Tag Archives: Library Checkout

Library Checkout, December 2020

I resumed my twice-weekly library volunteering on the 3rd but had to stop again after the 17th because West Berkshire moved into Tier 4, which means people should stay at home except for essential activities (work and schooling). Who knows when I’ll be able to go back!

I managed to squeeze in a good few 2020 releases before the end of the year. I’ve started amassing a pile of backlist reads, but I’m also placing requests on 2021 releases that the library has on order. The usual limit for reservations is 15, but by commandeering my husband’s unused library card I’ve effectively doubled my allowance. I don’t expect I’ll be able to pick up any more books until this new lockdown is over, though, so I can start off the year by focusing on a neglected pile of university library books and especially my own shelves – always a good thing.

I would be delighted to have other bloggers – and not just book bloggers – join in this meme. Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (on the last Monday of every month), or tag me on Twitter and/or Instagram: @bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout.

I rate most books I read or skim, and include links to reviews not already featured on the blog.

READ

SKIMMED

  • Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain by David Eagleman
  • Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders
  • Growing Goats and Girls: Living the Good Life on a Cornish Farm by Rosanne Hodin
  • Village Christmas and Other Notes on the English Year by Laurie Lee
  • My Last Supper: One Meal, a Lifetime in the Making by Jay Rayner
  • The Invention of Surgery: A History of Modern Medicine: From the Renaissance to the Implant Revolution by David Schneider, MD

CURRENTLY READING

  • Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession (a buddy read with Annabel)
  • The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman (for January book club)
  • The Dickens Boy by Thomas Keneally

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • Hormonal: A Conversation about Women’s Bodies, Mental Health and Why We Need to Be Heard by Eleanor Morgan

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • Mama’s Boy: A Memoir by Dustin Lance Black
  • In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
  • Country Doctor: Hilarious True Stories from a Country Practice by Michael Sparrow

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • The Idea of the Brain: A History by Matthew Cobb
  • Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Things I Learned on the 6.28: A Commuter’s Guide to Reading by Stig Abell
  • A Biography of Loneliness: The History of an Emotion by Fay Bound Alberti
  • Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus
  • The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley
  • All the Young Men by Ruth Coker Burks
  • Breathtaking: Life and Death in a Time of Contagion by Rachel Clarke
  • The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan
  • In the Woods by Tana French
  • Begin Again by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
  • Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
  • The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson
  • A Burning by Megha Majumdar
  • A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion
  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  • A Fire in My Head (poetry) by Ben Okri
  • Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
  • How We Met: A Memoir of Love and Other Misadventures by Huma Qureshi
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
  • My US Election Diary by Jon Sopel
  • The Mystery of Charles Dickens by A.N. Wilson
  • How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C. Pam Zhang

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

RETURNED UNREAD

  • Star Over Bethlehem and Other Stories by Agatha Christie
  • The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P.D. James
  • Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
  • A Box of Delights by John Masefield
  • The Mistletoe Bride & Other Haunting Tales by Kate Mosse

(I lost interest in all of these. I don’t gravitate towards crime or short stories, so shouldn’t have been surprised that once I had them in front of me they didn’t appeal. Also, I didn’t realize the Masefield was abridged, and I prefer not to read altered editions.)

What appeals from my stacks?

A Look Back at 2020’s Reading Projects, Including Rereads

Major bookish initiatives:

  • Coordinated a Not the Wellcome Prize blog tour to celebrate 2019’s health-themed books – in case you missed it, the winner was Sinéad Gleeson for Constellations.
  • Co-hosted Novellas in November with Cathy (746 Books).
  • Hosted Library Checkout each month.

Reading challenges joined:

  • 12 blog tours
  • Six Degrees of Separation: I started participating in February and did nine posts this year
  • Paul Auster Reading Week
  • Reading Ireland month
  • Japanese Literature Challenge
  • 1920 Club
  • 20 Books of Summer
  • Women in Translation Month
  • Robertson Davies Weekend
  • Women’s Prize winners (#ReadingWomen)
  • 1956 Club
  • R.I.P.
  • Nonfiction November
  • Margaret Atwood Reading Month

This works out to one blog tour, one reading project, and one regular meme per month – manageable. I’ll probably cut back on blog tours next year, though; unless for a new release I’m really very excited about, they’re often not worth it.

