Book Club

go set a watchman

I'm now two-thirds of the way through my 100 books in 2015 challenge, which is bonkers. I've read more this year than I have in the past three combined, but my to-read list just keeps growing. The more I read, the more I want to read. I've been following some new book bloggers, listening to some new book-ish podcasts and just discovering authors whose back catalogue I want to dive straight into, which all add to the pile. It's a good thing, but I also think I might have to read 100 books every year from now on to even make a dent. Here's a few of the notable reads of the past two months... 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 

I absolutely devoured this book, despite it being so different from the stuff I usually love. It's a post-apocalyptic fiction that flits between the present, and the future, where most of the population have been wiped out by the horrific 'Georgia Flu'. I found the whole premise terrifying, but the book itself was riveting. It follows a few key characters, including Kirsten, who lives with a nomadic band of actors who perform Shakespeare in the new world. This isn't over-dramatic, Walking Dead-type stuff, it's a lot quieter and more restrained, and as such, more compelling to me. It's incredibly moving in points, and fascinating in others, and, although the ending was perhaps a little too contrived for me, I've been recommending it ever since. 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell 

I discovered Rainbow Rowell when I picked up Fangirl earlier in the year, and feel completely in love with the story and characters. Eleanor & Park is probably her best-loved novel, and I can totally see why. It is heartbreakingly sweet and not at all what I imagined from the blurb, which suggests teenage misfits finding love amongst the lockers. This book is far more than that, and at times had me choking back tears at what else is going on in these characters' lives, that has nothing to do with the slightly cringe-worthy romance side of it all. If you want to feel all the feelings, then this one's for you. 

You by Caroline Kepnes

Oh god, this book. This book, you guys. This one is going to stick with me for a long time, in the best possible way. This is the kind of book that I wish I could write, with compelling characters and subtle plot twists and edge-of-your-seat thrills that had me entirely hooked. I never wanted to put this down, and I was gutted to finish it because it was over far too soon for me. The story centres on Joe, a creepy-as-fuck bookseller who fixates on a woman who walks into his bookshop early on in the novel. Then, you watch from the sidelines as he ingratiates himself into her life by stalking her online, until he begins to control her life. This book is genuinely incredible - I'm not sure how Kepnes managed to make Joe at once so vile and so appealing all at once, but it is a true skill. The whole thing is genius, you have to read it. 

The First Bad Man by Miranda July 

I think I might be the only person who's not heard of Miranda July, because apparently she's kind of a big deal? I don't know about that, but I do know that this book was unlike anything I've read before and was beautifully endearing in a way I wasn't expecting. It's unusual, with unusual characters and unusual happenings, but somehow I was swept along throughout. The slight absurdities and surrealism only added to the real human-ness of it. The book tells the story of a lonely, idiosyncratic middle-aged woman who is obsessed with a philandering man, who she believes she has been in a relationship with in a previous life, and in finding the spirit of a baby boy she met when she was young, who she believes is being reincarnated into other babies. Her boss' daughter arrives unannounced to stay with her, and turns her life upside-down by, basically, bullying her. It's disorientating and fascinating, and really kind of wonderful. 

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee 

Oh, how I wish that I had never known about this book. It was so disappointing. With all the controversy surrounding its publication, it was almost bound to be, with Harper Lee's reticence at publishing it and the lack of editing that it has undergone because of her advanced age. But, I held out hope. It was wonderful to be reunited with beloved characters, but other than that this book was heart-breaking in the worst way. It was dense and muddled, and contained long swathes of argumentative prose between characters that just didn't work. It was frustrating and clunky. Where To Kill a Mockingbird has so much grace and goodness, this feel flat. It was a wondrous editor that saw the seeds of that later novel in this first draft, and managed to pull Harper Lee into the greatness that she was so obviously capable of, but this book doesn't hold up. If you love To Kill a Mockingbird and, in particular, if you love Atticus Finch, then do yourself a favour and leave this one on the shelf. 

What have you been reading?