Reading Roundup: Winter/Spring 2022

Woman Reading in a Forest, Gyula Benczúr, 1875

Inspired by this existential blogging crisis and wrap up by Volatile Rune.

I knew it’d been a few years since I did any kind of wrap up or roundup, outside of a year-end post. I did not think it’d been since 2013! I’m going to try to follow my old format and see what happens, and cover the last few months.

Book events

Few and far between recently, but I am signed up for a event for The Books of Jacob next week, hosted by Portland State University, which will include translator Jennifer Croft and other luminaries. I have 836 pages to go (the pages are numbered in reverse, so I can say that with confidence), and I’m loving it so far.

Blog events

I am not as tuned in as I was nine years ago, but there are a few things happening:

Books read

Some highlights. Someone recently asked me what kind of books I like, and the first thing that came to mind was “weird Japanese short fiction”:

  • Convenience Store Woman and Earthlings by Sayaka Murata, tr. Ginny Tapley Takemori. I read these with my sister, and the sharp turn from quirky to unsettling, both within each story and between the two books, was a lot to take! She’s got a short story collection coming out in July, I wonder if I can convince Cait to go for the trifecta…
  • Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, tr. Sam Bett and David Boyd. I normally don’t like it when an author inserts long philosophical meanderings, masquerading as dialog… (remembers that I like Dostoyevsky)… okay maybe I do like it.

I hate to call stories set in the late 20th century “historical fiction” but these sure evoke the era:

  • Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (70s). Great fun while you’re reading, but on a moment’s reflection, full of cliches and plot holes.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt (80s). I liked it, but was expecting something more? It really reads like a debut, which, fair enough! I may have been spoiled by accidentally reading an erotic fanfic first.
  • Larry’s Party by Carol Shields. A trip through the 70s, 80s, and 90s with an every-man who’s very into mazes and metaphors.

I absolutely needed to read short stories in between the interminable Gargantua and Pantagruel:

  • Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor. For me, a big improvement on the super-hyped Real Life, it felt more assured.
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro, you know how I feel about that one.
  • Homesickness by Colin Barrett. Like Taylor, I think Barrett made a leap forward in his style, and he was already a genius-level writer so… yeah.

Books I want to read and a pre-announcement if you made it this far

I keep a “TBR not owned” list in my books spreadsheet (I have long quit Goodreads) and have added 14 books so far this year, most recently Bad Dreams by Tess Hadley, based on this review.

But the book I’m really thinking about right now is The Brothers Karamazov. I think it’s time, and may resurrect the Reading in Bed Summer Read-along to do it. I’ve read seven Dostoyevsky novels over the years, loved them all, and this is the only of his major works I haven’t read. And it checks all the read-along boxes (on the 1,001 Books list, near one thousand pages, seems wildly inappropriate for summer reading). Feel free to express your interest below and watch this space!

6 comments

  1. CLM (@ConMartin)

    My mother told me one of the best parts of college was a semester when everyone in her Radcliffe dorm found herself reading The Brothers K and they talked about it all the time. Her roommate once said to me it was about four people “but it made your mother very happy!”

    I went to the same college but the only time everyone I knew was reading the same thing was a Folklore and Mythology class where the first Narnia book was assigned. It was still fun but not quite as intellectual!

  2. Elle

    Love this! I’ve been reading Russians all spring but intentionally avoided Brothers K on grounds that I already have a PhD to write… Will be very interested in following your progress!

  3. Laura

    Interested to hear that you liked Filthy Animals more than Real Life. I admired Real Life to some degree but everything outside the narrator’s head felt so distanced and sketchy.

  4. Kate W

    I felt the same about Daisy Jones but not Secret History, which I recently reread on the back of listening to the FASCINATING podcast, Once Upon a Time at Bennington College.

  5. annelogan17

    I’ve been really curious about Filthy Animals. I enjoy his twitter feed, but I haven’t read anything actually published by him, which I sort of feel guilty about. Speaking of Animal collections, I recently enjoyed Animal Person by Alexander MacLeod 🙂

  6. JacquiWine

    Thanks so much for linking to my review of ‘Bad Dreams’, Laura, and I hope you enjoy the stories whenever you get a chance to read them. You’ve also reminded me about Earthlings. I liked Murata’s Convenience Store Woman very much and have heard even better things about Earthlings, so I must get around to buying it. This ‘weird, left-field Japanese’ genre is very much my kind of thing!

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