What Should I Read Next?: Slice of Life 27/31 #sol20

Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next is my comfort podcast. For two years now, I’ve had my Tuesday morning routine set: wake up and get ready for work; download the new episode; and enjoy an hour of peaceful book talk on my drive to work. Guests share three books they love, one book that wasn’t for them, what they’re reading now, and what they’d like to be different about their reading lives, and then Anne recommends three books to them. I thought we could try a little literary matchmaking ourselves today. I’d love to know what you think I should read next, and if you tell me three books you love, I’ll try to recommend something for you too.

Three Books You Love:

I decided to limit myself to books read in the last year or two, and only fiction since that’s what I want more of.

A Gentleman in Moscow is a book that was recommended to a guest on What Should I Read Next. Much as I love the podcast and Anne’s blog, her favorites are really hit or miss for me. But I did love this one, and it has some relevancy to our current moment. Count Rostov is sentenced to house arrest and lives for thirty years without stepping foot outside his hotel in Moscow. Slowly his life becomes interwoven with the lives of the staff and guests and the hotel itself. It’s a book that leaves you (I cannot improve upon these words written by Heather, a Goodreads reader) “feeling expansive and engaged in life.” It feels like a worthy pastiche of Russian novels, but a bit happier. And it has a great deal to say about novels themselves and what it means to read and love them.

I finally got around to reading The Nickel Boys after listening to Traci Thomas’s chat with Jason Reynolds on her excellent book podcast, The Stacks. (I should probably read more of Traci’s recommendations, because I have loved every book she loves.) Even though there’s the whole house arrest and life under those nutty Bolsheviks plotline in A Gentleman in Moscow, it’s still a book you can imagine wanting to live in. The Nickel Boys, on the other hand, is a book that you really want to get out of–even though you also can’t put it down. It’s an intense and absolutely necessary read–and also pertinent to this moment, even though it, too, is historical fiction. (Hmmm, just realizing that two of the three books I chose today are historical fiction, which I always say I don’t like. But maybe I really do!) It’s short enough to read in a day, though you may need to put it down a few times to gather yourself before continuing to read. It’s also a novel of people trapped against their will–in this case, boys at an abusive reform school in the Jim Crow south. I knew this book was not going to have a happy ending, even though I really really wanted it to. It does have a surprise twisty ending that made me want to turn to page one and begin rereading immediately.

Gideon the Ninth was a recommendation from Scott Day, a friend who never steers me wrong with his book recommendations. (Which means I should read the two other books he recommended at the same time as Gideon: Underland and Cry Pilot.) It is, incredibly, a first novel–so confident and so ambitious, packed with dazzling sentences and rich world-building and flawed characters who make you fall hard in love with them. It’s about a necromancer and her rather unwilling servant who are invited to compete in a trial to see which of the Emperor’s houses can maybe win immortality. But the plot is really beside the point. Read this one for the voice and the characters and the sentence pyrotechnics.

One Book That Wasn’t For Me:

From the Corner of the Oval is a memoir of the time Beck Dorey Stein spent as a stenographer to Barack Obama. I understand why readers enjoy it (“Bridget Jones goes to the White House” isn’t far off as a tagline), but I found it self-absorbed and tedious and tiresome (not entirely unlike Bridget Jones herself, though Helen Fielding’s book is saved by some pretty funny writing.) I spent the book wanting to yell at Beck or take her straight to therapy (or both). STOP getting drunk, STOP sleeping with that toxic jerk, HAVE SOME SELF-RESPECT AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF and also ISN’T THIS BOOK SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT YOUR JOB AND NOT ABOUT YET ANOTHER DRUNKEN HOOK-UP?

What You’re Reading Now:

I don’t even know. I can’t seem to read anything except the Internet these days. And I don’t like any of the books I’m reading. I’m far enough into several books that I want to finish just so I can add them to my list, but I am finding little pleasure or purpose in reading them. So let’s not talk about it.

One Thing You’d Like to Change in Your Reading Life:

More novels! Now that I am dependent on my own shelves rather than my library for reading material, I’m noticing just how unbalanced my book purchasing is. I read plenty of fiction–but unless it is middle-grade or children’s novels that I will add to my lending library, I check out almost all of it from the library. I buy a lot of books–but I buy almost exclusively nonfiction. Shelf after shelf of history, essays, biography, memoir, manuals, guides. Which is lovely. But right now, I need fiction.

What does your reading life look like right now? And what should I read next??

