First Monday Book Day – All Unhappy Families

I started reading Anna Karenina.

I wasn't really planning on it, but Becca Rothfeld invited people to tackle a big long book and have a discussion group with her. Well, I find Rothfeld to be interesting and someone that has a different perspective. A big novel? A group of interesting thoughtful readers? Sign me up!

And then they chose Anna Karenina.

I read the first 10 pages in high school and never really had any inclination to go back to it, but I had recently read that George Saunders book about Russian short stories. And I had enjoyed The Master and Margarita and The Idiot in recent years, so maybe Russian literature could be my thing.

I'm not sure it's my thing.  I'm 550 pages in, I've got 250 to go, and it's a little bit of a slog for me.  The reading group is not quite as interesting of a group as I had hoped (there are some true literature snobs in there - George Saunders is not a serious enough writer for some in this group).  So now I will finish the book this month. There are parts of it that are really really good. I liked the observation someone made about how Tolstoy is pre-Freudian so he could not care less about anyone's backstory or childhood. That tickled me a bit.

Alright, what literature classics have you been accidentally roped into agreeing to read this month? Share it all below.

19 thoughts on “First Monday Book Day – All Unhappy Families”

  1. I've got the latest Murderbot Diaries book on hold at the library until we leave on our MN trip in a week; meanwhile I'm reading a couple from Becky Chambers. I finished the latest from her Wayfarer's series, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, and am currently reading standalone To Be Taught, If Fortunate.

    1. Murderbot Diaries have officially outpaced my reading interest, I'm behind and it will take a while to catch up. I liked the one novella per year pace that it started at.

      Becky Chambers series is good just because it's quite a bit different from a lot of sci-fi that I've read. Sometimes it gets a little idea heavy for me, but I've enjoyed most of it and read everything except The Galaxy and the Ground Within

      1. I prefer more science-based sci-fi, but the relationship-driven stories of hers are a nice change of pace. TGatGW is one of those that could be summarized in a paragraph, but a lot of stuff is going on in the meanwhile.

        I'm thinking of taking Andy Weir's latest one out for a spin.

  2. I just finished reading the Secret Life Of Groceries and will never be able to shop the same way again. Good read though the author sometimes prattles on a bit with some unnecessary flowery / purple prose, but the info contained really highlights how white washed (well, green washed via "organic" and "3rd party audited supply chain" and the whole paycheck's system of rating where their meat comes from ..... TLDR? Wholefoods has no idea where their shrimp came from or if it involved slave labor. (Spoiler, the shrimp sold at Wholefoods was def handled by slaves). Anyway, there are hilarious stories, tragic stories, gross things, thoughtful humanizing of the supply chain, and the author can bring a smell to life through written word like no one else.

  3. I'm just about finished with All The Pretty Horses. I really liked The Road but didn't really get into this one. It doesn't help that a portion of the dialogue is in Spanish.

    1. I really struggled with The Road. Soul sucking. That, together with José Saramago's Blindness , are two books that I really wish I could unread.

      1. I had The Road on my nightstand for a year before I read it. I think I went into it with such low expectations that I liked it.

  4. I am still reading J.R. and I have loved every page I've read, but I haven't read too many of them. I've just simply not been in a reading mood this past month. I had burned through a few books (for me... nothing like some of you around here) before that, but just lost the string for a bit...

    1. I'm around page 500. It is beyond hilarious. My goodness is it funny. Gibbs is a drunk Larry David.

      1. I'm glad to hear it keeps up the humor. I'm about 1/10th as far as you are. The "camera pan" transitions are a bit obnoxious so far, but the rest has been brilliantly funny.

        1. I found this site to be incredibly helpful when I got lost during some of the scene transitions. I will say that everyone's "voice" gets a lot easier to follow the more time you spend with each character. That opening scene with the old biddies talking past the lawyer (who was trying his hardest to confirm he wasn't named Cohen) was straight out of a Coen Brothers movie.

          1. That looks super helpful. Thanks!

            And yes, that opening scene was complete brilliance.

  5. I really enjoyed Anna Karenina by my coworker bailed a couple of hundred pages in a few years ago because "he had no interest in reading about the 1%" in Russia. That seemed like a pretty valid criticism to me. (Although he also loved A Gentleman in Moscow, so who knows...).

    1. I might be letting the annoyance with the discussion group color my reading experience.

      There are lots of great scenes in AK. Got to focus on those and enjoy them more.

      - The mowing scene
      - The horserace
      - The wedding
      - Vronsky's attempted suicide

  6. I also read The Narrow Road to the Deep North last month. It was thoroughly ok. A few of the scenes were excellent, but I didn't find any of the long term ties between the characters to really land particularly well. None of the twists were particularly shocking.

  7. Last month I was still working on Tiamat's Wrath, #8 in the Expanse series. I finished it as well as the novella "Strange Dogs". I also read the companion comics/graphic novels (not sure which they technically are?).

    As of right now, I've read every published Expanse item except for the novella "Auberon", which the library doesn't have yet. After I read that, it's just wait for Leviathan Falls this...well, fall.

    I also read Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson about Shostakovich and the siege of St Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad and his 7th Symphony

  8. Last month I finished Teju Cole's Open City, which I'm glad I stuck with through a very slow first half. I am very much ambivalent about New York City as a setting, so a NYC-centric flâneur really taxed my interest & patience significantly. Once the protagonist got on a plane and started interacting with other characters, my attention snapped back. The Brussels interlude was excellent, and I enjoyed the second half much better. Cole's prose can be absolutely lyrical.

    Nate Chinen's Playing Changes was excellent, and I'm going to be returning to several chapters again for more detailed listening into the catalogs of some of the artists he features. The list of 131 notable jazz albums for the new century (as of 2018) likewise is something I need to consult for gems I might have overlooked.

    Fuminori Nakamura's The Thief is a brief, contemporary Japanese noir. I enjoyed it, but maybe am not as high on it as the author of the list recommending it.

    Adam Higginbotham's Midnight in Chernobyl was incredible, both as a telling of the particulars of that disaster, and as a diagnostic of the health of the late Soviet state. It's absolutely worth the time of anyone who wants to know more about the unfortunate people caught up in the disaster, especially anyone who enjoyed the HBO miniseries that aired a couple years ago.

    Finally, I read two more Harry Bosch novels, A Darkness More than Night and City of Bones. These will be the last ones I read before the final season of Bosch airs, and possibly the last two I'll read anyway. Both were decent enough reads for what they are, but I wonder how sustainable Connelly's performance will be in subsequent installments.

    Currently reading:

    After wrapping up Chinen's Playing Changes, my friend and I have moved on to reading one chapter per week from Alex Ross' The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. We're still trading albums. The first chapter of Ross' book — centered on Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, dovetailed in a beautiful way with Cole's Open City, in which the protagonist attends a concert of Das Lied von der Erde late in the novel.

    I'm also reading Matthew Crawford's The World Beyond Your Head. Some of you might know of Crawford's earlier book, Shop Class as Soulcraft. This book focuses on attention and the way it helps shape who we are.

    Finally, my hold for China Miéville's The City & The City has come up. So, we'll see how much attention I can give three books simultaneously.

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