Following my best reading month of the year, November was undoubtedly my worst. I did find a few good books, but reading was a real struggle this month, for a number of reasons. It’s only been in the last couple of days that I’ve been making a solid return to full-length books. So even though I’ve got a good-sized list to share here, I only read 3 books of “normal” length this month, a record low for me in recent years. But I’m back on my game, ready to finish the year strong with a promising December TBR!
Books I finished reading in November:
- Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli. 5 stars. This little nonfiction book, just over a hundred pages, was stunning from start to finish. It deals with children caught in the middle of the US border crisis. Luiselli’s perspective on this topic is compelling and close to the issue, and raises so many questions that we should be looking harder at trying to answer.
- No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg. 3 stars. Another piece of nonfiction, this one around just 70 pages, this collection of Thunberg’s speeches on climate change was well-done and convincing, though perhaps not the best place to start on climate change reading, as it’s a persuasive piece rather than informative.
- Intruders by Adrian Tomine. 4 stars. From the Faber Story collection, this short story about a man returning to his old home (where someone else is now living) between military tours is an interesting look into how a soldier’s perspective and behavior can change after active duty- and also the first graphic style to appear in this set. Review should be coming up tomorrow.
- Hannibal by Thomas Harris. 2 stars. The third book in the Hannibal Lecter series (and my third year reading this series, one book per Halloween), this one has been my least favorite by far. Though it was off to a promising start, it soon turned into a gratuitous show of Lecter’s less desirable behaviors and traits, overwritten and under-plotted. Review should be coming up this week.
- Fairy Tales by Marianne Moore. 3 stars. Another title from the Faber Stories set, this one includes three short translated fairy tales, familiar classics that are a bit different from their well-known modern adaptations. Though I found these an enjoyable way to pass a little time, they felt sadly dated (especially in regards to gender expectations) and didn’t offer any interesting takeaway for me. Review should be coming up tomorrow.
- Unbelievable: The Story of Two Detectives’ Relentless Search for the Truth by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong. 4 stars. This nonfiction piece (first published under the title A False Report) caught my interest when the Netflix adaptation was recently released. It’s the story of a girl who reported a rape, and wasn’t believed- only to be proven right several years later, when the rapist was caught by another police department. I found this a fascinating read, though I would have preferred the focus to be a bit more solidly on rape rather than policework; nevertheless, a great book. I also managed to watch the TV show afterward. A joint review should be coming up this week.
- Strange Planet by Nathan W Pyle. 4 stars. This is a little book of comics by an artist I found almost a year ago on Instagram. The series features “beings” (they look like simplistic aliens) who make their way through everyday events and encounters (as on Earth), with literal interpretations and humorous irony. It’s a thought-provoking collection, and a joy to read.
- My Son the Fanatic by Hanif Kureishi. 3 stars. Another Faber Story, this one is about a father-son relationship and the challenges of assimilation; as the (Pakistani) son grows older, he becomes more staunchly religious (Islamic) as his father adopts more Western customs. There was a lot of potential for deep and important conversation about cultural expectations here, which I felt was somewhat undermined by attempts at humor that might have worked better when the story was published in the 90s, but fell entirely flat for me in 2019. Review coming soon.
- Firestarter by Stephen King. 3 stars. I read this book (one of King’s earliest publications) in preparation for my buddy read of The Institute in December- I hear their themes are similar, and want to do a little comparison. I was also drawn to this one because it’s one of the works that inspired the Stranger Things Netflix series, which I love. It was a fun read, but felt unpolished and hastily written- which makes sense, as it came out at a low point in King’s life. Ultimately, a mixed bag full of highs and lows. Review coming soon.
- Let the Old Dead Make Room for the Young Dead by Milan Kundera. 4 stars. My last Faber Story for the month, this one takes place in one afternoon as a couple who had a brief affair years previously unexpectedly meet again. At it’s core, it’s actually an examination of age, with death looming morbidly in the background. I found the writing beautiful and evocative, which made up for the scant plot. Review coming soon.
Some bookish stats:
Average rating – 3.5
Best of month – Tell Me How it Ends by Valeria Luiselli
Worst of month – Hannibal by Thomas Harris
Books hauled – 6, one of which I’ve already read, and most of the rest I’m confident I’ll get to in December, so not too bad! You can check out my haul and Dec. TBR here.
