This week I added some books to my Goodreads “Currently Reading” shelf and brought the grand total to 16. Sixteen! And yet it wasn’t even accurate. Once a Goodreads addict, I’d let my record keeping slip and hadn’t been updating with any regularity. Of course I wasn’t reading 16 books…right? Doing some weeding, I trimmed the fat until all that remained was a list of eight books that I could genuinely claim I was reading at the moment.
And so I’m starting a weekly column here looking at what my reading brain has been up to, what I’m reading at the moment. I was also inspired partly by the “Peek over Our Shoulder” monthly feature at Book Riot which looks at what us Rioters are reading at the moment (here’s one example from April 2016).
Before I start, I want to ask you…what are you reading right now, dear blog reader? What’s ringing your bells, so to speak? Can you only read one book at once or do you scatter your reading time across six or, dare I say it, 16 books? Fill us in with a comment below the post.
I have a lovely shelf on one of my home bookcases that’s called my “Currently Reading” shelf. Meaning that yes, I actually have a physical manifestation of my Goodreads’ “Currently Reading” shelf. I try not to think about it too much because it gets too meta after a while. Take a look at what’s going on there this week, including books that I’ve put down temporarily and books in the queue that I’m just about to start. So without further ado, here is a look at what I’m currently reading for the week ending April 17, 2016…
Let’s work through this book by book…
Book 1: Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism — From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond by E.J. Dionne, Jr. (Non-fiction — politics)
I am a politics junkie, especially when it comes to US political parties and elections. I find politics both surreal and horrifying, but also fascinating. Why the Right Went Wrong is an absorbing look at the evolution of the Conservative movement from the days of Barry Goldwater to present. In fact, the book even details the 2016 presidential election through the fall of 2015, and yes, that includes the meteoric rise of Donald Trump. Author E.J. Dionne, Jr. is not a Republican, though he was at one time. Yet his book isn’t condescending towards the Conservatives, nor does it delight in the decline of the movement (in fact, he talks about how dangerous it would be to have the Conservatives die out completely) in a kind of sickening, self-congratulatory schadenfreude (which, I admit it, sometimes I slip into). Sometimes it’s tempting to only want to read moratoriums on the right wing, but this is more a thoughtful argument and history on how the right wing collapsed. In this election year, Why the Right Went Wrong is both cautionary and almost addictively relevant. Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 2: A Storm of Swords (Book 3 in A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R. R. Martin (Fantasy — epic fantasy)
HBO’s mega-hit series, Game of Thrones, is about to return for its sixth series, which, if the trailers are any indication, is going to be the best yet. Seriously, I’m getting chills. It took me a year to read the first two novels in A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy series by George R. R. Martin upon which the HBO show is based, but I definitely loved them, especially the second novel, A Clash of Kings. The third novel, A Storm of Swords, is said to be the fan favorite, and I am enjoying so far, all 60 pages that I’ve read. One of the things I enjoy so much about these novels is the multiple POVs. Also, the characters are way more developed in the books. It’s almost like the most of the ones you see on screen are a two-dimensional look at three dimensional characters. For the full experience, read A Song of Ice and Fire. Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 3: e-galley of Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (on my Kindle) (Literary mystery-thriller)
I am a huge fan of the FX anthology series, Fargo, created and written by writer-prodigy Noah Hawley. I was fortunate to snag an e-galley review copy of Hawley’s latest novel, Before the Fall. This novel is a mystery-thriller about the lingering effects of a fatal plane crash. I’m not far enough in it to tell, but early reviews on Goodreads and Amazon speak to the novel’s pulse-pounding pacing and plot twists. This might be the first thriller beach read of the summer, and for fans of Hawley’s Fargo there are many similarities in the writing style. The novel comes out May 31, 2016. Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 4: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison (Literary mystery-thriller)
This mystery-thriller (can you tell I like them?) was sold hard by my Book Riot colleague, Liberty Hardy, who is a judge for the Book of the Month Club. She chose this as her April 2016 selection, and I’ll read just about anything she recommends so it was easy for me to choose this as my read this month. Even though I’m early on in the book, I already like the writing style. I’m kind of pushing back when I read it because I know it’s going to be one of those addicting, plot twisty thrillers you clear your schedule for. Here’s a quote from Liberty’s introduction to the novel from BOTM: “This book has more twists and turns than a corkscrew!…’No One Knows’ is…a mystery that will have you second-guessing everyone so often, you’ll start to eye your pets suspiciously. Have fun trying to figure it out!” This is just up my alley, and I’m already going to go ahead and recommend it for beach reading. Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 5: Version Control by Dexter Palmer (Science fiction — dystopian)
