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My May 2018 reading list has a lot of books I’ve been anticipating for a while and includes both books from my shelf and new releases. Lately I’ve been planning my reading ahead more than I usually do, for a couple reasons.
The first is that I’ve been reading a very long book for quite a while. And while I’m enjoying it and actually moving through it pretty quickly, I’ve still been eying up my shelves every time I walk by. I love long books, but I also love reading a lot of books! #readerproblems
The second is that I’ve learned a few things about library holds. Sarah had an excellent post way back in March with 8 Tricks to Make Your Reading Life Easier (seriously, go read it if you haven’t yet), and one of her tricks is that library holds can be suspended so you’re not overwhelmed with too many books coming in at once.
Life. Changing. Seriously
Managing My E-Book Holds
I was always hesitant to put holds on more than one or two books because I just knew they would all come at me at once. I tended to add them to my Overdrive Wish List and just hope something I liked would be available when I was ready to borrow something new. That meant I never got some of the more popular titles.
Combine this with my new discovery of the hold details in Libby that shows my spot in line and estimated time when I can expect my hold to come in. It also shows an at-a-glance look at where all my holds are, so I can know which ones to expect soon and decide if I need to suspend them for a week or two.
This has put a little cramp in my read my shelf challenge as I went a little hold-happy at the library. But it’s been a good mix of old and new, and I’m still working through my shelf and my reading bucket list.
Books on My Shelf
These are the books on my shelf that I’m planning to read (or finish reading) this month:
This massive tome is the third in the Pillars of the Earth series and is set several hundred years after the previous (there are small references to the previous books, but they don't need to be read to follow this story). These books are what I call "soapy historical fiction." They are epic stories that span decades and are filled with drama, conflict, and romance, as well as history. This story takes us back to the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England, as well as to France, Spain, and Belgium during the time of the Tudors and the Inquisition.
The main conflict is between Catholics and Protestants, and we see the effects of this conflict on everyone from peasants to merchants to royalty. What I love about reading this whole trilogy, spaced hundreds of years apart, is the very strange feeling that comes with realizing that the characters you knew intimately from the previous books have died. All of the events and cares that drove their lives have passed into history and are largely irrelevant to the current story, but they also reverberate through the centuries and shape the lives of future generations. Another book that does this (with a very different story, and in much fewer pages) is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.More info →
Swing Time reminded me a bit of My Brilliant Friend, with two young girls growing up together in a poor neighborhood. Each dreams of greatness and is differently talented, but one forever seems to be straining to catch up. Their relationship falls square into "frenemy" territory, especially as they grow up and lives grow more complicated.
While this premise is intriguing, the book itself confused me. It strayed far from this original setup, so one of the girls, Tracey, didn't loom as large as it seemed she was supposed to. She felt like more of a shadow figure to me, occasionally popping up but never coming into focus. Lending to this inability to settle into the story was a device that I'm learning bothers me as a reader: the unnamed narrator.
While it seems the device was meant to demonstrate the narrator's inability to forge her own identity, first in Tracey's shadow, and then in Amy's--a famous singer who employs her in adulthood--the narrator didn't feel any more unfocused than most 20-somethings, and she felt worthy of a name.
I'd love to hear from someone who loved this book, because it felt scattered to me and I think I just didn't get it.More info →
I loved both The Secret History and The Goldfinch, so I have been eager to get to Tartt's less-discussed book. The synopsis makes it sound like it has elements of both of those books, but is also entirely different: The setting is Alexandria, Mississippi, where one Mother’s Day a little boy named Robin Cleve Dufresnes was found hanging from a tree in his parents’ yard. Twelve years later Robin’s murder is still unsolved and his family remains devastated. So it is that Robin’s sister Harriet - unnervingly bright, insufferably determined, and unduly influenced by the fiction of Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson--sets out to unmask his killer. Aided only by her worshipful friend Hely, Harriet crosses her town’s rigid lines of race and caste and burrows deep into her family’s history of loss.More info →
These are the library holds I expect to come in this month:
This recent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of Arthur Less, a failing novelist on the brink of turning 50. When he receives an invitation to his former lover's wedding, he decides to embark on an around-the-world journey to avoid the event. Less accepts various speaking engagements, award ceremonies, and teaching appointments to ensure that he will be out of the country. On this journey, Less ruminates on his past and dreads his future as an aging, single gay man (he feels there is no precedent for this) and failed writer. Less is both frustrating and endearing, a bit bumbling, and above all, certain of his own failures. Those around him rarely disabuse him of these notions, but they also see more in him that he sees in himself. This book won't be for everyone--it's light on plot and heavy on wandering musings, and can be slow at times--but for a reader in the right mood it's a sweet and sometimes funny read. Certain parts had me laughing out loud.More info →
I have such mixed feelings about this story about Hemingway's third wife, Martha Gellhorn, and her efforts to forge her own identity as a writer. Paula McClain's writing is excellent, and at the start of this novel I was captivated. The question of what drew Gellhorn to Hemingway, beyond his fame, loomed large for me. I started to get a little bored about 2/3 of the way through when the story started to drag. But towards the end: redemption! I was again captivated. Maybe when it comes to Hemingway, what I'm looking for is a little more "ruin" (I'm not a fan, #sorrynotsorry), and when it comes to Gellhorn, she shone when she was exercising her independence. Many other bloggers have loved this without reserve, so it's worth checking out if you have an interest in Hemingway and/or Gellhorn.More info →
I borrowed this book from the library, but it's one that I'm tempted to purchase to keep in my bedside table. The twelve things that Kelly Corrigan is learning to say are things that we all need to learn to say, and I think women and mothers in particular feel many of these deeply. Corrigan weaves in small anecdotes over larger narratives of family, friendship, and loss. Her reflections bring her to comfort with uncertainty, with deeper listening and less solving, and with setting limits--among other things. Each reader will find something different that resonates. For me, the essays "Tell Me More" and "No" stuck out, but I suspect that will change through the years. Worth a read, and a revisit.More info →
In Big Magic, author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) shares reflections and lessons on living a creative life. While she can get a little woo-woo for my taste, overall I enjoyed her perspective on creativity. Gilbert strives to keep a positive attitude toward the process, craft, and work of a creative life, rejecting the notion that creatives must be tortured souls who suffer for their art. I'm not sure I fully buy into her magical notions of creative ideas as living things, but there's certainly no harm in the visualization. I see more value in it that in the self-flagellation that often occurs when artists struggle to bring something to life. Overall, I love her sense of gratitude for the opportunity to create, and I could see myself revisiting this if I ever find myself despairing over my own creative efforts.More info →
The Gunners is a story of childhood friendships revisited in adulthood. This is a common theme that often seems to be explored in more sinister books--The Chalk Man and several by Stephen King come to mind. While there are hints of underlying darkness in this book--the driver for the reunion, after all, is the suicide of one of the friends--the story is less about the sinister than about the friendships.
Mikey Callahan is the only one of six childhood friends to remain in their hometown, aside from the long-estranged Sally, who has taken her life in adulthood. The remaining friends trickle into town for the funeral, reconnect, and confess old and new secrets.
As long-held misunderstandings are remedied, the friends realize that they may not have known each other as well as they thought--but also that this unknowing is a constant in relationships, and they can endure anyway. While not everything is resolved--as it almost never is in the case of suicide--this is a lovely book about the power of friendship, forgiveness, and acceptance.More info →
Have you read any of these? What will you be reading in May?