Library Checkout: November 2018


This month I focused on novella-length books, though I also managed a doorstopper from the Booker Prize shortlist. I only have another three weeks until I fly to America for Christmas, so I may end up canceling some of the reservations below, or just taking a chance that they won’t come in for me until the new year. (As usual, I’ve added in star ratings and links to Goodreads reviews where I haven’t already featured the books on the blog in some way.)




  • West by Carys Davies
  • House of Glass by Susan Fletcher
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Winter by Ali Smith


  • In Miniature: How Small Things Illuminate the World by Simon Garfield
  • Under the Knife: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations by Arnold van de Laar


  • Rewild Yourself : 23 Spellbinding Ways To Make Nature More Visible by Simon Barnes
  • Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts by Brené Brown
  • The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth about Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner


  • Selected Poems by Edmund Blunden
  • Daphne by Will Boast
  • Louis & Louise by Julie Cohen
  • The Binding by Bridget Collins
  • Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington
  • Dream Sequence by Adam Foulds
  • A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings by Helen Jukes
  • Fox 8 by George Saunders
  • The Brief Life of Flowers by Fiona Stafford


  • Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami – I cut my losses at page 120. At that point the story still hadn’t taken off. The setup is fairly similar to that of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and so was not fresh or enticing enough.
  • The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell – I read the first chapter (21 pages) and enjoyed it well enough, but didn’t feel any need to continue.
  • The Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelecanos – I’m interested in trying more literary/crossover crime novels and liked the synopsis of this one, but didn’t enjoy the hardboiled style. I read the first 20 pages.


  • Varina by Charles Frazier – I tried the first few pages and wasn’t drawn in.
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – I put it down when I found a dangling modifier on page 2! Some people might be willing to look past issues of writing quality and appreciate a story, but I have so many hundreds of books waiting to be read that I am keen not to waste my time on anything even remotely subpar.
  • The Long Take by Robin Robertson – Getting through 240 pages of a novel in verse was never really going to happen. (I managed about two.)
  • The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke – No chapters, okay. No heading breaks, maybe alright. But no paragraphs? That’s a step too far!

What have you been reading from your local libraries? Does anything appeal from my stacks?

I don’t have an official link-up system, so please just pop a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout this month. (Feel free to use the feature image in your post.)

16 responses

  1. I’m a die-hard Murakami fan but I’m not relishing the idea of Killing Commendatore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was just so slow: so much exposition, so much backstory, tired character descriptions. I’ll be interested to hear if diehard fans get through it and find it worthwhile.


      1. I’m beginning to waver over whether to buy it at all.


    2. Definitely not for full price 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m reading The Overstory at the moment – it’s excellent, definitely my favourite thing so far from the Booker shortlist. I’d like to read the rest of the list (I have Kushner and Burns left) but, like you, will give The Long Take a miss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Powers and Johnson have been my favourites, both that little bit better than Washington Black. I’m not going to bother with the others. Staying well clear of the controversy over Milkman and its supposed difficulty!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahh, I quite liked The Long Take, though it hasn’t really stuck in my head afterwards. Bummer about Varina and The House on Vesper Sands, both of which I really enjoyed (and the latter in particular I found really hook-y; after chapter one, I had to continue!) Hoping you enjoy House of Glass, and thinking you made the right decision with Killing Commendatore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have a lot of patience these days for slow or weak starts, especially when these are meant to be my free/fun reads that I’m not reviewing by obligation. Another Goodreads friend suggested the prologue of Vesper Sands was the best part about it, which didn’t fill me with confidence. A lot of this will also come down to mood and timing. So perhaps I will give some of them a look another time (though probably not the Murakami!).


      1. Yep, don’t blame you in the slightest! When work is reading, fun reading has to really be fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I was sort of eyeing the new Murakami, but after your review, will not read it, unless it falls into my lap by some happy chance. As ever: great reviews – thanks for putting it all together.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like you, I gathered up a swell stack of novellas but I’m still reading them. The Ali Smith quartet I want to read but, at this point, halfway through, I think I’ll just wait for the the other two and then, maybe, read then in a single year, seasonally. The other in your lists which I currently have in my library queue is the Murakami; it’s been a long time since Wind-up for me, so I wouldn’t mind anything which was similar in any way. But, having said that, I might not be in the mood for a long read by then either; I seem to have had a few of them in the second-half of the year and I’m getting lazy now. 😀 Are you still borrowing from the university as well?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I gave up on the Ali Smith since I scheduled this post. I’ve liked some of her books before, but the quartet hasn’t grabbed me. I’d recommend Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Seasons quartet instead!

      I do actually plan to send my gofer to get a big pile of university library books for me next week. I’m sure that’s the last thing I need — but then again, it’s never a question of need, and for all I know it could save some of those books from being weeded out in the future. Although I kept the previous stack hanging around for many, many months, some of my best reads of this year came from it, like And When Did You Last See Your Father? and To the Is-land.


  6. The Angry Chef is a fun easy read. You’re not the first person I’ve heard saying that The Tattoist of Aushwitz was poorly written.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am so happy to see people read and enjoy the older Margaret Atwood books – I just love her! I was excited to see on Twitter that she’s writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale!! I’ve been wanting to try Ali Smith, but read one of your comments to steer away from her Season Quartet (I have no idea what they’re officially called, but I think you know the one I’m talking about!) – thanks for the warning!

    Here’s my November link – sorry that I’m late!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries — thanks for participating! I haven’t enjoyed Ali Smith’s recent work, it’s true. You could always try an online sample of Autumn or Winter and see if you like her style. It’s very distinctive, so you’d probably know within a few pages whether you’re likely to succeed with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. […] linking up with the awesome Bookish Beck to share my library usage for November! As you know, reading has been slow for me lately, but I returned to the library in November and […]


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