Tag: NW

NW by Zadie Smith

Posted December 6, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 8 Comments

NW by Zadie SmithTitle: NW (Goodreads)
Author: Zadie Smith
Published: Hamish Hamilton, 2013
Pages: 296
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Living in the Caldwell housing estate found in North West London, the only plan was to get out and go somewhere else. Thirty years later, Caldwell kids have all moved on with their varying degrees of success. Living streets apart, their worlds collide, showing them that the people they once were and are now, can suddenly unravel.

NW has been labelled as a tragicomedy, which means the author will try to cut overly dramatic and tragic lives will a bit of humour and possibly a happy ending. I felt like this revealed too much about the novel; I always expected everything to turn out well for these four Londoners.  The term recherché postmodernism (or hysterical realism) was coined by literary critic James Wood to describe this type of contemporary fiction, in particular the works of Zadie Smith. Has states, this is “a literary genre typified by a strong contrast between elaborately absurd prose, plotting, or characterisation and careful, detailed investigations of real specific social phenomena.”

This gives us a sense of what to expect in a Zadie Smith novel “[and] turn fiction into social theory” (James Wood, 2000). I have to admit that this is the first of Smith’s novels that I read and picked this as my first simply because it was the first time I heard of her and it was available at my local library. In hindsight, maybe starting with White Teeth might have been a better choice but at least I know I’ve experienced Smith’s style without going to her most celebrated novel.

This felt like an experimental novel that had a lot to offer and has some interesting insights into a low social economical part of London. It tried to analyse the social progress of the four main protagonists as they try to be successful in life. Not the easiest book to read while I was struggling to remain focused and climb out of a slump. There are a lot of ideas jammed into a novel full of ever changing styles; yet NW remained lyrical and poetic through it all.

I wish I had better focus through this book, I feel like there was a lot I missed out, what I did get from the book was enjoyable. It is a weird experience enjoying a book but not feeling like reading at the same time. I think it does affect my opinion of NW but I’m trying hard to avoid letting personal opinions cloud my judgment on great writing. Sure, reviewing and enjoyment of a book are based on person opinions but I feel that I need to remove emotions and read more critically. NW was interesting and I hope to read more Zadie Smith in the future.

Monthly Review – November 2013

Posted November 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 5 Comments

the bone peopleNow that November is coming to an end, I feel like I need to breathe a sigh of relief. I feel like I’ve been in a major reading slump during this month, but on reflecting it wasn’t as bad as I originally thought, there was a period of a few weeks where I struggled to finish anything but in the end I was able to manage nine books; not too bad.

Let’s have a quick look back at the month for the book club on Goodreads and our book of the month, The Bone People.  I went into this book not knowing anything about it, I never heard of it and glad I was able to read it. This was a controversial and confronting book and as readers of this blog know, I do enjoy a confronting read. If you missed the conversation about this book, head over on to Goodreads, there is still time to join in.

Next month we are in for a mystery, when we look at And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I’ve not read any Christie so this will be a new experience for me. I hope it is a nice quick and enjoyable book to read over the holiday period. If you’re not aware, the book discussion and everything else will be happening over on the Goodreads forums, so feel free to join in there.

As I said before, this was a difficult reading month for me; not that I didn’t like the books, just an annoying slump. Check out my thoughts about reading slumps in this post if you are interested.  I had a great month in October; I did enjoy some interesting non-fiction books this month. Highlights include The Know-It-All and Perv. As for fiction, I think I did better with the lighter books, like Moon Over Soho and The Martian. How did you go this month?

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How to Deal with Reading Slumps

Posted November 23, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 16 Comments

I’m currently in a reading slump and about to start another semester of university. This is not a good combination; I don’t want to struggle through my reading while trying to get good grades. This is not the first time I’ve fallen into a slump and I find it so frustrating and stressful. When I finally do break out of a slump, it is so refreshing and I feel so relieved.

So I want to talk about slumps and see if there are other ways to manage and break them. I’ve looked around and have found some peoples hints and maybe I am missing something. We will find out what works for some and open a dialogue about reading slumps here. So here are some suggestions I’ve found.

