The second half of the year has not so much kicked off, reading-wise, as it has ambled off. So far this month, I’ve read 4 books, the most recent being Meg Howrey’s The Wanderers, which I finished on the flight back home yesterday (I really liked it). When I bought The Wanderers, I was both intrigued by the premise, and by the endorsement from Ruth Ozeki on the cover. I can’t remember if I’ve read anything by Ozeki, but she’s always struck me as an interesting, quirky kind of writer.
That’s where I am at the halfway point of July – hopefully things snowball a little bit from here. But here are the books I picked up at Soekarno-Hatta, in a delightfully crammed little bookstore called Periplus. It was excellent, and felt efficiently organized while also being warm and cosy. Not in the crowded “Oh my GOD, can I just get AROUND your trolley bag” way of Heathrow’s WH Smiths, but in a genuinely “I’m in here with other readers” way. Maybe it was the décor? Sort of warm and woody and colourful. Or maybe I was just in a mood.
Dave Eggers’ Heroes of the Frontier
I had a bad moment wondering if I’d already bought this, because I remember wanting to buy it last week at Best Eastern, Times Square. But I concluded that I hadn’t – a novel about a single mother taking her kids to Alaska in search of…something. Closure against her ex-husband? Some profound sense of self? I don’t think I’d have picked it up from another author, but I liked The Circle, and really liked Zeitoun, so I’m giving it a go. (I have never finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but has anyone?)
Sun-Mi Hwang’s The Dog Who Dared to Dream
So this translation from the Korean was wrapped in plastic, and there is no blurb on the back cover – just praise from the Guardian and the Independent, so this was really an exercise in risk-taking. It also says on the back that the author has written another book called The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, so I assumed it was a Jonathan Livingston-esque allegory/fable, and trusted from the title that it was more seagull upliftingness and less Animal Farm mayhem.
Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls
A thriller about missing girls, in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, and the heroine is compared in complexity to Gone Girl’s Amy, so I’m cautiously expectant. Gone Woman? The Woman on the Train? All the Missing Women. Why are we girly-fying narratives about women? Disclosure: the backlash against the term “girlboss” definitely elicited determined, self-righteous nodding from me.
Emma Cline’s The Girls
As above, but featuring young adults and a creepy ranch.
Han Kang’s The Vegetarian
I kind of ignored this South Korean novel when it won the Man Booker International Prize because it seemed angry and meaty and gory, but I guess I’m in the mood for something angry and meaty and gory and – I’m thinking – feminist? Especially after last week’s book club discussion about The Power and female fear. I’ve been putting off writing a post about this month’s meeting because – the discussion we had doesn’t lend itself well to the kind of sound-bites that are easy to summarize. But we have an IG now! @ReadLikeAFeminist
Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubner’s When to Rob a Bank (and 131 more warped suggestions and well-intended rants)
I read Freakonomics in 2007 maybe, when it was still sort of new-ish, and I remember enjoying it, although the underlying principles were something that had already been explained to me by a friend who was passionate about economics and its application to daily life. I love being explained at by people who are passionate about their discipline/life-work, because it always comes back to them not understanding why other people AREN’T doing the same discipline/life-work. In a good way – in a “this is why this is so important to who we are as humans” way. I like understanding those links, and I love it when people have this sense of purpose.
Anyway, I enjoyed Freakonomics, and I thought I’d enjoy these selections from the blog the two writers set up after Freakonomics. Their blog here.
Gotta step it up in the last two weeks of July – I have another two weeks of travel coming up in August, as well as the start of semester and three painful deadlines. I’m gonna declare this coming week ACHIEVEMENT WEEK – here we go, coffee, hikes, BRAIN ON TURBO, writing muscles FLEXED, and lots of friend lunches! (And vitamins, because I don’t have time for another annoying cold.)