Mid-month update: July 2018

Halfway through July, the count is 6 books, and a total of 79 books for the year. I think I’m about 2-3 books behind where I should be in 2018, but hopefully I can make it up some time in the next few months.

Notable reads in July so far:

Helen Hoang The Kiss Quotient I’ve heard that this romance about a heroine with autism and a male escort is this year’s The Hating Game (Sally Thorne), which I loved. I read The Kiss Quotient while travelling and expected it to be a little cheesy, a little forced, but it wasn’t. It was a classic romance, although I had some thoughts about how the interracial dynamics were represented. It was a very easy but not a light, read.

Sally Franson A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out I didn’t have a lot of expectations for this beyond being a peppy, Buzzfeedy take on millenial life, love and creativity – it was that, and more. The heroine, Casey Pendergast, is a Literature graduate who now works in PR and marketing and is a genius at social media and image curation – and and at the start of the novel, moving into working with writers. She’s also genuine, idealistic, and very likeable as a character. There are excellent observations on feminism and how misogyny breaks you, a little bit at a time, and on the doublethink and mulitple gazes involved in social media, and the prose is really lovely in parts. The lines that stood out to me were the lines about reading, because they’re familiar but still true, always true: “Because books, the good ones, the ones you hold on to and come back to, they never disappoint. They’re the best kind of escape because, instead of leading you away from yourself, they end up circling you back to yourself, nice and easy, helping you see things not just as they are, but as you are too.

And though you’d think this circling would be the last thing you’d want, seeing as escapism was what you were after in the first place, it ends up being the best part. Because the people who made those books, they put themselves on the line to do so. They spent a long time working; they gave you the best of what lay inside them, though this may have hurt them too. And you can feel that in the good books; you might even call that feeling love. A feeling so much better than distraction, than pleasure, than obliteration, but boy, so much harder to do.”

These lines may not necessarily stand out by themselves, divorced from context, but I liked them, and I really liked this book. I think because I myself do believe in the ability and yearning of literature to stretch the “capacities of the human heart”, and that the best novels are the most generous as well as the most ruthless. “We must help people face who they are without flinching.”

Andrew Sean Greer Less This year’s Pulitzer prize winner – I don’t know that this extended travelogue about a middle-aged white writer going on a trip around the world to avoid his ex-lover’s wedding, as the book puts it, invited my immediate sympathy or empathy. As the novel itself acknowledges, this is a kind of hero it is difficult to sympathize with. But it’s gentle, and tender, and compassionate in its handling and unfolding of love lost, real relationships amidst flamboyance and facetiousness. It didn’t make me want to seek out the author’s other novels, but it gave me a melancholy feeling that lingered, and I was rooting for the hero by the end.

I’m a few chapters in to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, and Middlesex has been nudging at the corners of my mind, so I’d like to finish those by the end of July.

Til then, happy reading!

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