Sunday, April 30, 2017

Books in April

A few years into our marriage, Bill suggested to me that I should write down the books I read so I'd be able to keep track. I started doing this, keeping lists in notebooks, in the back of journals, or in datebooks. As we moved from one place to another, I would sometimes tear the book list pages out and discard the rest of the notebook, but I kept the lists. I still have all of them, spanning 30+ years. I do sometimes refer to them, too. Sometimes I want to remember a title or I wonder whether I've read a book because it seems so familiar, or I want to be reminded of an author's name. I still keep a list on paper--I tried doing it in a word doc one year and found it cumbersome and I did not care for it--but it occurred to me recently that this blog would be a good place to keep track too. I've decided to make a list at the end of each month with a list of the books I've read along with a sentence or two about the book or some thought I had about the book. So here's my list for April 2017. All of these books came from my library. I love libraries!

California by Edan Lupecki--US society has gradually broken down as a result of climate change, shortages, and the resulting mayhem. Young married couple Frida and Cal leave LA for the woods where they start building a new kind of life. When Frida becomes pregnant, they decide to go to the nearest settlement, which turns out to be not quite what they'd hoped for.

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor--the title pretty much describes the book. I found it fascinating, very readable, and well written. Helen Castor is one of the hosts of the Making History show on BBC Radio 4, which I listen to and very much enjoy as a podcast.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel--Roanoke does not refer to the town in Virginia here, but is a family name. Dark things happen down through the generations of this family and it is said that Roanoke girls either die or run. Lane has run, but finds herself drawn back to the family home. It was a good, albeit disturbing, book, but I could see what the ending would be before I got there. This was a book I looked up because I'd read about it in an Off the Shelf daily email. I have found many books that way.

Lantern Slides by Edna O'Brien--a collection of short stories by one of Ireland's groundbreaking writers. I love short story collections and this one was no exception.

A Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan--this is classified as a novel, but it is written in the form of a series of interlocking short stories, each from the point of view of a different person living in rural Ireland after the crash of the Celtic Tiger economy. This was a great, if troubling, book which I liked well enough to request another of his books.

Nothing on Earth by Conor O'Callaghan--this was the Irish Times book club book for April. It is a Gothic tale with an unreliable narrator which takes place on a ghost estate in Ireland. In a discussion of the book, the author talked about the kinds of books he wanted to write in the future. A dystopian novel was on the list, but he has come to realise that perhaps with this book, he has written it.

Markievicz: A Most Outrageous Rebel by Lindie Naughton--a biography of Countess Constance Markievicz, an artist, poet, and writer who was born into a life of privilege, but left that behind to fight for Irish independence. She was part of the 1916 Easter Rising and was arrested, after which she expected to join her comrades in front of the firing squad. She was not executed and continued her work upon her release. I knew the bare bones of her story and am glad I read this book to learn more about her.

A Slanting of the Sun by Donal Ryan--a collection of short stories about people and places in Ireland. Some of the stories were unsettling. Overall, I liked A Spinning Heart better.

Four Front written and translated by various people--this was a collection of short stories that I happened to see on the library shelf a little over a week ago. All the stories were originally written in Irish and then translated for this book. All were written and translated by men. I finished the book because it was short, but it wasn't great and if it'd been longer, I might not have bothered. I cannot really recall any story in it that I liked.

Jam and Jeopardy by Doris Davidson--a  mystery that takes place in a small village in the UK, which I came across while scrolling through the e-books in the library app and downloaded. It was a good for a few hours of pleasant reading.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood--I'd heard of this book before, of course, and had a vague understanding that it was the first book of a trilogy, but had never read it. I was inspired to request it as a result of one of Quote Lady's blog posts about climate change fiction. I wasn't sure whether I would like it at first, but I soon got into the story and thinking about the issues raised by it and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I requested the next book, The Year of the Flood, but it has not come yet, so I am left with the cliffhanger ending until it arrives.

In the meantime, I have some books that did arrive to keep me occupied (as though I needed more books besides the ones that are all over this house). A couple of them are dystopias (that I read about in an Off the Shelf email), one is a trilogy (but all three books are in one volume), one is a non-fiction book about eviction in the US, and one is a collection of writing by Irish writers responding to artwork.
Evicted is due back first, so that's next. When I got it, Bill looked at it and wanted to read it. He said it was really good.

Hope you have some great reading in your pile, too.


DJL said...

Dear Shari,
Thank you for all the great suggestions! I've ordered two second hand from Amazon and requested my librarian purchase Evicted. My mom also loves short story collections so I'll pass those titles on to her. She also has kept a list of books she's read for decades. I can't imagine being that thorough but I admire it!

Shari Burke said...

Hi Dana,
Just wanted to say that I hope your library does purchase Evicted--it is a good one for libraries to have! I am just shy of the 100 page mark and so far, I find that it is quite well done. The author did ethnographic fieldwork with the usual statistical research as well. He writes well and the book is very readable--not dry at all. It is based largely on his observations and conversations with people and he uses the statistics here and there to make a point. He did his fieldwork in Milwaukee, but says that city is representative of what happens in other cities as well.

Hope you enjoy the books you picked up on Amazon! Happy reading!!