Buddy reads:

  • Crossing to Safety with Laila (Big Reading Life)
  • 6 Carol Shields novels plus The Trick Is to Keep Breathing, Deerbrook, and How to Be Both with Marcie (Buried in Print)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad and The Idea of Perfection with Laura T.
  • Mother’s Milk with Annabel
  • 666 Charing Cross Road with Liz

Self-set reading challenges:

  • Seasonal reading
  • Classic of the Month (14 in total; it’s only thanks to Novellas in November that I averaged more than one a month)
  • Doorstopper of the Month (just 3; I’d like to try to get closer to monthly in 2021)
  • Wainwright Prize longlist reading
  • Bellwether Prize winners (read 2, DNFed 1)
  • Short stories in September (8 collections)
  • Young Writer of the Year Award shortlist reading
  • Thematic roundups – I’m now calling these “Three on a Theme” and have done 2 so far
  • Journey through the Day with Books (3 new reviews this year):
    • Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore
    • Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
    • [Up with the Larks by Tessa Hainsworth – DNF]
    • [Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer – DNF]
    • Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell – existing review
    • The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński – read part of
    • Eventide by Kent Haruf
    • Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler – existing review
    • Talk before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg – existing review
    • When the Lights Go Out by Carys Bray
    • Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb
    • Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys
    • Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay – existing review
    • Sleeping Arrangements by Laura Shaine Cunningham
    • The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe
    • Bodies in Motion and at Rest by Thomas Lynch – read but not reviewed
    • Silence by Shūsaku Endō
    • Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez – read part of
  • The Four in a Row Challenge – I failed miserably with this one. I started an M set but got bogged down in Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (also a bibliotherapy self-prescription for Loneliness from The Novel Cure), which I had as a bedside book for much of the year, so only managed 1.5 out of 4; I also started an H quartet but set both Tinkers and Plainsong aside. Meanwhile, Debbie joined in and completed her own 4 in a Row. Well done! I like how simple this challenge is, so I’m going to use it next year as an excuse to read more from my shelves – but I’ll be more flexible and allow lots of substitutions in case I stall with one of the four books.

Rereading

At the end of 2019, I picked out a whole shelf’s worth of books I’d been meaning to reread. I kept adding options over the year, so although I managed a respectable 16 rereads in 2020, the shelf is still overflowing!

Many of my rereads have featured on the blog over the year, but here are two more I didn’t review at the time. Both were book club selections inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. (We held a rally and silent protest in a park in the town centre in June.)

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama: Remember when there was a U.S. president who thought deeply, searched his soul, and wrote eloquently? I first read this memoir in 2006, when Obama was an up-and-coming Democratic politician who’d given a rousing convention speech. I remembered no details, just the general sweep of Hawaii to Chicago to Kenya. On this reread I engaged most with the first third, in which he remembers a childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia, gives pen portraits of his white mother and absentee Kenyan father, and works out what it means to be black and Christian in America. By age 12, he’d stopped advertising his mother’s race, not wanting to ingratiate himself with white people. By contrast, “To be black was to be the beneficiary of a great inheritance, a special destiny, glorious burdens that only we were strong enough to bear.” The long middle section on community organizing in Chicago nearly did me in; I had to skim past it to get to his trip to Kenya to meet his paternal relatives – “Africa had become an idea more than an actual place, a new promised land”. then/ now

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: This Wellcome Book Prize winner about the use of a poor African-American woman’s cells in medical research was one of the first books to turn me onto health-themed reads. I devoured it in a few days in 2010. Once again, I was impressed at the balance between popular science and social history. Skloot conveys the basics of cell biology in a way accessible to laypeople, and uses recreated scenes and dialogue very effectively. I had forgotten the sobering details of the Lacks family experience, including incest, abuse, and STDs. Henrietta had a rural Virginia upbringing and had a child by her first cousin at age 14. At 31 she would be dead of cervical cancer, but the tissue taken from her at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins hospital became an immortal cell line. HeLa is still commonly used in medical experimentation. Consent was a major talking point at our book club Zoom meeting. Cells, once outside a body, cannot be owned, but it looks like exploitation that Henrietta’s descendants are so limited by their race and poverty. I had forgotten how Skloot’s relationship and travels with Henrietta’s unstable daughter, Deborah, takes over the book (as in the film). While I felt a little uncomfortable with how various family members are portrayed as unhinged, I still thought this was a great read. then / now


I had some surprising rereading DNFs. These were once favorites of mine, but for some reason I wasn’t able to recapture the magic: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and On Beauty by Zadie Smith. I attempted a second read of John Fowles’s postmodern Victorian pastiche, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, on a mini-break in Lyme Regis, happily reading the first third on location, but I couldn’t make myself finish once we were back home. And A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan was very disappointing a second time; it hasn’t aged well. Lastly, I’ve been stalled in Watership Down for a long time, but do intend to finish my reread.

