It’s been a LONG time since I’ve written a post like this -- a frame of time that could as easily be measured in years as months -- so I’m happy to be back in the saddle for some bookish blogposts. In chronological order, here is what I’ve read:
1. The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead by Chanelle Benz. This book winz for great title and author name. This collection of short stories is very strong, and while the narrative voice varies from story to story, you can feel the unifying sensibility behind each one. Debut book. This author studied with George Saunders, and given that, the darkness in most of these stories is unsurprising.
2. Desperation Road by Michael Ferris Smith. Eh. I was underwhelmed by this one. I liked the story but felt I had read it in various permutations many times before. Man is released from prison, goes home, gets beaten up by the family who believes he deserves no mercy after what he’s done. He crosses paths with a woman who turns out to have a unique connection to his past.
3. The Futures by Anna Pitoniak. First novel about a young couple trying to make it in Manhattan after graduating from Yale. Another meh read for me. The writing was good, but reading about how hard it is to be a young, white, Yale grad from a privileged background doesn’t exactly draw out my sympathy.
4. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. This book surprised me with how much I liked it. I brought it with me on vacation for an easy beach read, and it was certainly that, but I LOVED reading all of the food and wine descriptions, as well as getting the inside scoop of what it’s like to be an underserver in an incredibly popular and well-respected NYC restaurant.
5. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. Ugh. I picked this book up to read the day after the election because I wanted something that was sweet and charming and life affirming, all of which are adjectives that readers have applied to this book. I thought it was pretty 2-dimensional and occasionally insipid. Very disappointed, since the premise of it is so good: a barge bookstore owner on the Seine doesn’t sell the book that the customer wants, he sells the book that the customer needs.
6. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (audio). I had lunch with Ann Patchett at the end of September and spending that time with her made me want to go back and listen to her essay collection. Despite being a bonafide novel reader through and through, this is probably my favorite work of hers. I love the honesty and clarity behind each piece.
7. American War by Oman El Akkad. Holy shit, this was a good book. Set about 50-60 years in the future, this novel tells the story of Sarat Chestnut and her life before, during, and after the Second Civil War in America. Refugee camps, suicide bombers, the secession of the Magnolia States, plotting, politics, and intrigue. This book was well written, brilliantly paced, and rather frightening. Put it on your radar now, as it will be published in April 2017.