Wrap Up January 2020 or Let’s see if I manage to actually write wrap-up posts consistently this year

My january was both the longest month ever and the shortest. I am apparently back at reading a mix of genres, which is nice – but I also did not read a lot.

Books I read in January:

  1. Headliners (London Celebrities #5) by Lucy Parker: 4 out of 5 stars (review) ARC
  2. Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion #1) by Jessie Mihalik: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  4. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo: 4.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  5. Dragon Bound (The Elder Races #1) by Thea Harrison: 3.5 out of 5 stars
  6. The Last Smile of Sunder City (Fetch Philipps #1) by Luke Arnold: 3 out of 5 stars (review)

Favourite of the Month:

Girl, Woman, Other for sure. I just loved that book for everything it did.

Stats(ish):

I finished six books with 1700 pages altogether. Of these six books, five were written by women and one by a man (which was my least favourite of the month, make of that what you want). Five books were fiction, one was non-fiction. Three books were romance novels of some kind (one contemporary, one paranormal, one science ficiton).

Currently Reading:

I am in the middle of six books – and two books behind on my reading challenge. This bodes well for the year.

Books I should get to soon:

I already chose my next audiobook (The Man Who Saw Everything) but except for that I am letting my reading go wherever it wants.

Mini-Reviews: Memoirs by Emilie Pine, Bassey Ikpi & Sarah Manguso

This last month I read three non-fiction titles about women’s embodied experience. The three books were very different and still fairly comparable to each other.

Notes to Self by Emilie Pine

42373438._sy475_I was so very hyped for this book – on paper it sounds like everything I love in non-fiction (themes of feminism and bodily autonomy amongst other thing) and it came so very highly recommended that I was very sure I would love it. I did not love it. It’s a perfectly fine book, interesting and important, but it also does not feel like it offers anything new. I found Pine’s language straight-forward and bordering on boring, and her ideas not particularly groundbreaking. This feels like a mean way of talking about a book that deals with so many important and heartbreaking things, but as it is, I found one of the later essays (“Something About Me” which wasn’t as polished but still felt the most real) by far the stand-out from this collection.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Content warning: infertility, miscarrriage, late still birth, alcoholism, drug abuse, rape, sexual assault

I am Telling the Truth but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi

40222541One of my most anticipated reads of the year, this sadly did not completely work for me. I found it very difficult to spend time in Ikpi’s head – especially during the parts when her mental illness was not yet diagnosed. She unflinchingly shines a light on her behaviour without ever giving herself the benefit of filtering it through the lense of her later diagnosis. As part of her symptoms are irritability and self-hate, this made for a very difficult reading experience. I can intellectually absolutely appreciate what she achieves here, it also means that this is a book I am unlikely to ever read again.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Content warning: depictions of depression and manic episodes, eating disorders, childhood abuse, spousal abuse

The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso

11455027I love Manguso’s writing and have been rationing her non-fiction for figurative rainy days. Her memoir about her “lost” nine years of dealing with a rare auto-immune disease and subsequent mental illness, does everything her other books does as well. She writes the most exquisite sentences and her use of paragraph breaks is wonderful, but here she also manages to give such an honest and unflinching insight into her suffering that this might be my favourite of her books so far. The book gets fairly graphic in its descriptions of different medical procedures but the matter of factness and the glimpses of Manguso’s inner life made this a really satisfying reading experience nonetheless. Manguso is as navelgazing as ever – but I happen to really like that in her memoirs.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: detailed descriptions on medical procedures, involuntary section, suicidal ideation.

Wrap Up: January 2019 or I am bingereading.

January was tough, work wise. I had a ridiculous amount of stuff to do – and I did not feel like reading anything that challenged me in my free time. What also suffered from my month of hell was blogging in general – I have neither written very many blog posts nor have I read very many of other people’s (which is something I am truly sorry for but which cannot be helped at the moment. I really am drowning in work.).

Books I read in January:

 

  1. The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden: 5 out of 5 stars (Review)
  2. Visions of Heat (Psy-Changeling #2) by Nalini Singh: 2 out of 5 stars
  3. Caressed by Ice (Psy-Changeling #3) by Nalini Singh: 3,5 out of 5 stars
  4. Mine to Possess (Psy-Changeling #4) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Hostage to Pleasure (Psy-Changeling #5) by Nalini Singh: 2,5 out of 5 stars
  6. Branded by Fire (Psy-Changeling #6) by Nalini Singh: 4 out of 5 stars
  7. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: 4 out of 5 stars (Review)
  8. Blaze of Memory (Psy-Changeling #7) by Nalini Singh: 2 out of 5 stars
  9. Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom: 4 out of 5 stars (Mini-Review)
  10. 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso: 3 out of 5 stars (Mini-Review)
  11. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: 4 out of 5 stars
  12. Bonds of Justice (Psy-Changeling #8): 3 out of 5 stars
  13. Play of Passion (Psy-Changeling #9): 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

The Winter of the Witch was an absolutely stunning conclusion to a series I have loved immensely. I cannot wait to read everything Katherine Arden comes up with next.