Owned books read for the first time – 7, though most of them were so short that I didn’t really make much of a dent in my own-unread shelves. Still, in numbers alone, that’s more unread books read than acquired, which is great!
November TBR tally – 5/21 if we’re counting all of the Faber Stories individually, which I didn’t in my haul, but I will for overall stats in the year so I guess we might as well start. You call follow this link to the full list of things I didn’t read in November, if you’re curious.
Year total – 114. My Goodreads goal for the year was 100, and my record from last year was 118, so I’m well on my way to a new record high!
Films I watched in November:
- Rebecca (1940) – A black and white Alfred Hitchcock classic. Rebecca was one of my favorite reads of 2018, and I realized this fall I had never actually gotten around to watching the adaptation. So I watched it this month, and absolutely loved it! It’s a very faithful representation of the novel, as far as I recall. I actually liked the protagonist even better in the film than I had in the book; I thought all of the actors were a great fit for their roles, really. It was nice to have a visual for Manderley. I borrowed this film to watch it, and honestly I’ll probably watch it again before I return it. Just excellent.
- Mindhunter ssn 2 (2019) – I checked out the first season of Neflix’s Mindhunter (based on the book of the same name, which I haven’t read yet, though I have read another book by the authors) earlier this year, and while it’s a slower-paced show without a lot of plot for forward momentum, I found myself hooked on the psychological aspects. It’s a show about the behavioral branch of the FBI interviewing serial killers to learn how to catch them earlier in the future- set in the 1970s-80s. At heart, it’s really about why people do what they do, at their very worst. Interestingly, I completely switched my stance on which character I found most interesting in this second season, and even though the plot seemed to move even slower, I’m still invested- eagerly awaiting season 3, which I don’t think is even confirmed yet.
- Tall Girl (2019) – A Netflix movie that’s gotten a lot of flak for the fact that the bullied “tall girl” is only 6’1″, and she’s a white girl leaning on her supportive black best friend, acting as though her problems are worse. I was just curious here, as a relatively tall girl myself. The verdict: it’s a satire, but poorly done. Though some of it is meant to poke fun at what is really not that big of a problem, some of the humor doesn’t come across very well so I can see why people were offended. There were a few questionable moments, though overall the messages seem well-meant.
- Unbelievable limited series (2019) – Also recently on Netflix, this 8-episode series looked absolutely irresistible. I managed to wait long enough to read the book first mainly only because I was so busy, which made internet time hard to come by. It was worth the wait. Most of the details covered in the book are also present here, and I thought the visual medium really made some of the details much more harrowing- seeing some of the victims flash back to images from their assaults was gutting in a way that reading the words in clinical language on the page couldn’t touch. It really brought the characters to life in a way that I wish the book had done better.
- Black Mirror ssns 1-3 (2011-2016) – this one’s an honorable mention, as I started but haven’t finished yet. I’m halfway into season 3. This one’s been on my list for A WHILE, so I checked it out and obsessively watched two and a half seasons. There are only a few episodes each season, but some of the episodes run well over an hour apiece, so I feel like I’ve spent some quality time with this series. Overall, this is the kind of weird, psychological everyday horror that I love, so it’s mostly going well. My only hang-up here is that only two of the episodes so far have felt like an appropriate length for their content- most of them seem to take a lot longer than necessary to get around to the point, and each of the episodes features a single idea, which is the main focus, wrapped up in a predictable plot, which could often be abbreviated to no ill affect. So, I love the concept, but not necessarily the writing. I’ll definitely watch the rest.
And, because you’ve probably noticed I’m far behind on reviews, here are a couple of links to non-review posts I’ve managed to complete this month, in case you missed them:
I’m getting back on my reading and blogging game, so I’m expecting to finish catching up in plenty of time for end-of-the-year posts and 2020 prep- but that means I’ll probably be posting 4-5 times per week through most of December. If you hadn’t noticed I was missing for the majority of November, you’ll certainly notice now that I’m back, lol. There are still about a week and a half’s worth of posts I haven’t caught up on in my reader, but I’m making progress there as well.
All in all, a downer of a month for me that’s finally making a positive turn.
If you’ve read this far, I hope you have a great month of reading ahead in December!
The Literary Elephant