Books Read :: October & November

I think I read a lot more than usual this semester? My Goodreads "progress" doesn't indicate this for a few reasons-- some books I read don't have Goodreads entries, three books I read are registered on there as one book, since I downloaded it as one on my Kindle, etc. But yeah:

books read so far in 2014, according to my Goodreads account: 43/52


The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
I read this at kind of the same time as my friend Kathleen, and we both felt similarly about it. She was more excited about it at first and then her attention waned. My attention felt lackluster at the beginning, but as I am a "patient completist" I powered through. The ending of this book is one of those wait-I-take-it-back-now-I-want-more sorts of phenomenal. Barbery's ability to make you feel for and connect with her characters is unbearably good in the second half of this novel. I only wish I hadn't read an explanation of what the book is about because it's so much more complex than the jacket copy/Goodreads summary explains, and by reading that, I was left anticipating certain things when my attention to it would have been different--perhaps better--had I not read any summary at all.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
I picked this off of a shelf at Unnameable Books when I was last in Brooklyn, and I read most of it in one day, the day after I got it. When I stopped reading this, I was both tempted and scared to finish. Honestly and uniquely, Rankine describes the complexity-slash-simplicity of black-American experience/s, and it's all so hauntingly real that you maybe almost want to look away--isn't that exactly it? I'd say to myself, as the stark and striking cover image stared at me from my desk-- isn't that nearly a summary of part of what she is trying to explain? Her elegies are some of the saddest written this year-- both the easiest and most difficult to grasp. In the wake of Ferguson and the events that the book itself de/transcribes, this was a book I was glad I picked up when I did. I can't recommend it enough, but I also don't know what quite to say about it than read it, trust it, and then go out and try to make people into/want to be better humans in your own way, too, somehow.

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
This was a reread for me, but the last time I read it was so long ago, it didn't feel quite like one-- besides, looking at this novel with more adult eyes gives me so much more insight to its subtleties, Kincaid's tone made much more sense, and I enjoyed the complex emotions she was able to communicate in elegant, concise prose more than I probably did when I was an undergrad and read it for the first time.

X: A Mixtape Remastered by Kirwyn Sutherland
This great chapbook by Philly's own Kirwyn Sutherland ends with a piece that he read and wrote for the GS/PSG Impossible Books gallery show last February-- something I didn't know until I got to that part of the book. Like Citizen, the poetry's content here is about what it is like to be a modern black-American, but Sutherland's chap is completely different. X is half a history lesson you already know but maybe like to forget when convenient, part rock song, part science video, and all heart. Sutherland lets the reader into a world of what it's like to be that part of history so many people in America try to forget. He weaves narratives and imagery from the past with his emotions in the present in such beautiful lines and poems that it's sad to know such lovely lines had to come from a sort of pain. Sutherland is a poetic force, and I'm glad his voice is one Philly can call its own. His chapbook is important, and you should probably buy it so that you can read it.

Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolano
I read a shorter Bolano book in September, and I followed it up with this one, leaving, to this day, one Bolano book on my fiction shelves that I haven't yet read. I saw a few bad Goodreads reviews of it, so I was surprised at my enjoyment of it. What must be noted, and what must be considered, is that this is one of Bolano's unfinished manuscripts, put together in the order and edited not by the author himself. As long as you're aware of this when you're reading it, this shouldn't take away from the story or its integrity, but let you know perhaps why the story, at times, reads more like notes for a novel and a series of character sketches than an actual novel itself-- because that's what it is, most likely. Needless to say, though this book wasn't as memorable as my favorite Bolano books are, I enjoyed reading it and piecing the story together, trying to imagine what it might have become and also looking at it within the context of his other novels, as there are reoccurring characters and places here.

On the Books: A Graphic Tale of Working Woe at NYC's Strand Bookstore by Greg Farrell
A review by me of this fantastic graphic novel--it's a collection of comics written around a labor dispute between the East Coast's biggest indy bookstore and its owners-- is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins 6.1!


Domestic Apparition by Meg Tuite
I downloaded this for free onto my Kindle awhile ago, back when I was reading something much longer on it, and therefore sort of forgot that this was there until when I finished reading Elegance of the Hedgehog, (which I also read on my Kindle), and needed something else to read while I was in my office. I wish I had read it sooner so that I could have participated in new acclaim for this tight little gem of a short story collection. Most of the stories from the beginning were linked, and I only wish that the narrator hadn't grown up so much and so quickly towards the end, as the bulk of the book contained stories about the main character growing up, and I liked those childhood/teenage years stories more than I liked those told from her perspective as an adult. Her brothers and sisters and parents were very memorable, quirky characters-- unique in the true sense of the word. I really got a feel for the people in the narrator's family.

Dismantling the Rabbit Altar by Natasha Kessler
This is a book of poetry I bought from the Coconut table at the Philalalia small press poetry/art fair this past September. Kessler has a poem in GS 2.2, so I was familiar with her style of poetry when I picked up the collection. There's something about poetry books that feel like one big long poem but contain tiny pieces of that poem as you go along that I am always interested in taking apart. I feel like I almost want to go back through and piece together this dark fairy tale, and then maybe I'll really understand what it was leading me to. The book seemed to be guiding me through the woods to a precipice of something and there I stood looking out over--

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
I wanted something YA to get me through the end of the semester. I lasted slightly over 2 weeks with this series, even though I purposely took nights off from reading and played WORDAMENT instead to prolong the suffering of what I was positive was going to be a sad ending. I won't let you in on if I was right or wrong about that, but my status updates from Goodreads really capture how I felt about the book as I read it:
11/11marked as:to-read
11/11marked as:currently-reading
19.0%"Needed something easy and entertaining for the semester' send. Wound up with something that fulfills those standards but ALSO has me up past my bedtime. OPPS."
31.0%"Finished the 1st of 3 books-- felt the movie sometimes better showed things than the book, surprisingly. But, then again, thought the movie made certain parts over dramatic and unnecessarily left other parts out. I'm looking forward to the other two books (esp. bc I *don't* know what happens in them). My biggest hope is that I don't read them TOO quickly!"
64.0%"finished INSURGENT maybe too quickly. I liked it but think things happen too fast sometimes and the story despite how quickly the events are happening "in real time" could be more developed. It's not just the complexities of the factions and their disputes I'd like to know more about but also the relationships between people too--people's attitudes to one another change fast without good enough explanation for me."
marked as:read 

I took an extra few days to finish the last book because I was afraid something terrible was going to happen and I needed to wait until I was emotionally ready to deal with it in case it did. Anyway, I very much enjoyed the series and wish there had been four books instead of three. So much happened in the third book, and it isn't that the plot or writing felt rushed, but that I wanted to know more.

I feel like I am going to read the crap out of December. I hope I'm right.


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