January Reviews

January, good bye, good riddance, see ya next year! I know it’s the common thing right now to lament the fact that January feel forty-two months long, but it really has. I’m cold (I know, I know, I live in Southern California I shouldn’t complain), I’m tired, and I’ve just recently gotten over my sad “the holidays are over” blues. One glimmer in the grey? I’ve read eight super-diverse books this month, which is probably the most I’ve ever read during a non-summer month. 

I started off the month reading the critically-acclaimed Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. It was a dense novel of two different stories (plus an ending sort of appendix or coda), one about a young editor’s relationship with a much older writer and another about an American Iraqi detained in London. I honestly need to read it again, to more closely examine the connection between the two; there’s the obvious reveal at the end that I won’t spoil, and I did catch glimmers of threads throughout. I know that this is a huge criticism she has received of her writing, but I don’t fault Halliday at all for not explicitly spelling out her message to the reader. Nonetheless, her writing is superb and I will read her future endeavors.

Also, in line with the “popular literary fiction” genre, was The Leavers by Lisa Ko, which we read for book club this month. This book told the story of Deming Guo, a young Chinese boy whose mother disappears, resulting in his eventual adoption by a white couple. The book explores issues of identity, adoption, motherhood, and family, all the while making an important comment on how America treats those in search of a better life within our borders.

I read two less challenging books this month, The Perfect Nanny by Leila Silmani and The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. Silmani’s novel about a French family who ends up hiring a nanny who kills their children ended up being much better written than I had thought it would be. After seeing it on so many “best of” lists I was intrigued as to why something I had presumed to be total junk was getting so much attention. The Dreamers I was a little skeptical about, since I thought her first book fell a bit short but had potential. This one, about people in a small college town who fall into deep sleeps but a mysterious illness was much better, but still definitely lacked substantial depth. It will definitely be on my “beach reads for literary people” once the weather warms up.

I read two books this month that were a tiny bit outside of my normal literary comfort zone, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson and Watchmen, the graphic novel by Alan Moore (and these two couldn’t be more wildly different from each other!). The Argonauts has been deemed “autotheory,” in the sense that Nelson uses criticism and theory of works to examine her own life, specifically her sexuality and experience with her partner. It was fascinating but tough, not in terms of content, but just because I haven’t read a tone of criticism since college. It did feel good to work that literary muscle again! Watchmen was recommended to me by a friend a work and my husband, and there were aspects I really enjoyed and some I did not. I’m glad I finally read it and will definitely recommend it to some of my students.

After seeing Kamala Harris speak a few weeks ago, I sped through her new book, The Truth We Hold. It all sounds good, of course. She sound liberal, capable, fair, and equipped to the do the job… in the book that she wrote about herself and record. I’m not saying she isn’t any of those things, because I really felt inspired listening to her and feel that me voting for her is a real possibility. I just want to be informed, patient, and open to all choices at this stage of things.

And to round out the month, I reread Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis for the fourth or fifth time in my life, since that’s what I’m currently teaching. I always look forward to all the projects we do with it and of course our big class discussion that round out our study.

What did you read? What was good? 

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