I’m enjoying noting down brief thoughts on the books I’m reading on a monthly basis - even if the months do seem to be rolling out before me, and before I know it I’m two or three posts behind, and can’t remember details of the books I liked, never mind the ones I didn’t. Luckily I’d jotted down a few thoughts on my phone, so after a hunt through my Notes app my memory has been sufficiently jogged.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I’d heard good things about this book, and so had been keeping an eye open for it in bookshops for weeks before I eventually got my hands on a copy. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint, and actually turned out to be one of my favourite novels of the year thus far. Little Fires Everywhere explores motherhood, privilege, and identity, through a wonderfully complex (and mostly female) cast of characters. It reminded me of The Mothers by Brit Bennett, both thematically and in its immense readability, while its soured suburbia was reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
If you’re not already longing for a hot, lazy, Italian summer, this book will fix that for you. It felt for a long time that I was the only person I knew who had yet to see the screen adaptation of André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name. I’d edged around the recognisably blue film-cover of the novel dozens of times as it lay in stacks on the ‘hot fiction’ table at my nearest bookshop, but eventually purchased the audiobook, narrated by Armie Hammer, who plays Oliver in the film. The novel is narrated by Elio (yes, this made for confusing audio narration) so if you’ve only seen the film there’s plenty to extract from reading the book (and vice versa).
New York City in 1979 by Kathy Acker
A few months ago I picked up a handful of the new Modern Minis series by Penguin. These little volumes are small, succinct, gloriously cheap and #aesthetic as hell. This particular volume - a tale of ‘art, sex, blood, junkies, and whores’ - was a whirlwind, packing a punch into its sixty or so pages. Much like Penguin’s Little Black Classics, this series helps to make otherwise dense or unapproachable texts/writers accessible, which is a sentiment I can always get behind.
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
I don’t remember if I had any particularly expectations (or aspirations) going into this short story collection, but I wasn’t hugely taken with it. It was a bit twee for me, connecting each story with a different tenuous reference to a typewriter. I struggled to take a lot of the dialogue seriously, stumbled over too many cliches, and was disappointed in Hanks’ poorly imagined female characters. Oh well.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
This novel has been on my to-read list since it won the Man Booker prize in 2016, but it was only last month that I got around to it. The Sellout is brilliant and wickedly funny satire about a black man in California who decides to reinstate slavery and segregation as a means of getting his small Californian suburb back on the map. I loved it.
Ways of Seeing by John Berger
This was my second foray into the writing of John Berger. Although I think I preferred Confabulations, I found lots to love in Ways of Seeing, but equally felt ill-equipped to get the most from the text. At his best, Berger makes intellectualisms attainable, but I still found that the ‘picture essays’ went completely over my head.