In general, voice- and style-heavy fiction did not work so well for me on rereading. Autobiographical essays by Anne Lamott and Abigail Thomas worked best, but I also succeeded at rereading some straightforward novels and short stories. Next year, I’d like to aim for a similar number of rereads, with a mixture of memoirs and fiction, including at least one novel by David Lodge. I’d also be interested in rereading earlier books by Ned Beauman and Curtis Sittenfeld if I can find them cheap secondhand.

What reading projects did you participate in this year?

Done much rereading lately?

Library Checkout, November 2020

Although lockdown precluded me from doing my usual volunteering at the public library this month, it has remained open for collecting reservations, so I was able to pick up another small pile of 2020 titles last week. Meanwhile, I worked my way through a big pile of recent releases that were reserved after me, plus a few novellas. With any luck, I’ll be back to my biweekly volunteering sessions starting on the first Thursday in December. I’ve missed having a reason to leave the house, see people, and find more books at random.

I would be delighted to have other bloggers – and not just book bloggers – join in this meme. Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (on the last Monday of every month), or tag me on Twitter and/or Instagram: @bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout.

I rate most books I read or skim, and include links to reviews not already featured on the blog.

READ

  • Surge by Jay Bernard
  • Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
  • The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  • Just Like You by Nick Hornby
  • Tilly and the Map of Stories (Pages & Co., #3) by Anna James
  • Vesper Flights: New and Selected Essays by Helen Macdonald
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Something Special by Iris Murdoch
  • Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor
  • The Order of the Day, Éric Vuillard
  • Love and Other Thought Experiments by Sophie Ward
  • The Courage to Care: A Call for Compassion by Christie Watson

+ Children’s picture books (don’t worry, these don’t count towards my year’s reading list!)

  • Six Dinner Sid: A Highland Adventure by Inga Moore
  • Bad Cat! by Nicola O’Byrne
  • One Smart Fish by Christopher Wormell

SKIMMED

  • The Book of Gutsy Women by Chelsea Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen
  • What Have I Done? An Honest Memoir about Surviving Postnatal Mental Illness by Laura Dockrill
  • Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living by Glennon Doyle
  • Mantel Pieces: Royal Bodies and Other Writing from the London Review of Books by Hilary Mantel
  • Duty of Care: One NHS Doctor’s Story of Courage and Compassion on the COVID-19 Frontline by Dr Dominic Pimenta

CURRENTLY READING

  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
  • The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • A Registry of My Passage upon the Earth by Daniel Mason
  • First Time Ever: A Memoir by Peggy Seeger

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • Kay’s Anatomy: A Complete (and Completely Disgusting) Guide to the Human Body by Adam Kay

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman (for January book club)
  • The Dickens Boy by Thomas Keneally
  • To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss
  • Growing Goats and Girls: Living the Good Life on a Cornish Farm by Rosanne Hodin

+ A small Christmas-themed stack I’ve set aside to peruse next month.

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • Mr Wilder & Me by Jonathan Coe
  • My Last Supper: One Meal, a Lifetime in the Making by Jay Rayner
  • The Invention of Surgery: A History of Modern Medicine: From the Renaissance to the Implant Revolution by David Schneider, MD

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • The Idea of the Brain: A History by Matthew Cobb
  • Here Is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan
  • Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain by David Eagleman
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
  • Bringing Back the Beaver: The Story of One Man’s Quest to Rewild Britain’s Waterways by Derek Gow
  • Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession
  • Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
  • Monogamy by Sue Miller
  • Hormonal: A Conversation about Women’s Bodies, Mental Health and Why We Need to Be Heard by Eleanor Morgan
  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  • Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
  • The Mystery of Charles Dickens by A.N. Wilson

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • As You Were by Elaine Feeney – I read the first chapter. I think I’ve simply had too many quirky narrators and/or mental hospital stories recently.
  • House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman – I read to page 30 but, as with The Yellow House by Sarah Broom, I realized there is far more detail in this family memoir than I am able to absorb. And here, the writing is only average. It reminded me of Esther Safran Foer’s memoir.
  • Rootbound: Rewilding a Life by Alice Vincent – I didn’t enjoy the style of the first few pages, so didn’t want to commit to another 300+ about a twentysomething’s job, housing, and relationship woes.

