To Read: Books About Houses

Self is constantly tweaking her reading list. She likes to binge-read by theme. One year, she read nothing but travel books. Another year, she read only books written by women. Last year, she limited her reading to books written about, or on, islands.

Right now, self is interested in houses. Houses exude such a sense of permanence, they are wonderful to read about, especially during the holidays.

Currently reading: The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien

A Very Short List: Novels About Houses

  • Andr√© Dubus’s House of Sand and Fog
  • Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (Manderley!)
  • Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle
  • E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End
  • Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
  • Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows (Toad Hall!)
  • Stella Gibbons’s Cold Comfort Farm
  • V. S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner

p. 9:

  • I sometimes think San Francisco is cursed. I mostly think it’s a sad suckville of a place. People say it’s beautiful, but the beauty is only visible to newcomers, and invisible to those who had to grow up there. Like the glimpses of blue bay through the breezeways along the street that wraps around the back of Buena Vista Park.

There is something about the holidays. The books she reads stay and stay and stay with her. For example, she only read two books last December, but both were great: The Unwomanly Face of War, by Svetlana Alexievich; and Kudos, by Rachel Cusk.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Her 2019 Reading Year

Top reading year, this is turning out to be.

Her Favorites, by Month:

  • February: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and November Road by Lou Berney.
  • March: Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few.
  • April: Milkman by Anna Burns; Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday; and Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush.
  • May: Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges by Antony Beevor and Northanger Abbey.
  • June: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books, Sunday Observer, 21 April 2019 (Easter Sunday)

Self is interested in reading the books on the list below:

  • Small Days and Nights, by Tishani Doshi (novel)
  • Don’t Touch My Hair, by Emma Dabiri (nonfiction)
  • The Road to Grantchester, by James Runcie (mystery)
  • Hey! Listen! by Steve McNeil (a journey through the golden age of video games)
  • The Price of Paradise: How the Suicide Bomber Shaped the Modern Age, by Iain Overton (history)
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins (debut novel)

FOUR

Looking back, self’s February was LIT.

LIT.

She read two of her four Best So Far 2019 in February.

Currently, she’s reading Milkman and she loves it. It is so fraught.

April, BE LIT.

Stay tuned.

The Reading List: THE ESSEX SERPENT, p. 52

Self has been averaging 10 days a book.

Her last two books were Anna Karenina and Swann’s Way, and her current read, The Essex Serpent, is definitely NOT a book to be rushed through.

(It was a good idea not to push through with Ove Knausgaard. She might still be stuck on Book 1 right now)

The main character of The Essex Serpent (a novel she’s very much enjoying) is a recently widowed woman whose intellectual curiosity is not looked upon kindly by the society of her time (late 19th century England). She has a son named Francis and has consulted with a doctor about his being different from other children:

  • I spoke to Luke Garrett about him, you know. Not that I think there is anything wrong with him!” She flushed, because nothing shamed her as much as her son. Acutely aware that her unease in the presence of Francis was shared by most who met him, it was impossible to exculpate herself; his remoteness, his obsessions, must be her fault, for where else could she lay the blame? Garrett had been uncharacteristically quiet, soft-spoken; he’d said, “You cannot pathologize him — you cannot attempt to make a diagnosis. There is no blood test for eccentricity, no objective measure for your love or his!”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reading List 2019: Adding Travel Books

Excited to be adding these wonderful books to self’s 2019 Reading List. Self loves travel books. It’s been a year since she devoted a reading year to them:

Alan Booth

  • The Road to Sata

Alexandra David Neel

  • My Journey to Lhasa

Alison Wearing

  • Honeymoon in Purdah

Ann Jones

  • Lovedu

Anthony Doerr

  • Four Seasons in Rome

Best Women’s Travel Writing series

Bill Bryson

  • The Lost Continent
  • Walk in the Woods

Blair Braverman

  • Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube

Bruce Chatwin

  • In Patagonia

Dervla Murphy

  • Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

Ellen Meloy

  • Raven’s Exile: A Season on the Green River

Gabrielle Hamilton

  • Blood, Bones and Butter

Gretchen Legler

  • On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Isabella L. Bird

  • Six Months in the Sandwich Islands: Among Hawai’i’s Palm Groves, Coral Reefs and Volcanoes

