Monday, August 2, 2021

July 2021 Reading Reflections

July was another odd reading month for me. I wasn't that busy or stressed out at the office, but I've still mostly been in one of those moods where I generally don't feel like reading during my free time or before I sleep, I just scroll through social media or watch YouTube instead. 

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I got through two books in the first half of July, and since then I haven't been reading much at all, even though the other books I'm currently working on are both quite good and would normally be highly engaging to me as a reader. Here are the books I read this month in the order in which I finished them:

  • Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi - Mary H.K. Choi is also the author of an essay once published at The Cut - now only available for purchase in Choi's book of essays, Oh, Never Mind -  about how trying to make it as a writer and creative in NYC once drove her to make the wildly extravagant decision to buy a Rick Owens jacket. I've referenced that essay at least twice in past entries here. I remember it being an excellent piece, incisively written with a vivid embodiment of emotions I could relate to, about trying to "fake it 'til you make it" in a setting where one feels out of place and rather "less than." This book is similarly well-written. While my background is very different from that of the Korean American sisters at the heart of this novel, the story contains a number of moments and sentiments I found incredibly true to my own lived Asian American experience. That's something I really value as a reader. When I browse for ebooks from the New York Public Library, the genres aren't clearly flagged, so I was halfway through Yolk when I first realized it was marketed as a young adult ("YA") book. This came as a great shock - as I recently commented over at Gabby's - because Yolk addresses many adult themes with an unflinching directness I don't associate with YA novels. It has a grittier writing style than I'm used to from YA. (Admittedly, the last several YA novels I've read were the Hunger Games trilogy and prequel, so I may not be fully patched in to current genre norms.) This book definitely feels to me like it was written for adults, not teens. The only thing that seemed remotely YA to me was that there's a romance subplot that ties up more quickly and neatly than it probably would in a similar novel marketed to older audiences. 
  • No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood - This book reminded me of Jenny Offil's Weather, in that they're both somewhat nontraditional, brief novels written in a more stream of consciousness style. I liked this one a lot more than Weather, but this general writing style is not my favorite. Both books could get confusing at times, though they were also very engaging reads. Roxane Gay's Goodreads review is very accurate to my experience of this book: it's well-written; it feels a lot like two separate books because of the traumatic event that very suddenly fully takes over in the second half of the story; and if you're not "very online," then maybe this book might confuse you too much to be enjoyable. To tell the truth, I'm probably a bit "too online" - 30-50 feral hogs, anyone? - even if I've only been actively using Twitter since November 2018, but the narrator of this book is definitely much more online than I am. Because of the unusual writing style, it's hard to really describe this book, and I think it may be polarizing, but I did enjoy reading it. No One is Talking About This has also been long-listed for the 2021 Booker Prize. 

I'm currently reading Kate Atkinson's Case Histories - on the recommendation of a commenter here! -  and Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon. Both are great, and I normally would be eager to continue rushing through them most evenings before I go to bed, but because I'm currently in a weird mood where I don't really feel like reading for fun, that hasn't been happening. 

I'm roughly halfway through Case Histories. As someone who enjoys murder mysteries and police procedurals, I think this book is an interesting take on the genre. It's one of those more introspective police procedural novels - reminds me a bit of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, though the main character in Case Histories is a private investigator and not a police detective - that's a bit more focused on the emotional life of the detective than on the case at hand. I'd definitely be interested in picking up the other books in this series. 

With Noonday Demon, I love Andrew Solomon's writing - Far From the Tree is right up there among my favorite nonfiction books of all time - but lengthy nonfiction involving lots of secondary source research is generally not the easiest genre for me to read on Kindle. I think I'd have an easier time reading this book more quickly in hard copy. So this one will definitely be a slow read, I wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't able to finish it until September, or possibly even later! Which isn't a reflection on the quality of the book, it's just a product of my reading habits using the Kindle. 

I don't know if you've been following the Olympics, but there's been a lot of surprises in the women's artistic gymnastics events. There's no question Simone Biles did the right thing withdrawing from the rest of the team final and many of her other events, and I'm so glad she wasn't injured because that vault in the team final could have gone so much more wrong. The rest of the team did such an admirable job rising to the occasion in the face of unexpected circumstances, winning the silver medal in the team final. The Russian team that won the gold also did wonderfully! I'm also so impressed that all the US women will go home with at least one medal: Sunisa Lee's all-around gold medal victory was incredible, and I'm glad she was able to win the bronze on uneven bars in an event final that was really tough for all. Mykayla Skinner also did great on vault, and now Jade Carey is a gold medalist on floor exercise! 

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