RETURNED UNREAD

  • Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster – I couldn’t fit this in for Novellas for November. Maybe another year.
  • Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel by Jules Feiffer – I couldn’t stand the drawing style.
  • Jack by Marilynne Robinson – After a skim back through Gilead, I felt I knew enough about Jack and didn’t need yet another sequel.

What appeals from my stacks?

Library Checkout, October 2020

ALL of my reservations seemed to come in at once this month, so I’ve been busy reading the recent releases that are requested after me. Soon I’ll amass a pile of short books to consider reading for Novellas in November. While searching through shelves and boxes of children’s picture books for reserved titles, I often come across ones I can’t resist, especially if they feature animals. I borrow a few most weeks and enjoy reading them back at home over a cup of tea.

I would be delighted to have other bloggers – and not just book bloggers, either – join in this meme. Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (which runs on the last Monday of every month), or tag me on Twitter and/or Instagram (@bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout).

I rate most of the books I read or skim, and include links to reviews not already featured on the blog.

 

READ

  • Sisters by Daisy Johnson
  • Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land
  • 666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs
  • An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell
  • The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer
  • English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – Success on the second try!
  • How to Be Both by Ali Smith
  • Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth
  • Night by Elie Wiesel

+ Children’s picture books (don’t worry, these don’t count towards my year’s reading list!)

  • Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper
  • Moomin and the Golden Leaf by Richard Dungworth
  • Little Owl’s Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney
  • Christopher Pumpkin by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
  • The Steves by Morag Hood
  • Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon
  • Think of an Eel by Karen Wallace

 

SKIMMED

  • 33 Meditations on Death: Notes from the Wrong End of Medicine by David Jarrett
  • A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
  • The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
  • The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
  • The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn

CURRENTLY READING

  • The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (for book club)
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  • Just Like You by Nick Hornby
  • Vesper Flights: New and Selected Essays by Helen Macdonald
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  • First Time Ever: A Memoir by Peggy Seeger
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor
  • Love and Other Thought Experiments by Sophie Ward

 

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • The Book of Gutsy Women by Chelsea Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • What Have I Done? An Honest Memoir about Surviving Postnatal Mental Illness by Laura Dockrill
  • Duty of Care by Dominic Pimenta

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen
  • House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman
  • A Registry of My Passage upon the Earth by Daniel Mason
  • Something Special by Iris Murdoch
  • Rootbound: Rewilding a Life by Alice Vincent

+ A few more picture books

+ This exciting university library book haul!

 

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • As You Were by Elaine Feeney
  • Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • Jack by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Courage to Care: A Call for Compassion by Christie Watson

And from the university library, for Novellas in November:

  • Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
  • Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel by Jules Feiffer
  • The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

 

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Mr Wilder & Me by Jonathan Coe
  • Here Is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan
  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
  • Bringing Back the Beaver: The Story of One Man’s Quest to Rewild Britain’s Waterways by Derek Gow
  • Tilly and the Map of Stories (Pages & Co. #3) by Anna James
  • Kay’s Anatomy: A Complete (and Completely Disgusting) Guide to the Human Body by Adam Kay
  • The Dickens Boy by Thomas Keneally
  • To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss
  • Mantel Pieces: Royal Bodies and Other Writing from the London Review of Books by Hilary Mantel
  • Monogamy by Sue Miller
  • My Last Supper: One Meal, a Lifetime in the Making by Jay Rayner

 

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates – I read and reviewed the first story for R.I.P. but didn’t continue.
  • The Corset by Laura Purcell – My second DNF of a Purcell after last year and The Silent Companions. Her setups are appealing but she just doesn’t deliver the excitement. I made it to page 41. Really I should give up on her, but Bone China is still on my TBR…

 

RETURNED UNREAD

  • The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter – I decided it didn’t quite fit the bill for R.I.P. I will try it another time, though.