Isabelle Eberhardt

  • The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt

Jamaica Kincaid

  • A Small Place

Jan Morris

  • Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere

Julia Child

  • My Life in France

Katrina Kittle

  • The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America

Kira Salak

  • Four Corners: A Journey Into the Heart of Papua New Guinea

Mary Henrietta Kingsley

  • Travels in West Africa

Melanie Bowden Simon

  • La Americana: A Memoir

Peter Mayle

  • A Year in Provence

Rebecca Solnit

  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Robyn Davidson

  • Desert Places

Stanley Stewart

  • In the Empire of Genghis Khan: A Journey Among Nomads

Suzanne Roberts

  • Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail

 

 

 

 

 

Kudos, p. 55: A Hamster

Whenever mice or hamsters enter a story — any story — self’s satisfaction quotient goes up 300%.

It happened in Dave Sedaris’s piece on how hard he had to try to kill a mouse (Self isn’t sure which collection contained the piece, she thinks it might have been Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim)

It happened in Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach. Self was on the fence about this novel until she got to the section where twins Ava and Zelda adopt a small clutch of baby mice. That’s when she realized the book was a gem.

It’s happening in Kudos. Oh JOY! The hamster page is 55:

The solid fact of the hamster made all the difference. She could describe them petting it and fawning over it while its imprisonment got increasingly on Linda’s nerves, and the way it solidified their bond so that Linda felt left out. What kind of love was this, that needed the love object domesticated and locked up? And if there was love being handed out, why wasn’t she getting any? It occurred to Linda that since their daughter had found a satisfactory companion in the hamster, her husband might have taken the opportunity to round that situation out by returning his attention to his wife, yet the opposite was the case: he could leave the child alone less than ever. Every time she went near the cage he would leap to his feet to join her, until Linda wondered whether he was actually jealous of the hamster and was only pretending to love it as a way of keeping hold of her.

The Economist really messed up by not mentioning the hamster passage in their review of Kudos.

Stay tuned.

Self’s Top Three Reads of 2018

How did self end up selecting these three?

The books may have been far from perfect — self thinks, in particular, of the first two — but they were the books she found herself re-reading, despite their flaws:

DSCN0006

  • Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach: Bravo, Dolan-Leach. Self has not been able to dislodge the dysfunctional Antipova twins and their yummy boy toy, Wyatt Darling, from her thoughts since she read this, Dolan-Leach’s first novel, mid-November.
  • Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz: Beat out a host of other science fiction self read this year, including All Systems Red, Book 1 of The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells; and Jade City, by Fonda Lee. The book lived because of a character named Threezed.
  • The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman: Vol. 2 of His Dark Materials killed self in every way. If not exactly perfect, it was close. Will Parry forever. The book did such a number on her that she went to Oxford to see Will and Lyra’s bench, in the Oxford Botanical Garden.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Books for 2019 (After the 2018 Cambridge Literary Festival)

During the 2018 Cambridge Literary Festival, writers spoke and gave readings and fired up self’s imagination. Though the list below is heavy on British authors, their books are no doubt available here (in the U.S.)

  • Flights and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
  • Holding and A Keeper, by Graham Norton
  • Building and Dwelling, by Richard Sennett
  • In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin, by Lindsey Hilsum
  • The Stopping Places, by Damian LeBas
  • What a Carve Up! and The Rotters Club, by Jonathan Coe
  • Hello World: How To Be Human in the Age of the Machine, by Hannah Fry
  • The Merchant of Syria, by Diana Darke
  • Seven Types of Atheism, by John Gray
  • The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak
  • We That Are Young, by Preti Taneja
  • Let Us Sing Anyway, by Leone Ross
  • Take Nothing With You, by Patrick Gale
  • On This Day in History, by Dan Snow
  • All Along the Barley, by Melissa Harrison
  • The Light in the Dark, by Horatio Clare
  • The Essex Serpent and Melmoth, by Sarah Perry
  • Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss

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