilliance - the courtship with The Object and Callie's relationship with Julie - but I wasn't as wow-ed as I wanted to be.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
How has it taken me so long to read this book? Having had an interest in feminist literature (and simply feminism itself) for almost 10 years now (gosh...), numerous friends, teachers and articles have recommended this book to me but I have never gotten around to actually reading it. I think I was put off by the 'science fiction' description, and my previous experience of Atwood's work, which as been mixed (loved The Penelopiad - again, the classicist in me was rejoicing - but wasn't so enthused about The Blind Assassin). I'm admonishing myself now though, because I absolutely loved it. I loved the characters, the intrigue, the way it kept us guessing, the implications. I love how dystopian fiction like this throws into sharp relief issues that we are dealing with in the right here, right now. I wanted a little more closure at the end, and a little bit more explanation of how the world ended up like it is in the novel, but overall I was absolutely blown away. A total must-read.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I've read this before, back when I was doing The Color Purple (my favourite book of all time) for A-Level coursework. Counting the years out, I realise how long ago that was, and I had actually forgotten a lot of what happens. This book documents the first part of Maya Angelou's life, from some amazing, life-affirming moments to some heart-breaking ones, as well. As with all of Maya Angelou's work it is wise and wonderful, and I loved it.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
If you're looking for a real page-turning this Summer, then this is it. In the first sentence we learn that Lydia, beloved daughter and sister of the Lee family, is dead, but the whys and wherefores are kept a secret. Looking back over Lydia's life, and the life of her parents, you watch how events lead up to her death with that car-crash horror that keeps you hooked until the end. Exploring family tension, racial difference and the power of secrets, this is an excellent read; although at times the author over-eggs the pudding a little bit (you'll see what I mean) rather than working issues in subtly, I was left reeling at the end.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This is the loveliest book I've read this year. It's just so sweet, and funny and light. The perfect corollary to so much else that I've been reading recently. Following the story of socially-inept genetics professor Don as he attempts to find a wife, this book is full of mishaps, capers and misunderstandings, just like any good rom-com. If you're looking for a book that will make you smile from ear to ear, this is it.
What have you been reading recently? Share your recommendations with me!