Distracted by Other Books

Posted June 5, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 6 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in May 2018

When I first came to reading I was not sure what I liked and I turned to the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list to help me. I saw myself as a literary explorer (hence my previous blog name) and I was willing to try anything and everything. With this in mind I joined a real life book club as a way to explore and practice talking about literature. Fast forward to now, and I have found my niche and I know what I like, so now sometimes book club feels like a chore more than a joy. Having to read The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland for May and The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman for June have been challenging. It feels like they are picking pretty covers but the content has not been that desirable, for me anyway. I want more from my literature than what is provided in these novels. I feel like The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart was too similar to so many other stories, like The Choke, Nest and Deep Water; all three were novels read because of the book club. I do love being the one that dislikes the books but at what point does it stop being worth attending? I do not plan to quit, but I have been thinking about this since I have not enjoyed a pick in a very long time.

Besides my contemplations on book clubs, I have been thinking about the Man Booker International prize as well. I am very pleased to see Flights win; I thought it was an amazing book. I was able to complete the entire longlist except two books which I might read later but I feel a little burnt out by the experience. While I loved being part of a community reading these books and it really sparked my passion for blogging again I felt very restricted by the task. I am very much a mood reader and to have assigned books can put me in a reading slump. This is not to say I would not attempt to read the longlist again in the future. I just hope to have read some of the books on the list next time. Out of all the books on the list Die, My Love was the one I still think about but I also loved The 7th Function of Language and Frankenstein in Baghdad.

Mexican literature seems to be the flavour of the month having read both Like Water for Chocolate and Faces in the Crowd. There is something about Latin American magical realism that seems to work for me, something that I have not found in other forms of magical realism. I have not been able to put my finger on why I enjoy it more but I will keep exploring. I absolutely adored Faces in the Crowd, which is a book you might hear me talk about in the near future. I think Valeria Luiselli might be one of those authors I will be watching closely in the future. I did read The Story of My Teeth but it was not until I read Faces in the Crowd that I realised just how brilliant she is.

Also this month I read Cop Hater, an old school police procedural and Lullaby, a novel that felt like the author was letting her own fears play out on the page. The final book I want to talk about is Packing My Library. I loved The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel and I expected that Packing My Library would bring me the same amount of joy. Though one book was able to blend his personal narrative eloquently with the history of the library, the other just felt more like digressions from his topic. To be fair the subtitle to Packing My Library is An Elegy and Ten Digressions, so maybe I should have expected this. I love reading books about books but I tend to enjoy the ones that are able to blend the personal with something more which is normal literary criticism.

I went a little overboard with my book buying this month and I told myself it was mainly for my podcast. I do not know how this works but I will defend myself by saying that yes, some are for my podcast and most of them have been read now as well. I do not think I was distracted by other books this month. This might be because I am currently housesitting and only have a handful of books to choose from. I thought it was a rather slow reading month for me as well, but this turned out to be untrue. I was sure I spent too much time watching Netflix instead of reading but the statistics prove otherwise.

  • August by Romina Paula (translated by Jennifer Croft)
  • African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou (translated by Christine Schwartz Hartley)
  • Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (translated by Sam Taylor)
  • The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
  • Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz (translated by Sara Moses and Carolina Orloff)
  • La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono (translated by Lawrence Schimel)
  • Not to Read by Alejandro Zambra (translated by Megan McDowell)
  • Adrift on the Nile by Naguib Mahfouz (translated by Frances Liardet)
  • Mars by Asja Bakić (translated by Jennifer Zoble)
  • The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
  • Cop Hater by Ed McBain
  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (translated by Carol and Thomas Christensen)
  • Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Jennifer Croft)
  • The Imposter by Javier Cercas (translated by Frank Wynne)
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (translated by Christina MacSweeney)
  • Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (translated by Sam Taylor)
  • The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
  • Packing My Library by Alberto Manguel
  • The Choke by Sofie Laguna
  • Nest by Inga Simpson
  • Deeper Water by Jessie Cole
  • The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet (translated by Sam Taylor)
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (translated by Jonathan Wright)
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (translated by Christina MacSweeney)
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

6 responses to “Distracted by Other Books

  1. I look forward to your review of The Impostor. I can totally relate to the book buying problem. Lately, I’ve started paying more attention to what is coming out in translation, and, as a result, I’ve been buying so many books!

  2. Love this post! You hit on so many things I’ve felt, namely that book clubs can be boring (sadly), and having a “required” reading list can be so annoying. I, too, am a reader who relies heavily on her mood, and I resent being told that I ought to read something, even if it’s very good. And now, with retirement just beginning, I want to explore freedom in ways that I have felt compulsive before.

    I loved Like Water For Chocolate. I loved Flights. I, too, a still thinking about Die, My Love, but I’m glad it didn’t win. I don’t think novels of hatred from a wife and mother should necessarily be lifted up, even though it was quite an interesting book which was extremely well written.

    Just to keep in mind, but not to put in an agenda, several bloggers I like have a Spanish Lit Month in July. You may be interested in participating in that.

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