I also really enjoyed binge-reading the a large chunk of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. There is something about her writing and her world-building that I particularly enjoy. The whole is also better than the sum of its parts and I don’t see myself stopping reading this series anytime soon.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: January 2019 or I am bingereading.”

Mini-Reviews: Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom and 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso

40365093Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Published by The New Press, January 8th 2019.

Thick is a non-fiction book that straddles the line between academic writing and memoir – something I personally really happen to enjoy. Here McMillan Cottom writes on a variety of topics, often with anecdotal evidence centered into her more academic musings.

This book both suffers and improves for me because McMillan Cottom comes from a similar academic tradition as I do. On the one hand it means that I am bound to agree with a lot of her analyses, on the other hand some of her arguments do lose persuasiveness because I have seen them done better elsewhere. I especially thought her use of Bourdieu did not always take into account all of his nuances (which I only know of because I am using his works for my own thesis).

I thought this was a well-written collection of essays that manages to make sociology accessible to a variety of readers and for that I was always going to love it. It did not reinvent the wheel but it makes for an interesting discussion starter.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and The New Press in exchange for an honest review.

40660124300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Published by Picador, 2017

I read Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness a few months ago and absolutely, positively adored it; enough to decide I want to read everything she has ever written. 300 Arguments appealed to me because I really happen to adore Manguso’s style of micro-micro-essay (some of them only being one sentence long). I have to admit that it did not completely work for me – I found some of her thoughts dazzling and thought-provoking but others weak and maybe kind of superficial. It took me way too long to finish this book, given that it is tiny and only 96 pages long (and the pages are half empty). I still really love what Manguso is doing but it might take me a bit longer to pick something of hers up the next time.

 

Wrap Up: October 2018 or that was a pretty bad reading month.

This was not my best reading month, especially during the last half. I really hope November will be better.

Books I read in October

  1. The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. Young Skins: Stories by Colin Barrett: 3 out of 5 stars
  3. Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  4. Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant #1) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson: 4 out of 5 stars
  6. A Guide To Being Born by Ramona Ausubel: 5 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

I loved A Guide to Being Born – definitely the best short story collection I have read this year.

I also adored Ongoingness; it’s one of those books that make me want to read every single thing the author has ever written. Continue reading “Wrap Up: October 2018 or that was a pretty bad reading month.”

Recommendations for Non-Fiction November

As every month is non-fiction month for me, I will not officially be participating in Non-Fiction November but I still wanted to talk about some of my favourites and recommend a few books that those of you who are looking to read more non-fiction might want to check out. Disclaimer first: my non-fiction reading is heavily dominated by memoirs written by women, feminist essays, and creative non-fiction. I rarely read biographies (but really want to more) and general non-fiction, so here your recommendations are very welcome. Recommendations are always welcome, in fact.

I have based my recommendations on other genres, so that this is also accessible to those who don’t ever read non-fiction.

If you usually read contemporary, then memoirs might be the way to go. Usually fairly accessible, memoirs often deal with that weird period of life between being a child and being properly “grown up” and for me offered a much-needed glimpse into other people’s lives. (I have written a whole post on why I love memoirs which can be found here.)

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

35840657One of my absolute favourite books of the year, this short memoir packs an enormous punch. Written in fragments and often in a spiralling way, Mailhot chronicles her fight with mental illness and what it means to be Native. She does not claim to speak a universal truth, but only her truth and I found this incredibly effective. Her language is poetic and abrasive and I am very much in love. I still don’t have the words to talk about this properly, but in my review I tried.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

34381333This book took me totally by surprise. It took me a while to find my bearing and to get used to the abrasive writing style, but once I did and once I realized what Gurba’s essays were working towards, I was hooked and in awe. The book is a total punch to the gut, but so very brilliantly executed that I cannot help but adore it. My review can be found here.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995No list would be complete without me recommending this book. In fact, if you only read one book from this list, maybe choose this. It was my favourite book of last year and just a complete masterpiece. Lidia Yuknavitch has a brilliant way with words and her memoir is raw and honest and just perfect. My longer review can be found here.

If you are really invested in politics, then some of these feminist essay collections might be of interest for you.

Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay

35068524One of the best books I have read this year, this collection of personal essays on rape culture really is a must read. I am obviously a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s work and I was very impressed by the way she curated these wonderful essays. There was not a single essay in this collection that I did not appreciate and I found a lot of people whose next work I am eagerly awaiting and whose other essays I am reading religiously. If you can deal the subject matter, I really do recommend picking this up. My longer review can be found here.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

25175985Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project and her collection of essays on the subject and on the project is definitely worth checking out. I listened to the audiobook, which Laura Bates narrates herself and I found myself really immersed in her writing. Her book is impeccably researched and wonderfully realized; she draws both on literature and statistics and on the more personal anecdotes shared on the Everyday Sexism page and builds a really convincing whole. It also did not end with me wanting to burn the world down, which is always a plus. My review is here.