19 thoughts on “What Should I Read Next?: Slice of Life 27/31 #sol20

  1. Thanks for the invitation. I’ll play, drawing from reading so far this school year. Three books I love: _The Library Book_ by Susan Orlean, _Pet_ by Akwaeke Emezi, and _Ragged Company_ by Richard Wagamese. One book that wasn’t for me: _Goldfish Boy_ by Lisa Thompson. Now I’m reading: _Front Desk_ by Kelly Yang. As for what I’d like to be different in my reading life… I suppose I’d like libraries and bookstores to be re-open.

    • Well yes, libraries and bookstores would be wonderful! I feel like I always appreciate them, but I will be appreciating them even more in the future. Pet had JUST arrived for me on the hold shelf at the library before they closed and I wasn’t able to get it. I loved The Library Book. My recommendations to you: John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood; Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights; and Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone. Thanks for playing!

  2. Thanks for sharing the podcast. Nickel Boys was hard to read, but powerful. Three books I read recently that I loved: Afterlife by Julia Alvarez (publishes April 7th), The City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, and The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness by Kelli Harding.

    • Here are the three books I’d recommend to you based on what you’ve enjoyed: Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone; The Turner House by Angela Flournoy; and The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.

  3. Although not my usual kind of book, I really enjoyed “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford.It is about the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. “Orphan X” by Gregg Hurwitz is the first book in the Orphan X series. It introduces Evan Smoak. “Intensity” by Dean Koontz for me was a page turner. As an added book let me add “The October List” by Jeffrey Deaver. This book is written backwards from end to beginning. Sorry, it is hard to stop with just three.

  4. How terrible not to have solid “shop-at-home” bookcases right now! I am steering my reading away from literary and historical fiction and more into sci fi and fantasy at the moment, because the escapism helps. So I will make two recommendations for you of good books to get lost in. First is a fantasy novel that I love for its lush world building, intensely vivid descriptions, and unusual use of color imagery. Plus, it features a librarian as the main character and really feels different from other fantasy novels. No elves and wizards, etc., though it does eventually spin a new take on the hero’s journey story. This book is Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. I have the sequel on my shelf too, and it is up next or the book after next for me. The other one is City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, and features a wily young orphan woman in a sort of parallel 18th century Egypt. She has a few unusual talents, including being an excellent con woman and able to feel (and sometimes cure) diseases in people, and she takes pains to hide her differences. However, she also manages to accidentally summon a demon and finds herself hunted by angry ifrit before being whisked off against her will to the city of the djinn by a reluctant demon who does not really want anything to do with her. The world building is amazing and unconventional, and the story involves deceit, magic, palace intrigue, revolutionary plots, buried secrets, and a hint of a love story. It’s terrific.

    (I’ve always wondered what I would say about books on What Should I Read Next?, but I’ve never thought about doing Anne’s role!)

    • Ok, so it turns out you’re pretty amazing at Anne’s role! I haven’t read EITHER of these books, but I do own Strange the Dreamer and will pick it up from my office library when I’m out grocery shopping next week! You’ve made it sound so wonderful. And I did love the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. And City of Brass sounds like exactly. what I love in a fantasy novel! A few of my fave sci-fi/fantasy from the last couple of years: Martha Wells’s All Systems Red (1st in the Murderbot series); Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice; Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown; Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver.

      • I loved Uprooted and have both Spinning Silver and Sorcerer to the Crown on my shelves to read. I have also heard a lot of positive things about the Martha Wells and Ann Leckie series. I started the sequel to Strange the Dreamer (Muse of Nightmares) last night and it is great so far. I loved the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series too, and Strange the Dreamer is better! Enjoy!

  5. My book club just finished reading ‘From the Ashes’ by Jesse Thistle; it’s a memoir by a Metis author and he agreed to have a vitual meeting with us – amazing. He actually meets with small groups all the time, so if you download his book on audible and gather some Twitter friends, he’ll join you to talk about his writing and life.
    My next book is ‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi and, you’re right, all I’m reading these days is online…but, I could read your writing all day!

    • Oh, Homegoing is an incredible achievement. Often very painful to read too. Thanks for the recommendation of From the Ashes. I definitely need to read that one! Have you read Therese Mailhot’s Heart Berries and Tommy Orange’s There There? Two of my favorites from last year.

  6. I can absolutely relate… I feel like all I have been able to read lately is the Internet, too.

    I only used to read fiction, and now I have found that I barely read fiction anymore. I always love seeing what you are reading!

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