Now that I’ve reached my goal of reading 50 books in 2018 (which I did not intend to do, except Goodreads made it easy for me to participate in said challenge, and I am a sucker for convenience), here is Bookrospect 2: Return of the Book Borrower. Now brought to you by the New York Public Library*. Support libraries!
As always, YA features in my reading, though not a lot this time round. I thoroughly enjoyed Now I Rise (Kiersten White), the second in the trilogy featuring a gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler – teenage girl Dracula, what more do you need – and am looking forward to finishing it off. It’s dark and gritty and doesn’t shy away from manipulative power-play and dysfunctional families, which makes for a pretty intense read, even compared to adult novels. Also, the author Kiersten White is funny and adorable. I also adored The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which had a quote on the back comparing it to The Catcher in the Rye, and I can only agree: it’s got humor, tragedy, and a slightly sideways yet sincere look at life. It felt like an instant classic to me. Queer diverse YA also struck again in the form of Meet Cute (an anthology edited by Jennifer M. Armentrout) and Let’s Talk About Love (Claire Kann), all centering on various queer/poc characters which isstillso refreshing for me after growing up on books about straight, white people. (Although once I discovered Sarah Waters at 15, that was the end of the ‘straight’ bit). Let’s Talk About Love’s main character identifies as asexual, and I felt like I gained a lot of insight. Hey, we’re always learning. The writing in these books is sweet, not particularly artful or emotionally riveting, but they’re fun reads all the same.
I’ve also been on a mini-Scandinavia streak (jeg er en ScanFan og SkamFan…) as seen in The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden (Jonas Jonasson), Knots (Gunnhild Øyehaug), Pantsdrunk (Miska Rantanen), Sophie’s World (Jostein Gaarder) and How to Be Danish (Patrick Kingsley). Shout-out to my Swedish friends Linnea and Linnea who I continue to betray with my Norwegian language obsession and who directed me to some great Swedish novels. Unfortunately, neither my Norwegian nor my Swedish are good enough for novel-reading yet but reading in and around the culture is generally fun and keeps me motivated with my language learning. I do hope that I’ll be able to start reading in those languages soon. (At the moment I’m still struggling though Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Spanish, and The Communist Manifesto in French). I’ll definitely be revisiting some of Jonas Jonasson’s book(s), which does surreal comedy excellently with its light touch. Oh, I should also highlight something really fun for language nerds – recipe books in other languages! Language learning precipitated by the need to eat something yummy. A strong strategy. I’ve especially enjoyed On mange quoi ce soir? (Sylvia Gabet), simple yet tasty, and Rågodt (Tiril Lunde Refsum), which, okay, is all about that gluten-free, sugar-free shit but I’M INTO IT.
The other fiction I’ve read these past couple of months is a bit of a mishmash. Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ Heads of the Colored Peoplewas a great collection of short stories, the prose in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Claywas amazing in its depth and wit, Zadie Smith’s Swing Timewas as excellent as her others. I’ve also read a few books that either take place in Asia or are centered around recent immigrant Asian characters (which seem to have gone up in popularity, perhaps post-Crazy Rich Asians), including If I Had Your Face (Frances Cha) and A River of Stars (Vanessa Hua). Both were good reads, though the latter was let down by the all-too-convenient Prince Charming-esque plot resolutions at the end (I am also sad that it did not turn out to be a lesbian romance). America is Not the Heart (Elaine Castillo), on the other hand, turned out to be the love of my year; the way Elaine Castillo writes trauma and love is engaging, and also this time there turned out to be a girl romance between two bisexual ladies. But even aside from that there’s something just really beautiful about the character portrayals, the incorporation of Tagalog and other languages, and the emotion hidden in every detail.
And finally, two hauntingly beautiful non-fiction books: Roxane Gay’s Hunger and Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, both of which were incredibly raw and strong. This took me by surprise in the latter – I only knew it was a collection of his essays – but the tragedy and beauty, almost codependent in the book, stayed with me for days after. Zadie Smith’s essay collection, Feel Free, was also wonderful in its clear, intelligent prose, and it just reminds me of England so much, her style seems so British. In the non-fiction field I also recommend Witches of America (Alex Mar; I actually began it believing it was a novel, then realized it was actually a non-fiction about real witches), The Lonely City (Olivia Laing; a wonderful journey through New York and its art), and All About Love (bell hooks).
It’s Thanksgiving in America, but like last year my husband and I are just chilling at home, confused about what the holiday’s about (I have an excuse at least; he’s American). I’ll probably do another book blog towards the end of the year. Until then.
*legally obliged to point out this is unofficial, but I did buy a NYPL t-shirt and have been wearing it a lot