 

What appeals from my stacks?

Library Checkout, September 2020

On the 21st my library reopened to the public for limited browsing and computer use, so I no longer have blissfully solitary volunteering sessions and I have to wear a mask while I’m shelving. It’s only for a few hours a week, though, so it’s no great hardship – and it’s good that other people are getting to share the library love again.

This month my reading has focused on short stories and Women’s Prize winners, but I also picked up other recent releases, plus children’s books about cats and appealing memoirs.

I would be delighted to have other bloggers – and not just book bloggers, either – join in this meme. Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (which runs on the last Monday of every month), or tag me on Twitter and/or Instagram (@bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout).

READ

SKIMMED

  • A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore
  • Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, edited by Adam Kay
  • Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting

CURRENTLY READING

  • Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
  • Sisters by Daisy Johnson
  • Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • First Time Ever: A Memoir by Peggy Seeger
  • How to Be Both by Ali Smith

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • 33 Meditations on Death: Notes from the Wrong End of Medicine by David Jarrett

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen
  • What Have I Done? An Honest Memoir about Surviving Postnatal Mental Illness by Laura Dockrill
  • House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman
  • The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
  • Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  • Just Like You by Nick Hornby
  • Tilly and the Map of Stories (Pages & Co. #3) by Anna James
  • Vesper Flights: New and Selected Essays by Helen Macdonald
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Mantel Pieces: Royal Bodies and Other Writing from the London Review of Books by Hilary Mantel
  • Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • Jack by Marilynne Robinson
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor
  • Love and Other Thought Experiments by Sophie Ward
  • The Courage to Care: A Call for Compassion by Christie Watson
  • The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen – This was for book club, but I completely failed to engage. I’m going to watch the 1995 film instead (and maybe skip the Zoom discussion this month).
  • Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin – I was interested to compare this to Middlesex as it’s about an intersex teen named Max who has been raised as a boy. But I only made it 18 pages: Max’s voice is done well; his mum’s and little brother’s, not so much. Plus there was a pretty brutal scene that put me off reading further.

RETURNED UNREAD

  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré – Requested after me. I’ll get it out another time.
  • The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood – I expected an addiction memoir, but this seems to be a breezy tell-all by a minor celebrity journalist I’d never heard of.
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – I’ll save this novel about six friends who meet at summer camp for next summer.

What appeals from my stacks?

Library Checkout, August 2020 & #WITMonth 2020, Part II

I’ve been volunteering at my local library twice a week since the start of the month, shelving and picking books off the shelves to fulfill reservations. Every time I’m there I spot more titles to add to my online wish list. It’s been a convenient excuse to return and pick up books, including book group sets. I was first in the queue for some brand-new releases this month.

Have you been able to borrow more books lately? Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (which runs on the last Monday of every month), or tag me on Twitter and/or Instagram (@bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout).

 

READ

  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
  • Addition by Toni Jordan [book club choice]
  • Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (reviewed below)

SKIMMED

  • Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town by Lamorna Ash
  • The Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals by Patrick Barkham
  • Water Ways: A Thousand Miles along Britain’s Canals by Jasper Winn

CURRENTLY READING

  • Close to Where the Heart Gives Out: A Year in the Life of an Orkney Doctor by Malcolm Alexander
  • A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne
  • Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
  • Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • Can You Hear Me? A Paramedic’s Encounters with Life and Death by Jake Jones
  • Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, edited by Adam Kay

 

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
  • What Have I Done? An Honest Memoir about Surviving Postnatal Mental Illness by Laura Dockrill
  • How to Be Both by Ali Smith
  • Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

 

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  • The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood
  • Just Like You by Nick Hornby
  • 33 Meditations on Death: Notes from the Wrong End of Medicine by David Jarrett
  • Sisters by Daisy Johnson
  • Vesper Flights: New and Selected Essays by Helen Macdonald
  • English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • Jack by Marilynne Robinson
  • Love and Other Thought Experiments by Sophie Ward
  • The Courage to Care: A Call for Compassion by Christie Watson
  • The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn

 

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • Apeirogon by Colum McCann – I only made it through the first 150 pages. A work that could have been very powerful if condensed instead sprawls into repetition and pretension. I still expect it to make the Booker shortlist, but not to win. I’ll add further thoughts closer to the time.
  • That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu – I was expecting a memoir in verse about life in foster care; this is autofiction in dull fragments. I read the first 23 pages out of 113, waiting for it to get better.

