July is dead. Long live August! And good riddance to it. The only book I didn’t read for work was a bedtime novel that, were life not so exhausting should have been read in a week, but took over a month – five pages at a time. On the plus side I broke the reading slump that was June.
Books bought: none. I had no hope of getting anywhere near them, so why bother?
Books read: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – Once They Were Hats by Frances Backhouse – Sleep by Nino Ricci – Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton – Heartstone by C.J. Sansom – Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter – Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Strength Of Conviction by Tom Mulcair.
A Little Life has shown up on all sorts of lists, including now this year’s Booker Longlist. So I’m glad I read it. It’s the story of four friends growing up in New York over the course of several decades, and how they muddle through their lives and build their personalities over the years. So it’s a book about growing up. Despite the self-harm, the endless child abuse, and the general feeling of hopelessness, it remains a tome of beautifully written abuse and despair. Which makes it ok, right? It was such an engrossing book that a co-worker, who read it at the same time, and I started every day at one another’s desks tracking the lives of our favourites characters. And it’s going to be a difficult book to forget.
Once They Were Hats is a quaint little book about the castor canadensis. The beaver. A decent collection of chapters, and now I know how hats are made. And that beavers can be parachuted into new territory.
Sleep. Made me want to. Well, that’s unfair. More like a light doze. But still quintessential CanLit with its eager literary self-awareness and purposeful exploration of life’s travails. It centres around an academic whose life falls apart under the stresses of a rare sleeping disorder. Broken family – check. Angst – check. Disenchantment – check. Substance abuse – check. Rough sex and casual racism – check and check (both of which aim to shock but don’t). So, total CanLit and no doubt will receive local award attention.
Two books I was excited about but ultimately left feeling a bit blah by. Step Aside, Pops is by Kate Beaton, whose earlier work I’ve always wanted to read but now might not. There were some “wicked chivalrous” comic strips in here. And tongue-in-cheek, hissing straw feminists lurk at every window. But the whole thing didn’t hang together. Then there’s Between The World And Me. The book I’m a little afraid to write my mediocre review of on goodreads given the near universal adulation it has received. This short little essay on race in America is in high demand and I’m sure will be up for a Pulitzer or National Book Award. But I was strangely unmoved despite the obvious emotion on every page. Still not sure how to put that into words, but I didn’t have a gut reaction to it.
I’ll talk about Strength Of Conviction later. The Canadian Election having been called, and coming off some of the three best years in Canadian political writing, there’s a whole blog post waiting to be written.
And after that uplifting review, I end by saying I started August by reading one of my favourite books of the year so far, in one sitting, on a sunny balcony. The heat wave has ended, the lazy days of a long July have passed, and with a great pile of leisure reading on my shelves, life is looking up.