Welcome to this month’s what’s on your shelf challenge hosted by fellow bloggers Deb, Sue, Donna and Jo. The idea is to share what you’re reading, what you’ve enjoyed lately share – why they resonated with you, how they made you feel, who are your favourite authors and what you recommend.
For those of us in the southern hemisphere it is summer, and holiday time. When I first moved down here, I found Christmas in summer a bit strange, but now I embrace it as the start of summer and finding a bit more time for enjoyable things like reading. For this month’s #whatsonyourshelf I’m starting with Tove Jansson’s Art in Nature, a wonderful collection of short stories, the sort of book you can keep in your bag and take out on bus journeys. Each story is perfectly formed and a real delight.
Over in the ‘book I couldn’t put down’ corner sits Curtis Sittenfeld’s Sisterland, an intriguing tale of twins with psychic powers. This review from The Guardian from 2013 perfectly sums up the book in my opinion. I loved it and would recommend for a good summer read.
I also enjoyed Stanley Tucci’s memoirs Taste. It is an enjoyable read, though could have done with a little better editing in parts. Well worth picking up on a rainy, summer day, when you just feel like staying indoors. Sticking with non-fiction, the latest collection of essays in The Best American Food Writing 2021 was a really good mix this year, with some interesting pieces on everything from cheese to chickens in Ethiopia. It is also a good book to dip into, for those moments you just have a short time to read.
I took Jonathan Franzen’s latest book Crossroads on our trip up to Hawke’s Bay, which meant decent chunks of uninterrupted reading time on the beach. Franzen is such a good writer, able to conjour up images of people or events in few, well-chosen words. It’s the story of what can only be described as a dysfunctional family as they come to terms with who they are, how they fit together and what has brought them to where they are now. Apparently, this is going to be the first in a trilogy, so I will be interested to see what comes next. There isn’t a single likable person in it, but they are all human and have equally human failings, and there is humour in the book too. I would say it wasn’t a book for everyone, but if you like his other work, you will enjoy this. There was a good review in The Guardian.
And so to Rachel Cusk’s latest novel, Second Place. I have read, and enjoyed, a couple of her earlier works, so picked this up with hopeful intent. I haven’t read her more recent Outline trilogy, but based on this review, again in The Guardian, I probably should to understand her more as an author. It took me a while to get into, but once I did, the book sped along at a fast pace. Again, this was very much a book based on characters and their interactions rather than it being a strong plot-led book, but this time I felt slightly irritated by the central character who seemed a weak and unhappy woman. Interestingly, at the end of the book, there is a note to say the book the is based on Mabel Dodge Luhan’s 1932 memoir Lorenzo in Taos, about DH Lawrence’s stay at her artists’ colony in New Mexico. Cusk’s version is “intended as a tribute to her spirit”, so I feel I need to follow this up now.
One of the most beautiful and interesting places I have ever visited is Ohrid in North Macedonia, so when I spotted this month’s cook book, Macedonia by Katerina Nitsou, I just had to buy it. I am currently dipping into and bookmarking it, but now I have no excuse not to have a go and make ajvar, that gorgeous capsicum based spread found in the Balkans. If I ever do, I will report somewhere on the blog!
That’s it from me for January. I’m about half way through Ann Patchett’s latest, so will report on that next month. Thanks to our hosts for starting this monthly book share.
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