Inbox (Books Acquired)
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell–I didn’t love Cloud Atlas–I thought the writing was impressive, but the story left me cold–but I’ve been assured by avid Mitchell fans that Black Swan Green is significantly different AND that it has a strong book-about-books element. Also, I’m pretty certain my fellow Well-Readhead Liberty will break up with me if I don’t read it soon. So I bought it this week, and I’m gonna snuggle with it over the holidays.
I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern–Does it count as acquiring a book if you just opened it in a streaming service? Oh, these existential questions of the new digital age! Anyway, I stumbled across this memoir from the guy who created Shit My Dad Says while I was poking around on Oyster (Netflix for ebooks, y’all!), and I’mma give it a shot. Dude is funny.
Outbox (Books Finished)
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud–I almost didn’t read this book. The hype machine was all fired up about it earlier this year, and then Claire Messud gave some not-so-great interview answers about likable and unlikable characters, and I was having a hard time separating my appreciation for her work (I really loved The Emperor’s Children) from my eye-rolling boredom with Claire Messud, Literary Figure. But I picked it up this week, and HOO BOY am I glad I did.
The protagonist here is a righteously angry woman approaching middle-age. She is an elementary school teacher who makes art on the side and always imagined she would be a Real Artist. But life (society, American culture, other people’s expectations) forced her into a box, and she is pissed about it. She thinks of herself and other women in her position as Women Upstairs. Not madwomen in the attic but kind, harmless ladies who live quietly with their cats and their unexciting careers and who don’t ask the world for anything. Women Upstairs are the archetypal daughters of Betty Friedan’s 1960s housewives suffering from “the problem without a name.”
This is a book about all the ways in which we are hungry–for life, for experience, for love, for recognition–and the great divide between how we think about ourselves and how we really are in the world, especially when we are women. And it is fucking phenomenal.
In the Queue
The Explorer by James Smythe–Many of us here at the Riot have waved big muppet arms for Andy Weir’s forthcoming novel The Martian, and now we’re on a mission (see what I did there?) to find other great books about space. Fellow Rioter Derek tweeted earlier this week that The Explorer is a great read for folks who loved The Martian, noting that it is darker and has less science-y stuff, and I downloaded it on the spot. Dark and twisty fiction is my favorite kind of fiction, and I’m stoked to spend some time with this one.
That’s it for me. What have you been reading this week?
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