Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reading Lately

I've been on a hot reading streak for the past few months, finding book after book that I've loved. Here's an overview of some of my favorites, starting with some current fiction.

I’m nearly halfway through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and so far it’s living up to its hype as a completely engrossing, modern-Dickensian coming of age saga. I’m amazed at how such a minutely detailed world—both in terms of exterior setting and the interior world of main character Theo—can spring from the mind of one author. Another book that inspired the same amazement was The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Although the last two chapters of the novel pale in comparison to the whole, and I didn't find the novel as a whole to be as successfully conceived as Cloud Atlas, I still found it to be a very worthy read.

A novel garnering much praise lately is Ali Smith’s How to Be Both. The novel is divided into two halves, one which follows George, a modern-day teenage girl who has recently lost her mother and one that follows the rise of Francesco del Cossa, a fifteenth-century Italian painter who isn’t exactly as he seems. Though the two halves of the story are linked by the painter and his frescoes, they are not fully dependent upon one another. In fact, half of the books printed start with George's half of the story while the other half start with Francesco's, emphasizing the point that they work together no matter which order they're read in. Despite all of the attention that the post-modern (or maybe post-post-modern? I feel like I should go back to college to debate this) structure is getting, the individual stories are very readable and beautifully written, particularly in the sections that explore memories. How to Be Both is probably the most interesting novel I’ve read in a while. It would be a perfect book club book, especially if the members were divided into two groups that read the stories in different orders, then compared their impressions.

Last but not least, I also caught myself up on one of the more buzzed about books from a year or two ago, George Saunders's Tenth of December. I've wanted to read this ever since it came out, but only just got around to it. I was very impressed by how his stories were simultaneously quirky and moving. I really enjoyed the majority of this collection and plan to seek out more of Saunders's work in the future.

Of course, my literary diet isn’t complete without copius helpings of 20th century British female writers and two of my favorites of late are Margaret Kennedy and Angela Thirkell. I discovered the former a few months back when I read The Ladies of Lyndon a few months back during Margaret Kennedy Reading week. That single novel was good enough to elevate Kennedy to favorite author status. I’m looking forward to reading Together and Apart next. And then there’s Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire series, which I’ve been reading as a sort of palate cleanser in between denser books. Most recently I finished Pomfret Towers, which may be my favorite of hers so far. In it, Thirkell hits on the perfect combination of witty writing, a glamorous setting, romantic entanglements with happy endings, and a collection of characters who are imperfect and irritating at times, but who manage to highlight some very relatable human emotions.


  1. I've been meaning to read Angela Thirkell's works. I've heard nothing but good things about her writing, so thanks for the reminder!

    1. That is exactly why I first read her. I think she lives up to the hype.



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