If you usually read literary fiction, then creative non-fiction might just be the thing for you. It is usually exceptionally well-written and for me at least, has a poetry to the sentences that I just adore (and closely mirrors the very best literary fiction in that sense).

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (or any book written by Maggie Nelson)

28459915Maggie Nelson is possibly the queen of creative non-fiction. Her sentences are crisp and she flits between different ideas and styles in a highly impressive way. The Argonauts deals with her relationship with her gender-fluid husband and chronicles the changes to her body due to pregnancy and the changes to Harry’s body due to hormone therapy. It also deals with so much more, drawing on gender theory and sociology and everything inbetween, and as a reading experience is highly rewarding. Bluets by the same author is also highly recommended.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

22244927This book is seriously short but packs an unbelievable punch. Sarah Manguso writes about her complex relationship with her diary, which she kept religiously for most of her adult life, and about why she stopped keeping one. I found this moving and thought-provoking and incredibly well-done. You can find my review here.

Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich

37690295Leah Dieterich writes about her marriage, but she also writes about dance and art and polyamory and everything in-between. I absolutely adored her short and snappy essays that build to a much larger whole. She made me think and smile and sad and in general this book just really worked for me. You can find more of my thoughts on the book here.

Are you planning on participating in Non-Fiction November? What books are you planning on reading? Also, what is your favourite non-fiction book?

Review: Ongoingness – The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

22244927Verdict: Glorious.

My rating 4,5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Creative Non-Fiction, Memoir

Published by Graywolf Press, 2016

Find it on Goodreads.

In Ongoingness, Sarah Manguso continues to define the contours of the contemporary essay. In it, she confronts a meticulous diary that she has kept for twenty-five years. “I wanted to end each day with a record of everything that had ever happened,” she explains. But this simple statement belies a terror that she might forget something, that she might miss something important. Maintaining that diary, now eight hundred thousand words, had become, until recently, a kind of spiritual practice.

Then Manguso became pregnant and had a child, and these two Copernican events generated an amnesia that put her into a different relationship with the need to document herself amid ongoing time.

Ongoingness is a spare, meditative work that stands in stark contrast to the volubility of the diary–it is a haunting account of mortality and impermanence, of how we struggle to find clarity in the chaos of time that rushes around and over and through us.

I adored this. When it arrived, I just wanted to have a peak at the first page and suddenly I was a third of the way through. There is just something hypnotizing about Sarah Manguso’s writing and I cannot wait to pick up more of her books.

This is a book about a diary, without any quotes taken from that diary at all. As such it is obviously an incomplete text – but some reason I cannot even put into words it spoke deeply to me. Sarah Manguso kept a diary, obsessively so, for years: “I wrote about myself so I wouldn’t become paralyzed by rumination – so I could stop thinking about what had happened and be done with it.” Until she stopped. She writes in short, fragmented paragraphs about a text the reader cannot access – and everything about that just worked for me so very well.

I found this book mesmerizing and deeply moving; her language is precise and no word is obsolete, which is often my favourite type of language. I cannot quite give it five stars, as it is super short and maybe could have been fleshed out more. But on the other hand, every sentence of this book hit home.

October 2018 Book Haul: Or, I am not reading, so let’s buy more books.

I am currently not really reading. Work is still crazy and I come home feeling absolutely knackered, so I have not finished a single book in nearly two weeks. So I did the sensible thing and bought more books. I bought a mix of mostly short stories and non-fiction in the hope of one of these getting me excited enough.

Here are the books I bought, in no particular order:

Black Wave by Michelle Tea

32800012Blurb: It’s 1999 in San Francisco, and as shockwaves of gentrification sweep through Michelle’s formerly scruffy neighborhood, money troubles, drug-fueled mishaps, and a string of disastrous affairs send her into a tailspin. Desperate to save herself, Michelle sets out to seek a fresh start in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, climate-related disruptions and a string of extinctions are the background noise of impending doom. One day, Michelle wakes up to an official announcement: the world will be ending in exactly one year. Daily life in Los Angeles quickly becomes intensely surreal.

Humans begin to collectively dream of the lives and loves they would have had, if not for the end of the world, and the lines between fantasy and reality become increasingly blurred. As the planet nears its expiration date, Michelle holes up in an abandoned bookstore and calmly begins to write—convinced she’s finally stumbled upon the elusive “universal story”—a novel about a struggling writer facing the end of the world.

Funny, gritty, improbable, and endearing, Black Wave muses on the hallucinatory confusions of addiction, the hope and despair of a barely published writer, notions of destiny, and the porous boundaries between memoir and fiction.

Why I bought it: It sounds like such a brilliant book that is so up my alley I am bemused that I haven’t bought it earlier. Also, Maggie Nelson blurbed it. Continue reading “October 2018 Book Haul: Or, I am not reading, so let’s buy more books.”