The Bookshelf Test

You know how you can get to know someone just by looking at their bookshelves? It’s my favorite part of meeting someone new. So here’s my shelf—these are some of my favorite books (in no particular order), the ones I love and own, or plan to own, and feel like I should say hi when…

We shall have to be philosophers, Mary

Most adults accept the world as a matter of course. This is precisely where philosophers are a notable exception. A philosopher never gets quite used to the world. To him or her, the world continues to seem a bit unreasonable—bewildering, even enigmatic. Philosophers and small children thus have an important faculty in common. You might…

Readathon 2018

Tomorrow, Dewey’s 24-hour readathon is going to break my reading slump. I guess it isn’t a slump, really—just six weeks in which I only read three books, two of which were audio. I just haven’t wanted to pick anything up since I finished the last batch, and for the most part I’ve actually been fine…

Fast Forwarding

I’ve always been a completionist. I cannot stand starting a series anywhere but the absolute beginning (one reason it was so difficult for me to break into the world of comics), and once I start something, I have a strong need to finish it. So it is pretty crazy for me to tell you that…

We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Five stars, read in November 2017. This book covers the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. For each year, there is an article Coates wrote for The Atlantic, preceded by an essay (“a sort of extended blog post,” I think is how he describes it) in which he looks back on his own work and assesses…

ME, by Tomoyuki Hoshino

Five stars, read in January 2018. I’ve had this post in my drafts for a few months now, because there was so much for me to work through. I did not expect the direction this book ended up taking, on more than one level. It was brilliant, disturbing, astonishingly incisive commentary on human nature and identity—and…

And Marian Was Wounded Sore

Written in January 2014. A few years ago I was watching Robin Hood with my family, the 2010 version with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. During that scene at the end where Marian joins the battle on the beach, I heard my dad—ever the selective movie critic—say something about how of course, they never would…

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Two and a half stars, read in March 2018. I found this book very stressful. Given how long and sprawling it is, following so many characters throughout four generations, it often seemed strange how long we lingered on specific, not particularly meaningful conversations before jumping through time and space to continue the story. It just…

Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

Five stars, read in February 2018. Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy. Despite one of the best first lines I’ve ever read, I’m certain I wouldn’t have finished this if I hadn’t read, and been so impressed by, What is Not…

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah, read April 30 – May 1, 2014 I go back and forth between 4 and 5 stars, I think because the ending didn’t have as much of an impact as I was expecting. But then I remember how I basically devoured this book, loving every minute that I was reading, feeling completely absorbed and…

“To be able to perform music for yourself is a wonderful thing.”

Written Saturday, April 16, 2011, while staying with my family. This morning I’m reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami and listening to my brother downstairs playing the piano. I’ve always been jealous of his skill. I taught myself to play the piano as a kid, and had only a month or two of lessons in high school….

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

Four stars, read in January 2018. For most of the book I was going to give it five stars, but it seems to divide itself into two sections (before her suicide attempt and after), and I felt much more strongly about the first section. I loved it, I related closely to upsetting amounts of it, I…

Things that are just about too much for me right now:

Accidentally reading internet comments. I’ve long had a personal rule against doing so, and I’m almost always good about it, because I know how much I genuinely do not want to know what the general public has to say on literally any topic. And yet somehow, I ended up reading an entire stomach-wrenching thread about Lena Dunham’s recent…

Thor, Vol. 2: Who Holds the Hammer?, by Jason Aaron

Two and maybe a half stars, read in 2016. I gave the first volume four stars, but this one is disappointing. She’s barely even in it, and it’s not even a full five issues like trades usually are. There are only three issues of actual current story, followed by one about Thor’s friends making her…

New Volumes of My Favorite Comics

Saga, Vol. 8, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Four stars. Excellent as always, less robot penis than usual, so plenty of good news. For the bad news, in chapter 47: oh my god, Brian K. Vaughan, no, absolutely fucking not. That is too far. Such excruciatingly graphic sexual violence against women is fetishistic, and…

The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney

Four stars, read in February 2018. I was drawn into this hard, once it got going. The audio narration is excellent, but gives no indications of the physical format—sections that are printed in italics, occasional illuminating “chapter” titles (they’re not really chapters but what do I call them?)—so the book wasn’t really working until I…

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, by Nina Sankovitch

Two or three stars, read and reviewed in July 2014. This was not as exciting as I expected it to be, I think because I had a hard time connecting with the author. It may be obnoxious of me—and this wasn’t the only reason I didn’t connect with her—but I get impatient with women who…

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in June/July 2017. I loved the premise and the atmosphere of the post-Arthurian setting, and found the first half of this book very engaging. It follows characters who live in sort of medieval villages of Britons and Saxons, and although no one seems to remember any specifics, we know it’s been a…

The Origin of Others, by Toni Morrison

Four stars, read in December 2017. When I think back on this book, the anecdote I remember is the one Morrison shares about coming across a woman near the fence on her property. The scene of their meeting is peaceful and friendly (because fences are “where the most interesting things always happen”), and Morrison’s thoughts…

2017 Reading Survey

Now that I’ve finally gotten around to it . . . Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love, but didn’t: Jane, Unlimited, by Kristin Cashore Most surprising (in a good way): That Old Ace in the Hole, by Annie Proulx Book you recommended to people most: Dark Money, by Jane…

Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata

Three stars, read in January 2018. Widely considered to be his masterpiece, the Goodreads description says, but . . . Hmm. I was decidedly underwhelmed by this book. There is absolutely beautiful imagery in his descriptions of snow country (I gave it an extra star for that reason). It was a stern night landscape. The…

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Four stars, read from October to November 2017. I decided to read this book right now because of some TV show we were watching recently, and I’m hoping that by the end of this post I’ll be able to remember what it was. A character must have made a reference to the opening lines of…

Things I would like people to stop mocking Trump for:

His hair. Stop making fun of his physical appearance. His skin color. Stop making fun of his physical appearance. His hands. Stop making fun of his physical appearance, especially something he can’t control. His body/weight. Seriously, I shouldn’t have to explain this. Being a “draft dodger.” War is not patriotism, and patriotism, AS WE NOW…

My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, by Wendy Simmons

Four stars, read in January 2018. I almost didn’t take this home, irritated with it for seeming flippant about a subject that is not in any way amusing (particularly after I’d just finished accounts by Jang Jin-sung and Suki Kim that were emotional and difficult to read). I flipped through to see the photos, of which there are many,…

Part Three: Scream Into the Roaring Waves

And for all the things I can’t get enough of, there is too much of what should not be at all. There is too much wrong for one world. The more I read, the more injustice I discover, and it seems like I can’t pick up a book anymore without uncovering a whole new field…