Library Checkout: April 2020

No new library books coming in this month, of course: my public library system is closed until at least the end of May, and the university campus is currently off-limits as well. But I had a stockpile that was more than large enough to see me through this month and next.

What have you been reading from your local libraries? Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part, and/or tag me on Twitter (@bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout). As usual, I give ratings where applicable, plus links to reviews of books I haven’t already featured.




  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Reading with Patrick: A teacher, a student and the life-changing power of books by Michelle Kuo
  • Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Oleander, Jacaranda by Penelope Lively
  • Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
  • My Own Country by Abraham Verghese


  • The Changing Mind: A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Aging Well by Daniel Levitin
  • The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
  • What Are We Doing Here?: Essays by Marilynne Robinson
  • Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman
  • Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith


  • The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
  • Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
  • The Trick Is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway
  • When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant
  • Property by Valerie Martin
  • Becoming a Man by Paul Monette
  • Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
  • Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin


  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré


  • A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
  • Can You Hear Me? A Paramedic’s Encounters with Life and Death by Jake Jones
  • The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
  • Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS by Azadeh Moaveni
  • The Accidental Countryside by Stephen Moss
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler


  • The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny — I’d long been interested in trying a Chief Inspector Gamache mystery. When I saw this on the new books shelf, I figured it would be perfect for April reading. I read the first 35 pages. I liked the preparations for an Easter egg hunt and a séance well enough. I had no trouble figuring out who the characters were, and the writing was undistinguished (lots of missing commas and a few dangling modifiers) but perfectly readable. But by the time there was a moider (page 34), I’d had enough. No way did my interest extend to reading another 420 pages.

What appeals from my stacks?


26 responses

  1. Being of a certain age, The Changing Mind interests me and I have a few of your other titles already on my list inclouding Red at the Bone having loved Another Brooklyn so I’m please to see you’ve rated that highly. I thought the Galloway was excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Red at the Bone on the Women’s Prize shortlist, but it didn’t quite make it through. It’s amazing how much of a family saga Woodson crams into under 200 pages of spare prose. I’m keen to read her Brown Girl Dreaming.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those that stand out are books I have to read as well and I recently pulled out two by Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time and City if Darkness City of Light, I also have Man in Search of Meaning.

    I recently read my first Octavia Butler so that one catches my eye and I’ve downloaded the previous Barry since I’ve heard so many good words about it. Enjoy your selections!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only ever read one of Marge Piercy’s poetry books, so I’m looking forward to trying her fiction.

      I read Viktor Frankl’s posthumous essay collection (Yes to Life) earlier this year but wanted to follow up with his most famous work. I still marvel at how optimistic he chose to be despite what he’d seen during the Holocaust.

      I read Kindred earlier this year and it was absolutely fantastic. I hardly ever read anything that could qualify as science fiction, but I raced through that one in a few days. Parable of the Sower is really good so far, too.

      Days without End was one of my favourites from the year it came out. Unfortunately, I’ve read mixed reviews of the sequel, but I’m still going to give it a go.


  3. I’m fascinated that you’re skim-reading the Mantel. It’s so dense I think I’d find it impossible. But unusually for me, I’m reading it alongside something else, as it’s such a rich dish, I can’t take it all the time (NOT bedtime reading!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With the Mantel, I’ll be totally engrossed for up to 10 pages (exposition and Cromwell one-liners), but then everything gets talky or plotty and I skim for 20‒30 pages and put it down. My constant moving between books, as opposed to single-minded focus, and the sudden loss of a deadline when the library closed have not served me well: I feel overwhelmed by the level of detail and the cast of characters, and haven’t built up momentum. Still, I can objectively recognize the prose as top-notch. I’ve stalled around page 200 but will try to get back to it at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly. Objectively, I admire it hugely. As an all-absorbing read, not so much.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I would only ever whisper it, but surely letting the book balloon to nearly 900 pages was a wee bit indulgent? I guess no editor would dare to cut it…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. *whispers back* I’m glad you said that.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well you probably know what appeals to me from that lot and I’ll look forward to your thoughts on Queenie and The Girl … Also Song of the Lark is excellent. Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Who knows when I’ll ever get hold of those two!

      It’s been years since I read a Cather novel. Picking up a classic always seems to take that little bit more effort for me, but I’m sure it will be rewarding when I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Good work with tracking down a few of the past Women’s Prize winners! I have The Road Home checked out from the library so eventually I should get round to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m only a handful of pages into Fugitive Pieces; we’ll see how it goes. I don’t know how interested I am in the Grant, but I remember you liking the Martin more than you expected to (and it’s nice and short), so that will probably be my next one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I thought the Martin was great! I’m afraid the Grant didn’t work for me; I don’t really rate her as a writer.


    2. I’ve only ever read The Dark Circle, which I quite liked, but I DNFed her latest one, A Stranger City.

      The Road Home was the most readable and enjoyable Tremain book I’ve read so far. I know you don’t like her in general, but maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I just finished reading her Sacred Country the other day; it’s bizarre but very interesting, and probably ahead of its time in featuring a transgender character in 1992.


  6. I tried reading Fugitive Pieces several times and gave up on it. I did enjoy Property by Valerie Martin though – which offers an interesting perspective on slavery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m only in the early pages now, which are quite dreamlike. I hope some more plot comes along soon to anchor everything!


  7. I’ve been keen to read Queenie for ages!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Something to look forward to when my library reopens.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I read Fugitive Pieces quite a few years ago and really loved it/ I’ll be interested to ehar what you think Rebecca.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read one collection of Michaels’ poetry but otherwise I’m new to her. The writing style is certainly poetic!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Sigh. Won’t it be lovely when we can all browse libraries again?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely! I still have a good little pile of library books, but I wish I’d stocked up some more.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. buriedinprint | Reply

    Would you believe that I finished the “last” book in my library stack last week? I’m not sure that I can remember a time when that was true. Even when we’ve moved house in the same city, I’ve always had at least one library book in my backpack. So, well over a decade.

    There is stuff that happened in the Michaels novel, that gradually becomes clear as you read along, but if you’re not enjoying the first few pages for the sake of the language alone, I think you’ll lose patience. It’s shaped, not plotted. And as you mention, she’s a poet first. She wrote that book over nine years, IIRC, and never showed anyone the manuscript while it was in progress.

    A hold queue has no meaning for me in these times, but I did have 16 items en route when the system closed and periodically I take a peek at the list to see if it’s evaporated (it hasn’t). And there were other items on hold (including the Levitin you’ve got) but I’ve deleted a few of those, too, having needed them for various projects which are now complete. So I wonder, will I fall in love wholly with my new shelves before the system reopens? Any predictions? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An empty library stack! Perish the thought! I’m pleased that I still have those 8 awaiting me, plus the massive skimming pile that isn’t diminishing at any rate.

      I’m now 75 pages into the Michaels, so it’s safe to say that I’ve been charmed by the language 🙂

      My library system is honouring all reservations placed before mid-March, but not allowing any new ones. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that I’ve started a document on my desktop with a list of books to borrow and books to place on hold the very day the library reopens!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. buriedinprint

        You raise an interesting point; I haven’t tried to add any new holds (16 was a lot and only due to having requested things for research and reading projects and films) and I wonder if that’s being curtailed here too. Glad to hear the Michaels has landed with you. It’s nice to have a lyrical volume in the stack, to scratch that particular reading itch.


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