I recently read a fascinating article by Austin Kleon called "How to Read More." This article is no mere list of tips--I was pleasantly surprised by just how insightful it is. Clearly, Mr. Kleon is a big reader.
I was particularly struck by the first tip, which is "Quit reading books you don't like." As a child, I was a compulsive finisher. If I began a book, I felt obligated to see it through to the end even if I wasn't enjoying it. Of course, I had a lot more free time to fill as a child than I do now...
Kleon says, "If you aren’t getting anything out of a book, put it down, and pick up another book. Every hour you spend inching through a boring book is an hour you could’ve spent plowing through a brilliant one. When it comes to books, quitters finish more."
It's true that I read faster when a book really grabs me and I suddenly find "extra" time to read it by using time when I'm usually doing something else. I still remember taking the peperoncino to the playground one summer afternoon so that he could play with trucks in the sand while I perched on the edge of the sandbox, unable to stop reading Sweetbitter.
Do you stop reading when a book isn't holding your attention? Do you have your own tips or tricks on finding time to read? Do tell!
We've done this topic before, but it's come up recently, so it seemed workable.
What do you read to your kids? What are your goals in reading to your kids, and how does that inform your book selection? (My goal is calming my children down since they're often crazy, and so I read to them from the phone book. Not really, but I should. If only I owned a phone book... (wow the world has changed!)).
Anyway, books. We read them. Then talk about them. Let's do that here.
So, it's the last Monday (and day) of the year. Perhaps a book post can give us a little momentum heading into 2019? (Also, hj prodded me to post something here today.)
I've been reading a book that I kinda like, yet am sorta bored with, since November. This book and its author are both new to me, though I know a fair bit about the author, who was the best friend of one of my favorite poets. The book's not the sole reason I won't reach my reading goal for the year, but, well, it's been laborious. I'm not entirely stalled out — I make a little progress every day — but I'm definitely not going to finish it in 2018. It's a prominent book in a certain kind of genre, and 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the author's untimely, unexpected passing. I feel a bit obligated to finish it, both because, while it's not my cup of tea, it's not that bad, and because it seems like something I should read.
When I finally finish it, I've decided to create a new tag in my tracking system — Laborious Reads. I may retroactively tag a few other books like this, too; Chernyshevsky, I'm looking at you.
What books have you laboriously read? What were your initial motivations for reading them? What was your motivation to finish them?
As always, fill us in on what you've read since last time, and what you will be reading as we turn the page to begin Chapter 2019.
Do you listen much to audiobooks? I don't really, though it's not because I have something against the format.
But I do listen to audio stories (a.k.a. podcasts) with the jalapeño as he's falling asleep, and that's not all that different from an audiobook. The first podcast we tried was Little Stories for Tiny People, and I really like it--the stories are engaging and Rhea's voice is lovely and soothing. We've also listened to a lot of What If World?, and those stories tend to be wackier and not always relaxing as I'd ideally like at bedtime (though to be fair, it's not intended as a strictly bedtime podcast).
Just this weekend, we started on Circle Round, which is hosted by NPR affiliate WBUR, and...wow! There are stories from all over the world, and they're told by professional actors. So far it's keeping mother and son equally engaged, which isn't always easy.
Do you listen to audiobooks or other story-like things in audio form? Any recommendations?
I have found myself reading quite a few debut novels lately.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
I'm kind of in love with this book right now. A Nigerian woman has multiple gods living inside her (some Ibo spirits, Jesus, etc.) and they sometimes take her over and sometimes fight each other and sometimes just comment on human affairs. It's not going to end well for the woman, that much is clear, but I'm really into this.
Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes
It's a take on Mikhail Bulgakov and the censors in Soviet Russia. I just read The Master and Margarita during October, so I've enjoyed all the little parallels that crop up.
Pretend I'm Dead by Jen Beagin
(finished last month)
This felt a little unfinished, but it was good. A "finding your way in the world" novel with just enough weirdos to make it interesting.
The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss (finished last month)
Dr. Jekyll's daughter teams up with Sherlock Holmes, and the daughter of Dr. Moreau, and Frankenstein's female monster, and some others to solve crimes. This was ... a lot. I kind of lost my patience in the climactic fight scene, so I struggled to the finish.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
(finished last month)
I've enjoyed Broder's poetry and essays, but this one wasn't quite as captivating. A woman suffers a breakup and house-sits for her sister in California where she falls in love with a merman. Broder is frank and sex-focused and a little bizarre. Interesting book.
There is something exciting about discovering a new author, and getting in early on their career. I follow a few early career awards (The Whiting Award, The Locus Award for First SF/F Novel, The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, etc.) where I found a lot of the books above.
What have you been reading? Any up and coming authors on your lists?
Book Club! - This month the WGOM book club is doing The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Thanks to eschapp for setting that up.
This month I read Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, which won the Man Booker International Award for translated literature. It was really interesting, it made me hold a lot of ideas and themes in my head at the same time. There wasn't much overreaching narrative, but there were lots of vignettes that very clearly fit together with themes of travel, observation and preservation, and the futility of the human desire to keep things familiar and the same. I enjoyed it, although if you're looking for a "great story", this is probably not your book.
I also loved Not Hereby Hieu Minh Nguyen. The poems had absence and hurt, but with an enormous amount of tenderness that made them great to read. It reminded me of Slow Lightning by Eduardo Corral (another favorite - Corral just announced he's got a second book coming out, I'll definitely be buying that sight unseen).
I don't often reread books these days. There are just so many others I want to read, so I tend not to revisit even books I liked very much.
Last week while on vacation, I finished a book during a day trip to lovely Houston, Minnesota, and I was kicking myself for not having my next book along. While watching my boys play with their cousin at a lovely playground, it occurred to me that I'd really enjoyed the book I just finished, and perhaps I could try reading it again while I sat in the shade.
Convenience Store Woman is a fascinating little read by Japanese novelist Sayaka Murata, and I first heard about it from this article in the New York Times. The main character, Keiko, has had a part-time job at a konbini for the past eighteen years and has never had a romantic relationship, and these two things make her decidedly not normal according to her parents, her younger sister, and her peers. She relishes her defined role at the convenience store; within that environment (unlike the rest of the world), she knows exactly what is expected of her.
The prose is simple and easy to follow, and Keiko is an enjoyable enigma. As Katy Waldman wrote in the New Yorker, "For the most part, her manner is that of a friendly alien scientist, but, at times, she swerves toward the psychopathic."
What does it all mean? What exactly is the novel a commentary on? Would a Japanese reader interpret it differently than an American reader? I don't know, but I'm at the halfway point of my second read, and I'm enjoying picking up on little bits I'd overlooked the first time through.
One of the things I love about travel is that it reminds me how big and how varied the world really is. I don't expect I'll ever travel as much as I wish I could, but at least reading books set in other places makes a pretty good consolation prize.
The book I really want to get my hands on this summer is set in Japan: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. A single article about it in the New York Times was enough to pique my interest.
I'd also like to find a book that covers some New Orleans history. Spending a few days there made me well aware of just how little of the region's history I know. One of the most striking things I saw there was an empty pedestal. It was only when I consulted a map and saw the name "Lee Circle" did I realize what had been there. I'd known in the abstract about statues being removed last year, but somehow it felt different when the evidence of it was right there in front of me.
So . . . what are your favorite books set in places far from your home? And more generally, what have you been reading?