Sunday, August 05, 2018

The Nine of July, 2018

Here are the nine books I read and listened to during July:

1. No Ordinary Time - Doris Kearns Goodwin. A portrait of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during the WWII years. I audiobooked this one. Found out too late that it was abridged, but the late Edward Herrmann's narration was everything.

2. The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter. Oh no. No. Did not like. The premise was intriguing -- two sisters, their defense attorney father and a violent crime in their past that collides with the title character's present -- and I appreciated the whiffs of Flannery O'Connor and Harper Lee, but the whole thing was so overwritten and bloated.

3. A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry. I finally read this classic 1959 play about a Chicago family trying to move out of the inner city and all of the stumbling blocks that come from forces both outside and inside. I was impressed and moved by Hansberry's description of her characters and other aspects from the stage directions. I wish she had lived out a full lifespan, because she would be a majestic driving force in so many different art forms.

4. Kitchens of the Great Midwest - J. Ryan Stradal. Audiobook. The story of Eva, a woman with a once-in-a-lifetime palate that she seemed to have inherited from her chef father and wine connoisseur mother, is a delight. The book is structured in chapters featuring characters that all played a part in Eva's life. It's like a recipe, of sorts, which works because food is a recurring theme. It's funny and poignant. The narrators -- one male and one female -- are on point. I can't believe I hemmed and hawed about reading this book for a couple of years. One of my favorites for the month.

5. The Letters of Sylvia Plath Vol. I 1940-1956 - Sylvia Plath. Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, eds. I finally finished this huge tome of letters written by the youthful Sylvia. This volume takes the reader up to October, 1956. Sylvia Plath is keeping her marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes a secret because she's afraid of losing her scholarship to Cambridge. They are living apart and finding the situation untenable. I wish I could freeze time at this point and leave them in love and trembling on the cusp of fame. Vol II 1956-1963 comes out soon. September in the UK and October 30 in the US. Steinberg and Kukil are brilliant editors. It was such a relief to read Sylvia's words without all the choppy ellipses.

6. Killing and Dying - Adrian Tomine. I was so pleased to find this graphic short story collection. I've been a big fan of Tomine's since I read Shortcomings. He's described as the graphic novel Raymond Carver, and that seems to be apt. The title comes from a story about a would-be comedian.

7. Lover of Unreason - Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev. A biography of Assia Wevill, the woman who is best known for her part in the breakup of Sylvia Plath's and Ted Hughes' marriage. By the time she entered their lives, she was on her third marriage and had a history of infidelities. From her history, one would have predicted that Hughes would have been another scalp in her belt, to put it crudely, but she met her match. I began Lover of Unreason absolutely despising Assia, but by the end, I was surprised to feel deep sympathy. This is for readers who want to know the rest of the story -- what happened after the events of February 11, 1963.

8. Born a Crime - Trevor Noah. Noah's memoir would be entertaining in any form, but I'm glad I got the audiobook. He is so funny and such a great narrator. The people in his life, especially his mother, spring to life. The book is also educational because the reader gets thumbnail sketches of South Africa's troubled history and sharp observations about the hateful, convoluted, contrived system that was apartheid. This was my favorite read (listen) for July.

9. The Bell Jar: A Novel of the Fifties - Linda Wagner-Martin. I'd forgotten how dull literary criticism can be. The Bell Jar is so vibrant, but you'd never know it from these essays about the book that are as dry as Shredded Wheat.

Although I only read nine for July, I'm pleased with the list, which seems like a good mix, if you don't count my Plath obsession.

Get a load of this: A friend actually told me that I couldn't count the books I listened to because I didn't read them with my eyes.  I took a deep breath and explained without swearing or screaming that the books were merely coming through one of my other senses and still had to be processed by my brain. Any book processed by my brain was going into my reading journal. The End.

Hours later, I realized I'd forgotten to mention people who read in Braille.

 But really. Sheesh.

1 comment:

Unruly Reader said...

Audiobooks totally count as reading! AND they take longer to read than print books. So there's that: when listening, we spend more time immersed in the story.

And oh, I agree... Born a Crime: So So Good.