Books I read:
The Anthologist — Nicholson Baker.
I loved it. You won’t like it. Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense does it? It’s a short novel about a poet who is trying, and failing, to write the introduction to an anthology of rhyming poetry. He procrastinates, cleans his office, moons over his ex-girlfriend, helps a neighbor install a new floor, cuts his fingers (repeatedly), and discusses at length the misconceptions foisted on the English-speaking poetry world about the worth of rhyme (lots according to our narrator) and iambic pentameter (very little,) along with a lot of other poetry geekiness. So if gossip about poets and discourse on the value of structure in poetry do it for you. You’ll enjoy this. Otherwise… you’ll be bored.
Girl on the Train — Paula Hawkins.
Meh. All three protagonists are alternately boring and unlikable. There’s an odd lack of descriptions of the people, the places, or even the weather… that leaves the whole thing feels very ungrounded. It has a predictable outcome for a thriller. Though, if you ever need to give someone a clear example of gas lighting hand them this book.
I seem to be having a run of so-so books having turned down an alley of recommendations that just aren’t doing it for me. I keep looking at the recommendations based on liking All the Light We Cannot See and being misguided into slight novels with flat characters and only fair to middling language.
The Little Paris Book Shop — Nina George.
The premise is adorable. A bookshop on barge in the Seine. The bookseller is more of a book apothecary than a pusher of modern novels. He believes that there is a book for everyone — a book that will cure their ills.
Poor Jean Perdu (yeah, John Lost — not actually that clever) His one great love left him 20 years ago and he’s never even tried to recover. Then one day he donates an old kitchen table to a new neighbor and she finds a letter written by his long-lost love that he refused to open when it arrived 19 years ago. In addition to the lady dumped by her husband without so much as a kitchen table, other characters include a wunderkind author suffering from the sophomore jinx, a couple of cats, and a lovelorn Italian cook. They journey both through the canals of France and their bruised souls. But the book isn’t dark, it’s warm and sunny and full of the scenery of France. Kind of nice for a gloomy day. (Ignore all the two stars reviews. They come from people who consider open relationships to be evil. A rather dull sort of people.) Anyway, I liked it but it’s not one that I am going proselytize for.
Better than Before — Gretchen Rubin.
The lady who wrote the Happiness Project writes about habits. She starts by dividing the world into four kinds of people and then prescribes formulas and strategies for each type to develop habits. It’s a trite rehashing of all the previous advice you’ve ever heard, with predictable anecdotes from the writer — who’s a real weirdo. May be useful for some people but I fall into her Rebel category and the clear subtext of this book is Rebels are screwed. They simply lack the basic accountability to others and will power to develop habits.
Audio books this month:
Station Eleven — Emily St John Mandel — narrator Kirsten Potter
I liked this one when I read it. It’s equally good as a listen. The narrator makes sense as a lot of the book is told from the point of view of a female character.
Farewell My Lovely — Raymond Chandler — narrator Ray Porter.
A classic hard-boiled detective novel. Chandler sounds like a parody of himself at this point but I still revisit him on a irregular basis for the crashing, brash sentences. They read better than they listen. Not the narrator’s fault.
Snow Crash — Neal Stephenson — narrator Jonathan Davis.
Not my favorite Stephenson but a nice comparison to SevenEves which I listened to last month. There’s a huge growth curve between the two. Nice to see even my favorite pros learn as they go. Narrator — decent enough.
I have a huge list queued up for next month which includes two weeks of away from home vacation. Including more Tim O’Brien, Umberto Eco, Christopher Moore, Ernest Cline, and Karen Russel.
What are you reading?