 

RETURNED UNREAD

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – I needed to make room for some new books on my account, so will request this at another time.
  • Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell – I realized the subject matter didn’t draw me enough to read 500+ pages. So I passed it to my husband, a big Mitchell fan, and he read it happily, but mentioned that he didn’t find it compelling until about 2/3 through and he thought the combination of real-life and made-up figures (including from Mitchell’s previous oeuvre) was a bit silly.
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – Again, I needed to make space on my card and was, unsurprisingly, daunted by the length of this 1,000+-page omnibus paperback. When I do try the novel, I’ll borrow it in its three separate volumes!

 

What appeals from my stacks?

 


My second choice for Women in Translation Month (after The Bitch by Pilar Quintana) was:

 

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (2016)

[Translated from the Korean by Jamie Chang]

The title character is a sort of South Korean Everywoman whose experiences reveal the ways in which women’s lives are still constrained by that country’s patriarchal structures and traditions. She and her fellow female students and colleagues are subject to myriad microaggressions, from being served cafeteria lunches after the boys to being excluded from leadership of university clubs to having no recourse when security guards set up cameras in the female toilets at work. Jiyoung is wary of marriage and motherhood, afraid of derailing her budding marketing career, and despite her determination to do things differently she is disappointed at how much she has to give up when she has her daughter. “Her career potential and areas of interest were being limited just because she had a baby.”

The prose is flat, with statistics about women’s lives in Korea unnaturally inserted in the text. Late on we discover there’s a particular reason for the clinically detached writing, but it’s not enough to fully compensate for a dull style. I also found the translation shaky in places, e.g. “She cautiously mentioned shop sales … to the mother who’d dropped by at home to make dinner” and “Jiyoung made it home safely on her boyfriend’s back, but their relationship didn’t.” I most liked Jiyoung’s entrepreneurial mother, who occasionally shows her feisty spirit: “The porridge shop was my idea, and I bought the apartment. And the children raised themselves. Yes, you’ve made it, but you didn’t do it all by yourself,” she says to her husband. “Run wild!” she exhorts Jiyoung, but the system makes that vanishingly difficult.

Library Checkout: July 2020

New books, at long last!! Earlier this month my public library system started an order and collection service. I have already gone to pick up two batches of reservations.

I also signed up to be a library volunteer starting in the first week of August – two hours on a Tuesday morning and two hours on a Thursday afternoon. To start with, I will mostly be helping with shelving and picking the reserved books off the shelves. It will be fun to be a part of this service, and once the library fully reopens perhaps I’ll have a little more customer interaction, too.

Have you been able to borrow more books lately, perhaps via a curbside pickup scheme? Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (which runs on the last Monday of every month), or tag me on Twitter/Instagram (@bookishbeck, #TheLibraryCheckout).

 

READ

 

SKIMMED

  • Death Is but a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life’s End by Dr. Christopher Kerr with Carine Mardorossian

CURRENTLY READING

  • The Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals by Patrick Barkham
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
  • Addition by Toni Jordan

 

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town by Lamorna Ash

 

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
  • What Have I Done?: An Honest Memoir about Surviving Postnatal Mental Illness by Laura Dockrill
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  • Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
  • How to Be Both by Ali Smith
  • Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • Close to Where the Heart Gives Out: A Year in the Life of an Orkney Doctor by Malcolm Alexander

 

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Disobedience by Naomi Alderman
  • A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne
  • Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen
  • 33 Meditations on Death: Notes from the Wrong End of Medicine by David Jarrett
  • Can You Hear Me? A Paramedic’s Encounters with Life and Death by Jake Jones
  • Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, edited by Adam Kay
  • Exchange by Paul Magrs
  • Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
  • The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Sadler’s Birthday by Rose Tremain
  • Water Ways: A Thousand Miles along Britain’s Canals by Jasper Winn
  • The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

 

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside – The prologue didn’t draw me in.
  • The Motion of the Body through Space by Lionel Shriver – Kooky names, overwriting, obvious setup, racial stereotypes.
  • Summer before the Dark: Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostend 1936 by Volker Weidermann – Too niche a subject.

 

What appeals from my stacks?

