Monday, May 31, 2021

May 2021 Reading Reflections

I felt like I got my reading momentum back this month, although I'm not sure how long it will last. I always feel like I'm on a roll when I've selected a few particularly good and engaging books in a row, but as soon as I pick a single dud - not necessarily an objectively bad book, just one I'm not in the mood or right frame of mind to finish reading at the time - my momentum completely crashes. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!

At any rate, this month's books were all able to hold my attention and make me want to race through them. The second and third books I read this month were on the long side - 600+ and 500+ printed pages, respectively - so even if I was rushing to get to the end, it still took roughly two weeks of evenings to get through each. (I do most of my reading right before bed, and I typically work through two books at a time, switching between them on my Kindle several times during a typical evening. Whenever I find myself getting a little bored of where I'm at in one book, I switch to the other one for a while, and then back again.) 

  • Girl A by Abigail Dean - This novel is inspired by the Turpin child abuse case, so be forewarned that the subject matter is quite dark. I thought this was very well-written, though I think many readers find the nonlinear narrative a bit confusing and unnecessarily cryptic. This book is ultimately narrowly focused on the main character - "Girl A," the eldest daughter who escaped from the house - and her inner, psychological journey of coming to terms with what she experienced. Some would say the book is written in a fragmented way that "hides the ball," which could be frustrating, though I'd argue that this writing style is true to the main character's state of mind. A Goodreads reviewer mentioned that while the premise sounds similar to Emma Donoghue's Room, Girl A is actually a lot more like Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, in that it's about a character looking back and slowly realizing dark truths about their past and re-evaluating their understanding of long-ago events. I find this to be a very accurate comparison. (Both those other novels are very good, by the way. They're probably both technically better-written novels than Girl A, but I enjoyed all three.) 
  • Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe - I really enjoy well-researched books about corporate wrongdoing, like with the excellent Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. Empire of Pain is similarly well-written and well-researched, but because its focus is more on the Sackler family than their company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals ("Purdue"), I enjoyed it slightly less than Bad Blood. The first fifth of the book discusses the roots of the Sackler family's wealth - mostly from before they bought Purdue - and I personally found that section a bit of a slog. Though I think Patrick Radden Keefe does an excellent job tying the whole story together by showing how the family's earlier work relates to later events, I just personally found the earlier part less interesting. This book is mainly about an extremely rich family and their personal drama and conflicts amongst themselves over control of family assets and Purdue. Let's just say the real-life version is definitely far less interesting or darkly entertaining than Succession. (A number of Purdue employees even draw the comparison between the Sacklers and the Roys from Succession.) Based on the book's descriptions, the Sacklers are a tedious and unpleasant bunch, all the worst caricatures about people living on absurd amounts of family money - blood money, given that their current wealth is based on selling opioids - come to life. It was an extremely interesting read, this book is definitely another frontrunner for my favorite nonfiction book of the year. Radden Keefe also wrote Say Nothing, which I also enjoyed.
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz - I've read this series out of order, as I finished the second book back in March before picking up this one. I think Moonflower Murders is slightly better-paced, but that's just a small nitpicky comment, as I greatly enjoyed both. These books both contain the novel-within-a-novel device, except in this one, you actually start with the second novel first and only get introduced to the actual main story after finishing most of the other novel. I found that transition a bit abrupt, so I didn't get swept up in this book quite as quickly as with Moonflower Murders. Once again, I really liked Anthony Horowitz's writing style, even if I didn't have the background knowledge to understand many of the references he makes to Agatha Christie's books, Sherlock Holmes, or other whodunnits. (There were, however, a few references to European fountain pen manufacturers I was able to recognize, thanks to my relatively recent jump into that hobby!) I might pick up more of Anthony Horowitz's work now that I've finished all the currently available volumes from this series. Though I wonder if I might like his other books less because I think a lot of what makes the Magpie Murders series so good is the heroine, the down-to-earth and no-nonsense Susan Ryeland. 

I'm currently working my way through a few books that aren't quite as engaging or exciting to me, unfortunately. Which is not to say they're objectively bad books, I think my brain is still distracted and preoccupied from pandemic-time concerns and so my tastes in books aren't what they'd normally be. It continues to be difficult for any book to really hold my attention. 

Right now, I'm definitely still very fickle and fussy about what I'm reading, and it's easy for small, innocuous details to really annoy me and make me not want to finish a book I'd normally enjoy. For instance, I just picked up The Push by Ashley Audrain, which is the exact type of thriller-ish story focused on a woman's internal dialogue and thought processes surrounding some dark event that I typically love to read. While I can appreciate that The Push is objectively quite well-written, something about the premise and writing style just isn't working for me, even though I normally love books like this. 

Have you read any of the books on my list this month? If so, what did you think? Or have you read anything particularly good recently?

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear from anyone who might be reading! Please feel free to leave a comment or question.