  • Read something light: I recently tried reading Moon over Soho which was light and enjoyable and made me want to read the next in the series, if I read the next book does that mean my slump is over? What would happen if I try something heavier?
  • Read a favourite genre: This can be problematic because I’m a literary explorer and sometimes not too sure what my favourite genre is. Maybe it’s hard-boiled crime but this sounds similar to reading something light, assuming they are talking about reading genre fiction.
  • Try something short: Short stories, novellas and short books might work, this way you are not spending too much time in a story and feel like we are making progress. I’m not sure if this works, I’ve never tried it.
  • Recommendations: I’m really don’t think this will work, I’ve got plenty of books recommended to me sitting on my TBR just waiting to be read.
  • Take a break: While this might be the answer, the idea of not reading at all does not appeal to me.
  • Revisit a favourite book: This could work; I do need to reread Frankenstein for this semester of university, so if I break that out now and start reading it, will I get out of the slump? At least I know the book is great.
  • Make time: I’m not sure this would work, this feels like forcing myself to read when I struggle. The stress is already there and being forced to read doesn’t sound like a way to reduce stress.
  • Read a classic: This could work, classics are normally great books, so reduces the likelihood of reading a dud.
  • Try non-fiction: Someone suggested trying some non-fiction as a way to break the slump, instead of looking for a great novel to break the slump, maybe learning something new might help. This is a suggestion from my local indie bookstore, so I’ve been trying it out.
  • Put all books on hold and just read whatever looks appealing: This is what I’m trying at the moment, I had a few books on the go and they have now been put aside and I am just picking up a book that looks appealing. I’m willing to put it aside if it’s not working but at the moment I’m trying to work my way through The Martian and NW.

Now I’ve talked about solutions, I want to see if I can work out the root cause. Is there a way to avoid this in the future? I don’t think so, sometimes life gets in the way or you read too many below average books at a time. For me, I think what caused my slump this time was the fact I read some great books like The Bell Jar and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler followed by some books that I felt were less than average; The Tale for a Time Being and Harvest, followed by some novels I needed to finish in a limited amount of time (due back to the library or for book club).

I don’t think I can avoid average or bad books, but I should try and be better with abandoning books. I’ve never been good at quitting a book, but I’m getting to a point in my reading career where I feel like I now have a good baseline for judging books. I don’t want to fall into a slump again, and now I know the signs of it coming on maybe I can avoid it. How do others manage slumps and try to avoid them altogether.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Spring 2013 TBR List

Posted September 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in of this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Top Ten Books On My Spring 2013 TBR List. I’ve already done a post similar here but I’ve already read two of them, so I can recycle three of them and pick another seven more.

10. The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner
A new psychological thriller in the tradition of Before I Go to Sleep and Memento, P.D. Viner’s debut is looking like it might be an interesting read. Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered, the killer was never found and the case is now cold. Her parents’ marriage fell apart as a result of it, but now a new lead has been found and rekindles an obsession for revenge.

9. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
Nathaniel Piven is a rising star in the Brooklyn literary scene, after several years of learning he now has his pick of assignments and women. Debut novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of the modern man and offers up a literary romance that is both intelligent and witty. I hope this book is a novel of struggles, discovery and anxiety that comes with romance and the literary scene.

8. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Sixteen-year-old Nao decides she wants to escape the loneliness and bullying of her classmates. But before she ends it all she decides to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Across the pacific Ruth finds some artifacts washed ashore from the 2011 tsunami that pulls her into Nao’s drama. Ozeki explores relationships, the past and present, fact and fiction in this contemporary novel.

7. Skinner by Charlie Huston
Growing up, Skinner wasn’t like other boys. Appearing to have no emotions, he seemed to be powered by reason alone, a robot that could be programmed to do whatever its master wanted. No surprise that as an adult he didn’t seem to fit it. Until he came to the attention of the CIA, and they realized they had stumbled across the perfect assassin. His speciality: protecting human ‘assets’. His method: ensuring that the price a rival agency paid for acquiring the asset always outweighed the asset’s worth. In other words, he killed everybody involved, and then some more, just to make the point.

6. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners—a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life—has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

5. The Explorer by James Smythe
When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers. But in space, nothing goes according to plan. The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue.

4. Harvest by Jim Crace
On the morning after harvest, the inhabitants of a remote English village awaken looking forward to a hard-earned day of rest and feasting at their landowner’s table. But the sky is marred by two conspicuous columns of smoke, replacing pleasurable anticipation with alarm and suspicion.

3. The Never List by Koethi Zan
For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

2. NW by Zadie Smith 
Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners — Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan — as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.