Library Checkout: June 2020

It looks like my public library system may still be partially closed into July, although there are rumors of an order and collection service starting soon. I’ve signed up to be a library volunteer, so hopefully I can be a part of it.

Will I be able to stock up again next month? I do hope so, as I have a list of 14 books that I plan to borrow and another 21 that I plan to reserve just as soon as the building and catalogue are up and running again. Stay tuned to find out…

Are you out of library books, or have you been able to borrow more lately, perhaps via curbside pickup? Feel free to use the image above and leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part in Library Checkout (which runs on the last Monday of every month), and/or tag me on Twitter (@bookishbeck / #TheLibraryCheckout).

 

READ

  • The Trick Is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway (a buddy read with Buried in Print)

 

CURRENTLY READING

  • Reading with Patrick: A teacher, a student and the life-changing power of books by Michelle Kuo
  • Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle [set aside temporarily]
  • Property by Valerie Martin

 

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • My Own Country by Abraham Verghese

 

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
  • Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
  • When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant
  • Becoming a Man by Paul Monette
  • Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
  • Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

 

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

 

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
  • Can You Hear Me? A Paramedic’s Encounters with Life and Death by Jake Jones
  • The Accidental Countryside by Stephen Moss
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler

 

TO RETURN UNFINISHED

  • The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

 

TO RETURN UNREAD

  • What Are We Doing Here?: Essays by Marilynne Robinson
  • Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

 

What appeals from my stacks?

Library Checkout and Other Late May Happenings

The libraries I use have extended their closure until at least the end of July, and my stockpile is dwindling. Will I have cleared the decks before we get too far into the summer? Stay tuned to find out…

Meanwhile, we took advantage of the fine weather by having a jaunt to the Sandleford Warren site where Watership Down opens. This circular countryside walk of nearly 8 miles, via Greenham Common and back, took me further from home yesterday than I’ve been in about 10 weeks. We didn’t see any rabbits, but we did see this gorgeous hare.

My husband keeps baking – what a shame! We were meant to be spending a few days in France with my mother last week, so we had some Breton treats anyway (savory crêpes and Far Breton, a custard and prune tart), and yesterday while I was napping he for no reason produced a blackberry frangipane tart.

The Hay Festival went digital this year, so I’ve been able to ‘attend’ for the first time ever. On Friday I had my first of three events: Steve Silberman interviewing Dara McAnulty about his Diary of a Young Naturalist, which I’ll be reviewing for Shiny New Books. He’s autistic, and an inspiring 16-year-old Greta Thunberg type. Next week I’ll see John Troyer on Thursday and Roman Krznaric on Saturday. All the talks are FREE, so see if anything catches your eye on the schedule link above.

In general, I’ve been spoiled with live events recently. Each week we watch the Bookshop Band’s Friday night lockdown concert on Facebook (there have actually been seven now); they’ve played a lot of old favorites as well as newer material that hasn’t been recorded or that I’ve never heard before. We’ve also been to a few live gigs from Edgelarks and Megson – helpfully, these three folk acts are all couples, so they can still perform together.

Today we’ll be watching the second installment of the Folk on Foot Front Room Festival (also through Facebook). We had a great time watching most of the first one on Easter Monday, and an encore has quickly been arranged. Last month’s show was a real who’s-who of British folk music. There are a few more acts we’re keen to see today. Again, it’s free, though they welcome donations to be split among the artists and charity. It runs 2‒10 p.m. (BST) today, which is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. if you’re on the east coast of North America, so you have time to join in if you are stuck at home for the holiday.

 

Back to the library books…

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).

 

READ

  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  • Oleander, Jacaranda by Penelope Lively
  • Bodies in Motion and at Rest by Thomas Lynch
  • Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

SKIMMED

  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

CURRENTLY READING

  • Reading with Patrick: A teacher, a student and the life-changing power of books by Michelle Kuo [set aside temporarily]
  • Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle [set aside temporarily]
  • Property by Valerie Martin

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • My Own Country by Abraham Verghese

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • 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
  • Becoming a Man by Paul Monette
  • Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
  • Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • 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

 

Have you run out of library books yet?

How have you been passing these May days?

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.

 

READ

CURRENTLY READING

  • 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

CURRENTLY SKIMMING

  • 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

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ

  • 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

ON HOLD, TO BE PICKED UP

  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

IN THE RESERVATION QUEUE

  • 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

RETURNED UNFINISHED

  • 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?