The Week in Reading #imwayr 8/3/20

You’d think that in the month I’ve taken off of blogging I would have read so many books. Sadly, no. Moving slowed me down as a reader. Entire days where I didn’t so much as open a book! But I have unpacked enough book boxes now to fill a couple of shelves, and I am once again finding a routine for reading.

I don’t know if this is my favorite Jason Reynolds novel, but I think it’s definitely his best. I listened on audio and appreciated the different narrators (and loved hearing Jason’s voice for the last story) and especially liked having his amazing sentences read out loud to me. There is a richness and depth to his language here, so many surprising metaphors and descriptions that bring the characters and their environment to life.

I both really enjoyed Network Effect, the first full-length novel in Martha Wells’s sci-fi series about Murderbot, and found myself a bit disappointed by it. I thought I wanted more pages of Murderbot (Wells’s previous novels in the series are all novellas and they’re finished far too fast), but the longer format led to what felt like meandering plot and character moments. Some of Murderbot’s snarky observations felt more like filler than necessary insights into his character. It took a long time to get to the action, but the last 70 pages or so were really good.

I was so worried that I wouldn’t like The Glass Hotel. The day after I ordered it, I read two negative reviews by readers who had, like me, adored Station Eleven, and I also discovered it was about a Ponzi scheme, which sounded like a really boring focus for a novel. After it arrived, I regretted spending the money on it and let it languish on the shelf. But it was one of the first books I unpacked here in Detroit and so I decided to try it. And I loved it. It will certainly be one of my favorite novels of the year. Sometimes I could hardly attend to what was happening in the story because I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) by Mandel’s craft, especially the way she structures the novel to move back and forth through time. There is not a single likable character in this book and yet I had such sympathy and acceptance for all of them. Of course the sentences are superb, and that ending! Perfection.

I’m sad not to have Lift in my hands to examine as an object. I read this one on my device and am very grateful to my new library for having a good selection of picture books. But it’s hard for me to fully read a picture book without having the object in hand. Once I can request books from the library again–physical books–this will be top of the list. I loved the imaginative escape but loved the development of the sibling story even more.

Isn’t this the saddest cover? I went through a phase many years ago of collecting New Zealand poet Fleur Adcock’s work–only to let those volumes of her poetry sit on the shelves unread. I decided at the last minute on August 1 to participate in #thesealeychallenge–a poetry reading challenge created by poet Nicole Sealey with the goal of reading one poetry collection each day in August. It had been a long day and I was tired, but I didn’t want to break the chain on the very first day. I scanned my shelves for the shortest poetry collection I could find, which was definitely this 24-part poem. There is exactly one rating on Goodreads for it–mine! The poems (well, technically poem, since it’s a single poem in 24 parts) are about a girl with a musculoskeletal defect (fiction, Adcock says in an interview), and the poems are often striking but the depiction of disability also made me uncomfortable. Perhaps the poems landed differently when they were first published in 1991, but now I’m having too many thoughts about ableism and appropriation to want to read them.

I’ve had Linda Pastan’s poetry collection, An Early Afterlife, for many, many years as well, and this was one I was able to thoroughly enjoy. Pastan is like a less ecstatic Mary Oliver if Mary Oliver wrote shorter lines. Maybe that’s not quite accurate. But if you like Mary Oliver, I think you’ll like Linda Pastan.

What are your reading plans for this week? I’m hoping to unpack more boxes and find more poetry (I have only unpacked 7 or 8 collections so far) and to finish Nic Stone’s new YA novel, Jackpot.

6 thoughts on “The Week in Reading #imwayr 8/3/20

  1. Have you moved, Elisabeth? I didn’t know. Best wishes settling in whether it’s a real move or just a trip! I loved The Glass Hotel, too, & did wonder if I would like it as much as Station Eleven. St. Mandel certainly knows how to create fantastic, complex stories! I’d love to read Lift, hope to get it from my library sometime. We are having only curbside pickup, & a limit of ten, so will have to read what I already have before requesting it. Thanks for all the shares!

    • Yes! We moved to Detroit. I’m so glad you also enjoyed Glass Hotel. I really love it when I can find fiction for grown-ups that lands just right for me. I believe my new public library just started curbside pickup this week. I know you’ll enjoy Lift.

  2. Yay for starting to unpack. Moving is such a big life change and takes so much effort. I also find picture books to be a more complete experience when I am holding a physical copy. I appreicate other formats – audio and digital – but flipping the pages and enjoying the spreads is more satisfying for me.

  3. Welcome back from your blogging break! Look Both Ways sounds like a great book, especially considering Jason Reynolds wrote it! I have a relative who actually just read and enjoyed The Glass Hotel. I appreciate your thoughts about Meeting the Comet—also, I agree, the cover is awful! And I am a huge Mary Oliver fan, so I should take a look at An Early Afterlife! Thanks for the great post, and congrats on moving!

  4. Ugh, I can see how moving would cut into reading time. I enjoyed Look Both Ways and Lift. I also don’t own it, which is sad for an elementary librarian. I need to get a budget back somehow. I loved the first Murderbot but haven’t been able to get the second-fourth from my library, although I put in requests. Thanks for the post, good luck with the boxes.

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