Welcome to my monthly round up where I look at the books I read that did not come from the 746 and aren’t part of any of my reading challenges.
Once again, the best-laid plans for November didn’t quite work out as my reading slumped a little due to work pressures.
Despite taking part in the brilliant NonFiction November, I didn’t manage to read the books I had planned. I also failed to take part in Margaret Atwood Month hosted by the brilliant Naomi from Consumed by Ink and Marcie from Buried in Print. They have hinted that it will come back next year and I do hope so. Maybe we will all have read The Testaments by then!
I did make progress this month with my Novels in Translation Challenge and have one more book in translation to read by the end of the month, but disappointingly, I only brought the 746 down by a measly ONE BOOK this month. Shocking altogether.
Here is a roundup of some other books that I read this past month.
The Widow by Fiona Barton
The Widow is a well-crafted thriller that is not, despite what it says on the front cover, the ‘next Gone Girl’. I find these descriptions at best a distraction and at worst a disservice to the book in question. The Widow has nothing in common with Gone Girl apart from being a thriller with a female lead so the comparison is relatively pointless. The Widow focuses on Jean Taylor, widow of recently deceased Glen, who has long been suspected but never convicted of snatching and murdering a two-year-old Bella. Jean has always been the voiceless, doting wife, but now that Glen has been killed in an accident, is it her moment to find her voice and tell the world what happened? Does she even know what happened? Told from the point of view of Jean, Kate, a reporter who wants her story and Bill, the detective assigned to Bella’s disappearance, The Widow is a slow-burning character study with well-depicted plausible characters that does not leave the reader with easy answers.
White Tears by Hari Kunzru
White Tears was a birthday present from the lovely Mr. 746 Books and was my first time reading Kunzru. White Tears is ostensibly ghost story, focusing on two music industry hipsters from New York. Carter and Seth by chance record a black man singing an old song in a New York Park and decide to set it to music, add some authentic scratch and fizzle, invent a name for the singer, dream up an old record label, and pass the finished work off as a long lost vinyl from the Twenties. The only problem is, the collectors of such precious vinyl seem to have heard their piece of work before and are willing to go to incredible lengths to get their hands on it. As with the best ghost stories, it is hard to know what is real and what is not in this clever tale of race and cultural appropriation. Kunzru’s tale is at times highly amusing and entertaining before becoming darker and more disturbing. This could have gone horribly wrong, but Kunzru exquisite prose stops the narrative from falling in on itself. I will definitely be checking out more of Hari Kunzru’s work.
Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry
I read this as part of Non-Fiction November, but didn’t get round to reviewing it. I’m a big fan of Grayson Perry – his artwork, his television work and his writing – and this is a fun look at the art world and its accessibility, asking who should be making art and who, ultimately is it for. Adapted from Perry’s Reith Lectures, Playing to the Gallery lifts the curtain on the contemporary art world, which Perry, although having benefited greatly from, is not averse to criticising. According to Perry, art is whatever people say it is, and the art world hierarchy, places the viewing public at the bottom, with curators almost becoming more important than the artists themselves. He has a lot of fun with Duchamp’s infamous urinal and in his derision of the language of the Artistic Statement and the book is peppered with his fun illustrations, reminding us that Perry might be right in the centre of this world, but he is not fooling himself about who, or what, is in charge. Mainly money.
Exposure by Olivia Sudjic
Another Non-Fiction November read that I didn’t get around to talking about in November! I received an advance copy of Exposure, an essay by Olivia Sudjic exploring writing, feminism, anxiety and the internet. Following the publication of her first novel, Sudjic explores the anxiety that she began to experience, anxiety about her writing, anxiety around social media and the anxiety caused by the perception of female writers in the critical press. This is where the essay is most affecting, looking at the work of writers such as Maggie Nelson, Elena Ferrante and Rachel Cusk and how their work is judged in comparison to male writers. Sudjic writes with a striking and relatable honesty and this is a timely and prescient book.
So that’s it for my off-list reading for November. I don’t have too many plans for December, as it can be a bit haphazard for me in terms of reading. It is already a busy month with Christmas, but with the twins turning 8 on the 23rd, it can get a bit manic!
I will be posting on my Blogversary and have a lovely festive giveaway planned, so do keep your eyes peeled for that!
How has your reading month been?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!