I have been on a massive book kick recently. And rather than buying a ton of new books (I won’t lie, there are like 60+ in my apartment that I still need to read), I’ve been binge watching BookTube videos about book reviews. Yes, I am that person who is watching stationary haul videos in their entirety.
This year I set a goal of reading 27 books in a year — not including comic books or kids books — and am really proud to say I’m nearly there! And it’s only August! This summer I’ve been making reading more of a priority throughout the day. The time away from computer screen, immersed in someone else’s imagination, has become both energizing and relaxing. At times I feel a bit guilty for ignoring my long to do list of actual responsibilities and instead, curling up in my brown leather chair and reading the hours away. But I’m learning to be a bit more selfish. I’m thinking of trying to read 40 books next year? And do a 24 hour reading marathon just for fun? I saw all the BookTubers doing it and any excuse to read with cats is fine by me. But enough blabbing, onto the books!
Due to the amount of books coupled together here, I’m going to try and keep my thoughts brief. Well as brief as possible because book talks are the funniest conversations to have. Am I right?
If you’re a fan of Meg Cabot or the “Bridget Jones Diaries” series, “Sofia Khan is NOT Obliged” will be right up your alley. Set in modern day London, Khan is a Muslim hijabi juggling writing a Muslim dating book while trying to find love herself. As you’d expect, her quest doesn’t go exactly as expected, but what drives this novel is the supporting characters who bring out Sofia’s cheekiness. It’s the perfect quick, fun summer read that you can still follow after a couple margaritas on the beach.
If you love reading the blog Cup of Jo or religiously follow the Instagrams of artists Mari Andrew and Cindy Mangomini, then Susan Branch’s “A Fine Romance” is about to capture your heart. Susan Branch is a very famous artistic author who publishes personal journals and cookbooks full of anecdotes and hand drawn illustrations. In this book, Branch documents her two month dream trip across the English countryside with her husband. I was so enamored with this book. It was beautiful, fun, heartfelt, and as a reader, left me inspired to better appreciate life’s delicious little moments. For a friend who loves to travel or if you’re just in need of a literary pick-me up, I highly recommend this memoir.
By now you’ve probably heard about George Saunder’s “Lincoln in the Bardo.” It’s been the talk of BookTube and was just nominated for the Man Booker Prize. If you’re a fan of “March” or innovative historical fiction, “Lincoln in the Bardo” is going to be your book of the year. The novel is set during the Civil War and follows the death of Willie Lincoln. The narrative alternates between reality and the purgatory in which Willie is stuck within. Willie encounters hundreds of souls trying to right their past sins and is being urged along by a handful of ghosts concerned about his delayed state between life and death. For the chapters on Lincoln and the “real world,” Saunders uses real newspaper clips to describe Lincoln’s 24 hours after Willie’s death. While not a perfect novel, it’s an extraordinary piece of work I greatly enjoyed spending time within.
“The Interview” is a graphic novel by Manuele Fior set in 2048, Italy. The story follows two characters who believe they can communicate with aliens during a time when humans have completely lost personal contact with one another. Drawn entirely in black and white, this novel is a beautiful look at what it talks to stay connected to those around you, and why technology isn’t the best answer to everything.
If you’re a fan of unconventional narratives and characters, these two novels might be your next great subway companions. Both left me thinking about them long after I’d turned the last page and questioning what I inherently expect of main characters.
In John Burnside’s “A Summer of Drowning,” 18-year-old Liv lives with her reclusive artistic mother in the Arctic Circle. When two boys drown in one summer, Liv begins to question the world in which she’s grown up –caught between her reality and the myths that drive the island. Creepy and very introspective, the power of this novel is that it feels like something is always just around the corner, even though most of the action is internal.
In this way, the novel had a very similar feel to “A Separation.” Both Liv and “A Separation’s” narrator — whom is never named or described — are the reader’s only eyes and ears for the entire story. We hear their assumptions — mostly unconfirmed — and watch how in many ways they’re unchanged from start to finish. In “A Separation,” the narrator goes to find her faithless husband who has gone missing in Greece. The pair have been secretly separated for months and upon agreeing to bring him home, rather than confront her in-laws, the narrator uncovers more than she anticipated chasing her husband’s ghost. I was a fan of both books but believe they’re for a very specific reader. They’re dense, unique takes on the “summer novel” genre, but the pursuit is worth the reward. If you enjoyed “Beautiful Ruins” or “The Vacationers,” I think you’d really like these as well. Must pair with a large ice tea for best reading results.
And lastly, my favorite of the pack, “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett. As we all know, I’m a very big Ann Patchett fan (see here and here). I’m currently reading her writing memoir “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” and so enjoying being inside the mind of a writer. In “State of Wonder,” one of her six fiction novels, readers follow Dr. Marina Singh, a 40-year-old scientist sent to South America to bring back the results of her department’s rogue doctor and the next great fertility drug. Marina is the department’s second choice, but after her laboratory partner is killed in the jungle, Marina volunteers to take his place. From the first 100 pages, you are rooting for Marina in a way that doesn’t negate her faults. She’s impatient, unconnected to others, tormented by nightmares, but as time passes, she begins to open herself up to the possibility that she may want more than a quiet, tiny life. And the ending, THE ENDING! It’s the best part of this adventure. Marina’s story is as emotional and personally fulfilling as it is adventurous, and will leave you questioning, what would you sacrifice do to save the life of someone you love? And when it comes to science vs. nature, who really wins in the end?