Friday, October 27, 2017

Recent Reads | October

This month I befittingly-of-October read 13 books. My goal of the past two months was to read all of the books on the Man Booker longlist, which I have accomplished aside from the ones my library didn't have and two that I couldn't get more than 30 pages into. I also delved a bit more in Middle Eastern literature and found some really good works that I loved. I usually do a roundup of every book I read during the month, but this year has entailed a lot of reading which means a lot of reviewing. So for the present, I'm switching it up and only reviewing the books I liked best this month. If you'd like to keep up with all of the books I read, my Goodreads account is always up-to-date.

Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
I remember a few bloggers reading Oryx and Crake around the turn of the new year, and having mulled the title over in my head the past nine months I finally picked up a copy of it and the sequel The Year of the Flood from the library. Set in a dystopian future, the series follows survivors of a worldwide disaster who band together to survive. I'm not a dystopian lover by any means, but both of these books make it interesting by spending more time flashing back to what happened and less time following the day-to-day drudge of survival.

Girl Logic: The Genius and the Absurdity by Iliza Shlesinger*
Hatchette Books, Publish date: 7 November 2017
Girl Logic - an innate female trait that comedian Iliza Shlesinger describes as the way women question and obsess over everything in the world that men don't necessarily notice. Iliza's book is less of a memoir and more of an exploration of how GL manifests itself in everyday situations while using her own life to support her points. It's a very funny book with some hilarious anecdotes and words of wisdom, but I was hoping for something a little less generalised  and more in-depth.

Three Floors Up by Eshkol Nevo*
Other Press, Publish date: 10 October 2017
Set in an apartment building in Tel Aviv, Three Floors Up tells the stories of three of its residents - one on each floor - as they come to terms with their tumultuous circumstances: the first, a father who obsesses over his daughter's safety; the second, a wife who hides her brother's criminal brother from the police; and the third, a former judge who upon retirement tries to reconnect with her estranged son. Though the stories move slowly, there's an air of mystery to each that makes this book a compelling read.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Lincoln in the Bardo is the 2017 Man Booker Prize winner, and a well deserved one at that. Beautiful and strange, it has the most unique form of narration I've ever read. Taken from the real life moment of President Lincoln visiting the crypt the night of the death of his 11-year-old son Willie, Lincoln in the Bardo is a grief-filled novelisation of the connection between Lincoln and Willie and Willie's moments hanging in the "bardo" - the transitional state between death and the next stage.

Mr. Dickens and His Carol: A Novel of Christmas Past by Samantha Silva*
Flatiron Books, Publish date: 31 October 2017
I reread Dickens' A Christmas Carol every year, so naturally I was excited to find a novelisation of the somewhat fictitious, somewhat real events leading up the writing of the classic. Mr. Dickens and His Carol is a charming, seasonal read that throws the reader right into the heart of Victorian England. It follows Charles Dickens as his life falls apart in the face of a publishing failure and many rising debts, no thanks to his family members who take advantage of his fame. The ending wraps up a little too quickly in my opinion but it's standard for the Christmas genre.

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Yet another book I found through Afoma... Beautiful and heartbreaking, Salt Houses follows the Yacoubs, a Palestinian family who is continually forced to leave their homes in Nablus, Kuwait City, and Beirut as wars rage around them. As their environment continues to shift, their relationships with each other move in constant flux with the changing circumstances, pulling them together and pushing them apart. All of the characters are significantly flawed, but are never written to the point where you completely give up on them.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Though I loved Lincoln in the Bardo, this was my top pick for the Man Booker Prize. I was not at all prepared for this one; it's an intense, heartbreaking story about three Pakistani-British siblings and their family's entanglement with that of the Home Secretary's. It's about the lengths people will go for their family, wrapped up in the backstory of a wider discussion about the struggles of immigrants living in their adoptive country under the threat of terrorism. I can't say much about the plot without giving it away, but I highly, highly recommend reading it.

*I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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