Library Checkout: August 2017

A thin month for library books overall, although I did read two very good ones. The Aldo Leopold book is a nature classic I’m pleased we could find via the library of the university where my husband works. In the second week of September I’m going along with him to Ghent, Belgium, where he’ll be presenting a research paper at a landscape ecology conference. Though we’ve been before, it’s a lovely town I’ll enjoy wandering – in between keeping up a normal virtual workload. After that we head on to Amsterdam for a long weekend; it’ll be my first time there and I’m excited to take in all the sights.



 From my parents’ local branch in America:
  • Sparky! by Jenny Offill [a picture book illustrated by Chris Appelhans] 


  • A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold


  • Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving by Julia Samuel


  • 2 guide books to Belgium
  • 2 guide books to Amsterdam


  • White Tears by Hari Kunzru – I read the first 145 pages, skimmed another 70 or so, then gave up. The vibe is Jonathan Franzen meets Zadie Smith circa The Autograph Man; the theme is cultural appropriation, especially of a blues song by a forgotten master. (I had the song from The Wire in my head the whole time.) My interest started to wane after what happens to Carter happens, and by the time the parallel road trips kicked in I was lost. So to what extent this was realist or magic realist or absurdist or whatever I couldn’t tell you. I liked the writing enough that I would try something else by Kunzru if I thought I’d connect to the subject matter more. 

(Hosted by Charleen of It’s a Portable Magic.)

Have you been taking advantage of your local libraries? What appeals from my lists?

19 responses

  1. I’m so glad to ‘meet’ someone else who doesn’t finished books and isn’t afraid to admit it. So many children are brought up in an education system which demands that they always finish a book if they start it and then for all eternity either never read anything at all, plough their way through books they really can’t stand or are ashamed to admit if they put one aside. Yeh for those of us who proudly say DNF.


    1. I am a firm believer in giving up on books you’re not enjoying. If I force myself to finish a book, I’m unlikely to be glad that I did. I need to get better at dropping books more quickly, though. To read nearly half of something before I abandon it seems like such a waste of time.

      I have to be careful in what contexts I admit to my DNFs. One Facebook group I’m in for authors and readers is very hostile to the idea of sharing anything about books you didn’t finish or didn’t like. On Goodreads I tend to get more sympathy.


      1. It was the same when I was teaching. If a child could tell me why they didn’t like a book enough to finish it then I let them put it to one side. Some of my colleagues adopted the same system, others were horrified. I know of one child who was on the same reading book for an entire year. I wouldn’t mind betting that as an adult they never picked up a book again.


    2. You make a good point. Most of us who blog about books don’t “have” to finish books anymore for our studies, etc., so should feel free to read as the whim takes us. That’s not always the case for me, as I commit to reviewing books for pay for various outlets, but I want my reading for pleasure to be exactly that.


      1. I gave up reviewing adult fiction for exactly that reason. Mind you, I wasn’t being paid for it. I must have worked for the wrong publications! Most of my reviewing was for children’s literature outlets and almost everything I was sent was a delight.


    3. I review for a mixture of paid and unpaid venues (listed on my About page). Mostly websites and magazines based in America, even though I live in England.


  2. Since you liked Sand County Almanac, have you read Outermost House by Henry Beston? Almanac is good but it is Outermost House I’ve gone through several copies of.


    1. I haven’t read it but I do own a copy, bought secondhand in June.


  3. I’ve yet to try Hari Kunzru but if he uses magical realism a lot then he’s likely not for me.
    I saw your comment about the Facebook group being sniffy over unfinished books. Sorry to sound harsh but those people need a dose of reality. Yes it’s upsetting to find the work you slaved over isnt meeting with rapturous applause but literature does provoke an individual response.


    1. I don’t really know anything about Kunzru’s earlier work but would be open to a suggestion.

      I find the attitude in that group very strange. I think they see themselves as cheerleaders for every book, no matter what (including self-published work, which I can’t often get excited about). Indeed, the reality is that not every book is for everyone, so while it’s great to get books paired up with people who will like them, you also have to accept that sometimes those pairings don’t work.


      1. I think I’d be dropping out of that group after a while if that was their stance. I’m not a great fan of self-published work either…


  4. I’m guessing you’re off to Brussels and Amsterdam, soon.


    1. Yep! Sept. 11-18. Looking forward to it and piling up some short and vaguely appropriate books to take along 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure you’ll love them both!


  5. Sparky was a delightful picture book!

    White Tears is on my TBR. I’ve heard mixed things but Fiction Fan recommended it so highly that I a, still curious. I’ll get to it someday!

    So exciting about your trips!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I thought so too. I wasn’t as sure about Jenny Offill’s book for adults, but Sparky was pure fun.

      Have you read anything else by Kunzru?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t yet. It was only with his latest book coming out that I’d even heard about him.


  6. Most appealing on your list are the Kunzru and the Nelson; the former because I’ve seen him at a festival and thought his thoughts on storytelling were very interesting and the latter because everyone seems to love it. And I have been using and abusing my library for months now, in an effort to clear a queue there (which was like a wishlist but had an expiry date, and I didn’t want to recreate it in another format, which felt like admitting defear *snorts*, and which would have been better done, as it turned out as it eclispsed almost all of my reading from my own shelves for months – all details which I’m sure you were dying to know). Do you often/always borrow from the libraries of people whose homes you are visiting? Or is it a family-only phenomenon? 🙂


    1. Do you know any other Kunzru? I’m after a personal recommendation if I’m to try him again.

      (The Nelson really is *that* good.)

      I try not to ever borrow books from other people. It often doesn’t work out well for me. They sit on my bedside table for months or years and don’t get read, so usually I just return them and say thank you anyway. I’d have no qualms about picking up a book from my sister’s or in-laws’ shelf, though, possibly even without asking 😉


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