I read the book jacket description of Dexter Palmer’s dystopian-sci fi thriller Version Control in a Barnes and Noble when I was too broke to buy it. So I pulled up the library’s record on my phone and drove straight to the nearest library that had an available copy. Plus my employer, Kirkus Reviews, repped it way hard, and I know how stingy they are with the stars and praise. I’m not one for dystopian anything, but the premise seemed too good to pass up–the idea that we become conditioned to a new reality where everything is just slighhhhtly off if you look at it too hard. It’s creeptastic, but also really absorbing in a Dave Eggers’ The Circle kind of way. So far the writing style is lush yet restrained. It’s so heavily literary but without being pretentious. It’s really hard to stop reading it, actually, which is why I’m going slow, to savor the language. This is a science fiction novel for people who don’t like science fiction, and a literary fiction novel for sci fi fans who are put off by literature with a capital “L.” Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 6: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Literary fiction)
Man, the publishing world pushed so hard for Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut novel, The Nest, to be the publishing event of the spring, or at least of mid-March. Now that I’m almost halfway through it, I don’t…quite agree? But it is entertaining nonetheless, a novel that reminds me thoroughly of Jonathan Franzen’s novels (especially The Corrections) in both subject matter and tone. Sweeney takes a “go big or go home,” sweeping look at family, privilege, celebrity, the literary world, America, and the economy and just about succeeds. Sometimes it feels like she’s reaching, but when she does it is still deliciously entertaining. Another good beach read for the summer, especially if you want to be caught reading the “It” book of literary fiction. Plus…was that a Goldfinch reference? It remains to be seen… Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 7: Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday by Christine Reilly (Literary fiction)
This novel is another domestic drama, though with a little more palpable gravitas than The Nest. In Christine Reilly’s novel, a family is profoundly affected by mental illness as it impacts the family’s gifted daughters. The feature story about Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday that ran in Kirkus Reviews had nothing but good things to say, even making comparisons to one of my all-time favorite films, Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. Again, I’m a little early on in this, but I’ve already fallen in love with the mood and tone of the novel, and I get the Anderson comparisons. My guess is this is going to be a sleeper hit for 2016, and one you’ll want to read early on to be a “tastemaker” in your literary world. Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 8: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (Literary mystery)
All right, so I’m not really reading this yet. Instead, Donna Tartt’s second novel (of only three so far) is just taking up space on my “Currently Reading” shelf to remind me that it’s there. I’m a Donna Tartt fanatic. Seriously, The Goldfinch is my all-time favorite novel, and her The Secret History isn’t far behind. Knowing how long it takes her to complete and publish a novel (about 10-11 years), I’ve been pushing off The Little Friend, a Southern gothic, cold-case murder mystery, and a divisive novel considered by some to be her best, and some to be her worst. But I think the time has finally come, and I expect I’ll be reading it soon. I’ll have to check my Passion Planner and find a few days I can block off to devote to reading The Little Friend. Once you start a Donna Tartt novel, you don’t want to go anywhere. Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 9: Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell (Literary fiction)
I don’t really have much to say about this one since I haven’t started it yet. But remember when I said I didn’t have money for Dexter Palmer’s Version Control above? That’s because I had to choose between it and Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell, and I ultimately chose the latter. Okay, the quote on the back of the novel? “Three-Martini Lunch does for publishing what Mad Men did for advertising. It takes you back in time and then proceeds to etch in a whole world, stroke by stroke. This fast-moving novel is rich with incident and wonderfully conflicted characters,” so says James Magnuson, author of Famous Writers I Have Known. Right so…Mad Men? I’m there. Publishing? That’s my industry. Huge novel (512 pages) with three characters coming of age in the publishing world in 1950s New York? Count me in. I honestly can’t wait to start this, and I have a feeling it’s going to consume a week of my summer vacation. Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 10: All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage (Literary mystery-thriller)
Another Book of the Month Club selection, All Things Cease to Appear is a literary mystery-thriller. It is really creepy, but really compulsively readable. Brundage’s novel reminds me of Gillian Flynn’s novels, even, yes, Gone Girl, I’m going to say it. There’s something eery about the way it’s written, as if the narrator is truly holding back information and will drop a plot twist on you without warning. It makes me want to pull the covers up above my head if I’ve been reading it just before bed, but the seductive literary style is so rhythmic and beautiful. Another great pick for the beach this summer, especially if you want to look highbrow among the more pedestrian mystery-thrillers on the beach. Amazon link, Goodreads link.
Book 11: In Real Life by Jessica Love (Young adult — contemporary romance)
And you thought we’d never get to the eleventh and final book in this “Currently Reading” post… Well, actually out of all the books on here, I’ve been reading Jessica Love’s young adult contemporary romance In Real Life the longest…and it’s the shortest, so you must be thinking, why haven’t you finished it by now? Honestly? The book isn’t leaving much of an impact on me one way or the other, even though I’ve been there with online romance and the whole question of “when will we meet up in real life (IRL)?” before (okay, I’m kind of going through it now). The narrator is interesting, but all the other characters seem like two-dimensional puppets, and the story is quite predictable. You might wonder why I persevere, then. Well, the novel is only about 220 pages long, and sometimes you just need to finish one novel to give you the momentum to keep going. That’s kind of how I feel here. One day soon I’ll finish it and gift it to someone else, but right now I’m not in a rush. Maybe by next week, though. Amazon link, Goodreads link.