I have had a phenomenal reading month in June, which is great because I’ve been struggling with everything else. With the year half-over now (whaaaaat?!?), it’s time to start thinking about what I still want to get done in 2018 so I’m not scrambling in December. (That will probably happen anyway though.) After the halfway point of the year I really end up feeling like I’m slowly but surely running out of time, so I’ve been kind of stressed lately and frustrated when things go slow (like my writing). But despite feeling like I’m falling behind, I did pretty well this month.
- I subscribed to Penguin Random House’s Season of Stories this month, which sends pieces of short stories through your email 4 days a week. So I read one short story in 4 snippets throughout the week (or all at once on Friday) and I’ve been enjoying it a lot! The first story I read was “Adela’s House” by Mariana Enriquez, which has been my favorite so far. I’ve also read “Paranoia” by Shirley Jackson and “Bad Behavior” by Alexia Arthurs. I love short stories but I hardly ever make time to read them because I feel like I have to read the whole collection at once and the whole collection is never as great as the one or two best pieces in it. But SoS has been incredibly manageable and fun.
- NONE. Again. I’ve been so busy writing and reading and enjoying summer that I haven’t been watching anything.
Finished Books (titles linked to my reviews):
- The Oracle Year by Charles Soule. 3 stars. This was a fun read that kept me entertained even if it didn’t add much to the sci-fi genre. There were a few disappointing factors toward the end that took this book from a 4-star read to 3, unfortunately, but it was an enjoyable fast-paced summer read nonetheless. It’s been slow work decreasing my BOTM backlog, but reading this one (and my June selection, farther down this post) did shrink that list by one.
- Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay. 5 stars. This essay collection about rape culture came out of nowhere (for me, at least). I loved every essay, every theme, every page. I highly, highly recommend for anyone interested in modern social issues. It’s nonfiction, but that just makes it stronger. Possibly the best nonfiction book I’ve ever read, which is great considering how many different writers contributed (31)– every single one is appreciable.
- Food by Gertrude Stein. 2 stars. Plotless books don’t feel very worthy of my time, though this one was amusing in its absurdity, at the very least. I can now say I’ve read the highest (Letter From Birmingham Jail) and lowest (Food) rated Penguin Moderns, so that’s neat. I’m still in love with this collection, but I wouldn’t recommend this volume unless you like abstraction and/or poetry. And food, though that wasn’t a strong enough factor for me.
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang. 4 stars. Despite the fact that I think this book is impeccably written, I didn’t entirely enjoy my experience with it. Usually the lit nerd in me can love a book that’s well-written even if other aspects fail, but one section of this book made me so uncomfortable that I couldn’t overlook it. I did appreciate how much this book made me think about social perceptions and individual choice. Also it’s got a sort of Kafka-esque creepiness to it that I loved.
- The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. 3 stars. Speaking of creepiness… Ruth Ware’s books are so atmospheric. This one took me straight into the world of du Maurier’s Rebecca, which was the highlight of the novel for me. The plot was completely transparent, and more disturbing in conception than in narration; I guessed every twist before it happened. There were some good aspects, but this was y least-favorite Ware novel.
- The Vigilante by John Steinbeck. 3 stars. This book was disturbing and unpleasant for the most part, but I do love Steinbeck’s style. I love how he makes a point without ever stating it outright– it’s just so clear through his characters’ thoughts and actions what the moral is, and that, in my opinion, is great writing. Though this one didn’t quite live up to my expectations, it was a quick read and not off-putting enough to turn me away from the author or collection.
- The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. 3 stars. Despite the mediocre rating, I had a lot of fun with this book. It’s a great light-but-impactful romance, perfect for summer reading. It fit my mood exactly. It just had a few flaws I couldn’t help criticizing, but hey, nothing’s perfect. In the end, I really liked the autistic representation here, though some of the details of the romance and the structure of the plot fell a little flat.
- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. 4 stars. I’ve been reading a million books at once again, and it was only by accident that I finished these 2 romances back to back. This one was a quick, straight-forward romance that’s a tad unrealistic but perfectly readable. I hardly ever read “funny” books but I did laugh aloud a couple of times with this one– it fit my sense of humor pretty well, which I wasn’t expecting. But as usual in romance, there’s a certain amount of predictability that’s somewhat disappointing.
- When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy. 5 stars. I was expecting good things from this book, but nothing could’ve prepared me for how much I ended up appreciating it. The power, the structure, the poetry… Kandasmy pulls it all off so well. If anything, this book made me so much more excited to pick up the Women’s Prize winner for 2018, because if this one didn’t take the gold the winner must be spectacular.
- Lance by Vladimir Nabokov. 2 stars.Beautiful writing, not much substance. I was more disappointed in this one than Food because I expected more story here, but in the pros column there were some pleasantly unsettling moments and a bit more meaning to the madness. The prose was very purple, which isn’t my preferred style, but this is clearly well-written. Overall, the Penguin Moderns have not especially impressed me in June, but I’m still interested in the series and hoping to find better selections in my next batch.
- Asking For It by Louise O’Neill. 5 stars. Apparently I’ve been reading a lot about rape this month, which was unexpected. But it’s an important topic, and this book takes it a step further by introducing an unlikable character as the victim. This was a gut-wrenching reading experience, but I’m impressed by what it accomplishes and so glad I picked it up. Also this was my third 5-star read this month, which is unusual for me, especially with new-to-me authors.
- Why I am not going to buy a computer by Wendell Berry. 3 stars. This is the most recently-written material I’ve come across in the Penguin Modern series so far, and it’s also surprisingly the text that felt the most out-dated. But nevertheless, it was a though-provoking read that made me consider some of my own choices, and cultural norms I’ve taken for granted. Best PM of the month, hands down, don’t let the rating fool you. Full review coming soon.
- Best this month = Not That Bad. It was a tough choice this month, but this one was the most addictive and eye-opening at the same time.
- Worst this month = Food. Another surprisingly tough choice; there were definitely some disappointments in June, though some of them had more to do with my expectations than overall merit.
- Average rating = 3.5, a pretty average number. Maybe even a little low. There were a lot of extreme highs and lows for me this month.
- Books Hauled = 5. I failed my goal of 3 new books or less, but I actually read every new book I bought this month, which is the first time in probably years that I’ve managed that.
- Owned Books Read for the First Time = 10. I shrunk my TBR by 5 books this month, yay! I’m still too ashamed to admit how many unread books I own, but I’m happy to have made some small progress.
- Total Books Read in 2018 = 61. My goal for the year was 90, so I’m definitely ahead of schedule.
Overall: I read 12 books this month! That’s my highest number so far this year. I realize 4 of them are Penguin Moderns, which are only about 60 pages long each. But they affect the way I think about literature so deeply that I can’t not count them. In any case, I’m pretty proud of my reading this month– I read some great titles, I learned even from the books I didn’t like as much, and I finished a lot more than I intended to. I wish every month looked like this one.
Did you read any of these books in June? (Or in the past?) What did you think?
The Literary Elephant