1. The Siege by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Cadiz, 1811. Spain is battling for independence while America is doing the same. But in the streets of the most liberal city in Europe other battles are taking place. A serial killer is on the loose, flaying young women to death. Each of these murders takes place near the site where a French bomb has just fallen. It is the job of policeman Rogelio Tizon to find the murderer and avoid public scandal in a city already posied on the brink.

What Books Have Been Trending – July-September 2012

Posted September 29, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book Trends / 0 Comments

It’s time once again to look at the past three months and see what books have been trending. I love doing this segment and I’ve chosen six books for each month to highlight. Once again there is no real science to this but I do feel I’m getting better at following the book trends and picking the ones that seem to be popping up the most. It does depend on what circles you run in but I hope I’ve managed to get a good cross section. I love doing this; at this rate I might have to start doing this every month. So here are the books I’ve noticed that are getting some good buzz.


Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a satirical and heartbreaking story of the Iraq war, this book follows eight surviving men of Bravo Squad on a victory tour for Thanksgiving Day and tries to spotlight just how America treats its soldiers.


Gold follows the story of two world-class cyclists in the lead up to the London Olympics. This is a deep, bittersweet story that full of empathy, sharp observations and strong characters.  I highly recommend checking this book out.


Shadow of Night follows on from A Discovery of Witches in the All Souls Trilogy. This book has been anticipated by many fans and continues the story taking the reader back into a world of spies, subterfuge, alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries.


The Age of Miracles is a coming of age story in a post apocalyptic world. The World is slowing down and the days are getting longer at first by a few minutes and then by hours. But for 11 year old Julia, she has to cope with the normal disasters of everyday life as a teenager.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a novel about a retired man who sets out one day to post a letter and keeps walking. A sentimental novel with humour and charm, this book was long listed for the Man Booker prize.


Where We Belong follows the story of a thirty six year old that seems to have her life on track; until one day an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that she thought she had sealed off changes everything. A Chic Lit novel by an author of five Blockbuster novels.



Dare Me is a new style of noir; modern and suburban. Cheerleaders Addy and Beth rule the school but when the new cheerleading coach arrives things take a turn for the worst. Dare Me is a harrowing glimpse into the dark heart of the all-American girl.


Shine Shine Shine is a stunning debut unlike any other; it’s a shocking, searing, breathless love story, a gripping portrait of modern family, and a stunning exploration of love, death and what it means to be human. A cross of Chick Lit and Literary Fiction.


The Dinner has only just been translated into English. This Danish novel is dark and beautiful; Paul and Claire are going out to dinner with Paul’s brother and his wife. The reason for this isn’t the usual family get together, this time they have something important to discuss; their children.


The Dog Stars is a riveting, powerful novel about a pilot living in a world filled with loss—and what he is willing to risk to rediscover, against all odds, connection, love, and grace. The Dog Stars is a remarkably unique novel that is a captivating and enjoyable ride.


What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway? The Last Policeman is a novel that offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. Detective Palace sets out to solve a crime, even though there is an asteroid heading towards earth that will wipe everything out in the next few months.


Throne of Glass is a debut YA fantasy novel about an 18 year old assassin working in the salt mines. The Prince offers her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.



No Easy Day is a first-person account of the planning and execution of the Bin Laden raid from a Navy Seal who confronted the terrorist mastermind and witnessed his final moment. A lot of buzz around this book as this is the first time one of the Navy Seals have talked about this event.


NW by Zadie Smith is a brilliant tragi-comic novel following four Londoners – Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell. Depicting the modern urban zone – familiar to town-dwellers everywhere – Zadie Smith’s NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.


Telegraph Avenue is the story of Archy and Nat; long time friends, band mates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. An intimate epic set to the funky beat of classic vinyl soul-jazz and pulsing with a virtuosic, pyrotechnical style.


The Casual Vacancy may not be released yet but the hype is already huge. This novel sees J.K Rowling try her hand in adult fiction; When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

The Raven Boys sees Maggie Stiefvater return with a brand new series. Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.


Haunted by Murph, The Yellow Birds follows the story of Private Bartle and his time served in Al Tafar, Iraq, the loss of a friend and the aftermath. This is a book of friendship and loss; with profound emotional insight and stunning prose.


Like before I’m going to try to predict another book that is coming out in the next three months that will get a lot of buzz to it. My pick is probably a little predictable, but I think The Twelve by Justin Cronin will get a lot of attention. This is book two in The Passage trilogy but now we have to wait another two years for the last book. What do you think of the books trending? Are there any that you feel like I’ve missed or some that caught your eye?