Sunday, March 5, 2017

February's Great Reads

Okay, so last month I read a whole bunch of great books and I gave 5 stars on Goodreads to ten of them. I'll tell you a little more about those ten (in no particular order).

Don't I Know You? - Marni Jackson
Interlinked short stories follow Rose's life from her teens right up to her 70s. In each story, Rose interacts with celebrities, often in mundane circumstances. I laughed out loud (Keith Richards moonlighting as a surgeon) and came close to tears (Leonard Cohen running an ice cream truck). The canoe trip with Cohen, Karl Ove Knausgaard and Taylor Swift was the perfect finale. Smart. Charming.

     "Leonard, this song of yours, A Thousand Kisses Deep? It is perfect. It cannot be improved upon," Karl Ove said to him. "Can I ask how long it took to write it?"
     "A thousand years, more or less." Leonard rasped. "I write very slowly. I write in geological time."
     "We are polar opposites then. My new book is already over 500 pages and the main character is still in utero." Karl Ove laughter at himself. "My publisher begs me to shut up."

Salt - Nayyirah Waheed
Loved this collection of poetry so much! Clarity of thought expressed in surprising ways. Occasional flashes of simmering rage. Minimalist.

     not ever
     afraid to tell me
     who you are.
     i am going to find

     - blunt

Memorial: A Version of Homer's Iliad - Alice Oswald
Brief elegies for each of the hundreds who died in the Trojan war. Gorgeous nature and family imagery together with violence. I read with dismay and sadness, yet also found Oswald's words are a balm. Homer's soldiers could be men dying in wars today. Respect for our mortality. This work of poetry filled me with awe.

     Like tribes of summer bees
     Coming up from the underworld out of a crack in a rock
     A billion factory women flying to their flower work
     Being born and reborn and shimmering over fields

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers - Max Porter
This one haunted me and I kept going back to reread parts. It brought to mind a couple of Ali Smith's works (Artful & The Story of Antigone) as well as a novel by Evan Roskos (Dr Bird's Advice for Sad Poets). It is also completely original, like nothing else I've encountered... except maybe grief itself. Surreal, comforting, brilliant prose.

     We will never fight again, our lovely, quick, template-ready arguments. Our delicate cross-stitch of bickers.

The Break - Katherena Vermette
Real. Polyphonic. Important. Sad. Eloquent. Indigenous voice. Hopeful. Heartbreaking.

     "My Kookom." She looks at her grandmother, serious and straight. "Girls don't get attacked in good neighbourhoods."
     Kookoo looks right back, just as hard, no, harder, even with her near-blind eyes. "My Stella, girls get attacked everywhere."

Panther - Brecht Evens
Whimsy meets nightmare in this Belgian graphic novel for adult readers. It's breathtaking, absurd, peculiar, visionary, grotesque, ornate and bizarre. It totally creeped me out and I loved it.

Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria and Iraq - Sarah Glidden
What is journalism? A cartoonist records the work of independent American reporters in the middle east. Gilder's watercolour art make individual people and settings personal. Refugees, politics, a travelling companion who's a US vet of the war in Iraq, the financial need to sell stories, the heartbreak of millions of displaced people - each with their own story - this book important.

The Inquisitor's Tale, or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog - Adam Gidwitz
[Listening Library: 10 hr: narration by full cast including author]
Outstanding audio production includes music as well as a full cast. Saintly children and a dog in 13th century France. Farting dragons, cheese that smells like a cow's butt, ass/donkey double entendres. The enormous turnip folktale. A clear message about the importance of pluralism in society. Great for family listening.

Behold the Dreamers - Imbolo Moue
[Random House Audio: 12 hr 14 min: narrated by Prentice Onayemi]
Integrity, warmth, propulsion. Multiple perspectives. Complex characters in two families, one headed by a Cameroonian chauffeur with uncertain legal status in the USA, the other by a Wall Street executive. Set in NYC during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Superb audio narration by Onayemi.

Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry
[Phoenix Books: 37 hr: narrated by Lee Horsley]
Of the seven audiobooks that I listened to in February, this is my hands down favourite. Westerns aren't normally by thing, but there are exceptions - Sisters Brothers; True Grit - and now, Lonesome Dove. It's got every doorway into reading - story, characters, setting and language - which explains its wide appeal. If you love hyperbole, don't miss this.

     The only man in the outfit who didn't fart frequently was old Bolivar himself - he never touched beans and lived mainly on sourdough biscuits and chicory coffee, or rather, cups of brown sugar with little puddles of coffee floating on top.

Thanks for reading. I'll post my February reading stats below and I hope you'll be back to visit my blog again!

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