Tuesday, September 7, 2021

August 2021 Reading Reflections

Pardon me for disappearing for a while. Work managed to get too busy quite suddenly for me to post last week!

I had a pretty good reading month in the first half of August, but since then I've been right back in another one of those weird moods where I'm just not motivated to read for fun, particularly before bed. There's been a lot of bad news in the world recently, and I just... don't have the energy to use my brain for anything after work, even to read books that are objectively quite well-written and also not too terribly heavy in subject matter. 

Our courthouse wedding in late September is going to be super informal and super casual, and K and I have already done basically all the minimal planning work that's required. Even so, I suspect my brain will probably still feel too preoccupied and distracted to read for fun for most of the rest of the month. So maybe I'll end up having no new books to report on for September.

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As usual, here are the books I read last month in the order in which I finished them:

  • Case Histories by Kate Atkinson - This was recommended by a commenter here, I enjoyed it a lot and am now working on One Good Turn, the next book in the series. Based off these two volumes, Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series is a bit of a nontraditional murder mystery series, the focus is much more on the characters and their inner lives than it is on anyone actively taking many steps to solve the mystery. I don't mind that at all, though when reading Case Histories I sometimes found myself confused by the pacing because I was initially expecting the main character - who was working as a private investigator, after retiring as a policeman - to get fully to the bottom of each of the separate crimes involved in the story. But once I let go of that expectation, I was okay with the book's somewhat slow pace. I enjoy Atkinson's writing style and the way she gets in the head of all her characters, so I can see myself finishing the entire Jackson Brodie series in fairly short order, once I'm able to shake off my current non-reading mood. 
  • Imposter Syndrome by Kathy Wang - I really loved Kathy's debut novel, Family Trust, so I was excited to read this when the New York Public Library finally got it in as an ebook. This is a very different, more fast-paced story than Family Trust, and once I got to the end I really wanted there to be more! Like in Kathy's first novel, there are many sharp, darkly funny observations about life in the Bay Area and life in the tech industry interspersed throughout this story. I can't wait for her next book. 
  • Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner - This book had tons of buzz amongst the many writers I follow on Twitter, and all their rave reviews are extremely well-deserved. I loved this memoir, and it's going to be right up there amongst my favorite nonfiction books of the year.  It's an incredibly sad story, as the author lost her mother to cancer after two brutal rounds of chemotherapy. I've recommended so many memoirs on this blog over the years because it's a genre I greatly enjoy. Every author's life story is so different that it isn't exactly proper to compare them head-to-head and try to label any of them the "best" or anything like that. But I don't think I've read another memoir before that was truly this vividly "real" and unflinching about grief - including the ugly parts of it, the anger and resentment that can accompany it - and about sometimes-difficult family relationships, including when Zauner was a teenager and her mother hadn't yet accepted Zauner's creative ambitions. 

Like I mentioned in July, I'm also still working through Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon. It's not quite as densely filled with detailed descriptions of scientific research as I feared from the first chapter. Solomon focuses much more on personal stories, including his own, and I find those personal stories interesting. But either way, this type of nonfiction that's on the more dense and academic side of the spectrum is a tough genre for me to read on Kindle, I can only work through it slowly. 

I've also been reading Laura Lippman's Lady in the Lake, following Kathy's recommendation for Lippman's books as being consistently well-written "literary" thrillers that deserve more buzz and attention. This is only my first Lippman book, so it's maybe a little too early for me to declare Kathy's recommendation absolutely on point. But my feeling so far is that the writing,  development of the characters and setting, etc. are so good that I'd be shocked if it doesn't carry over to the author's other work. I try a lot of best-selling, highly-marketed "women's" thrillers and often the writing is... just not great and many of the books are close to unreadable. Lady in the Lake is nothing like those not-so-great representatives of the genre, and I'm eager to finish this and pick up Lippman's other books (at least once I get over my current mood about reading). 

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