August was an outstanding reading month for me. I had a huge chunk of time to read on a transatlantic flight, as well as while on vacation.
~ Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons)—I loved this quirky satire of the British pastoral novel, think D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. I tend to agree with others who have called CCF one of the funniest books ever written. In addition to nods at cleverness, I laughed out loud repeatedly at the melodrama and the outrageous situations. This book had come recommended for so long that I figured it was finally time to read it so put it on my 41 for 41 list. I cannot wait to re-read.
~ Elephanta Suite (Paul Theroux)—Another satisfying read. Paul Theroux, whose travel essays I had long admired, is also an admirable novelist. The stunning novellas in Elephanta Suite are written in elegant prose and explore modern India, as well as striking east-west culture clashes. Here’s part of the publisher’s cover blurb: “As ever, Theroux’s portraits of people and places explode stereotypes to exhilarating effect. The Elephanta Suite is a welcome gift to readers of international fiction and fans of this extraordinary writer.” I’m adding to my TBR list, Theroux’s London Embassy, another set of novellas written in the 1970s, and Kingdom by the Sea, a chronicle of the author’s travels around Great Britain.
~ Noble Radiance (Donna Leon)—#7 in Donna Leon’s Venice-set mystery series has Commissario Brunetti investigating a skeleton uncovered on a construction site, a gold ring the only clue to its identity. Politics, corruption, and greed are prominent themes. The mystery is capped by a satisfying and shocking ending. Throughout, the faithful reader is treated to Brunetti’s interactions with his family, colleagues, boss, and his boss’ secretary.
~ Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)—The follow-up to The Hunger Games, Collins's 2008 hit, follows our heroine Katniss after her triumph in a televised fight to the death—and her life isn't necessarily easier or happier. Collins does such a wonderful job writing about scary themes, and she has a very deft hand with characters so that you find yourself rooting for those you didn't think you could possibly like. The year-long wait for the concluding volume will be excruciating.
~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)—I read the first Harry Potter aloud to the boys on vacation, as we spent countless hours on planes, trains, and ferries. This was my first re-read of Sorcerer’s Stone. I loved revisiting Harry’s journey to Hogwarts, meeting Ron and Hermione and Dumbledore and Hagrid, visiting Diagon Alley, discovering Quidditch. Rowling created such an amazing world and children's literature is a richer place because of Potter!
~ Spy Who Came In from the Cold (John le Carre)—SWCIftC has been on my TBR for such a long time, and it made an appearance on my 39 for 39 list. I'm glad I took the book with me on vacation—it truly knocked my socks off. It quickly became clear to me how and why this book defined a genre, but I also impressed by how complex this slim novel was and by how completely cynical le Carre had become due to his espionage service. I not only highly recommend Spy, but I look forward to reading more from this author.
~ Mysteries of Pittsburgh (Michael Chabon)—a 41 for 41 title, a favorite author
~ Lapham’s Quarterly—the summer 2009 issue of this literary journal, which I’ve never before read, caught my eye with its travel theme
~ Zeitoun (Dave Eggers)—although I’ve vowed not to buy hardcovers (ever again, ha ha ha), I was wooed by the packaging and the TBR front page review. Also, I read Eggers’ What Is the What last year and vowed I’d read more of his work.
~ The Last Supper (Rachel Cusk)—I could not resist either Rachel Cusk or the Italian setting. I’d also like to uproot my family and live abroad for a year (or so).
~ Infinite Jest—started for a summer reading challenge, which seemed reasonable at the time. I managed the first 63 pages, reading roughly 11 pages a day, then fell off the plan and couldn’t get back on. And, for as much as I wanted to love IJ, I just didn’t.
~ Race to Dakar—I had enjoyed reading Charley Boorman’s account of racing the Dakar Rally, but, after setting it aside for awhile, I decided that I’d really rather watch the documentary.
The Selected Work of TS Spivet (Reif Larsen)—I waited for a couple months to get this from the library and let it sit too long once I finally had it in my possession. The novel is written in a very unique voice and uses sidebars and illustrations to enrich the story. I liked what I read a lot and will give the novel another shot as soon as I can. A potential contender for my 42 for 42 list.