May Reading Wrap-Up

Now that I’ve finished second year, I can finally read what I want without feeling guilty about neglecting my required module texts – yay! Instead of tackling the growing pile of unread books on my shelves, I bought four new ones and read them this month. Oops.

Finally, a cheeky promo – feel free to add me as a friend on Goodreads as I am constantly updating what I’m currently reading there.

How To Be Both | Ali Smith

372 pages | Penguin | Rating: 3 stars

25371939Summary: An experimental novel of two perspectives: an artist in the 1460s, and a child of a child of the 1960s. The narratives unknowingly reflect and influence one another in this novel about the relationship between the past and present.

That is probably the crudest description I have ever given of a book, and that’s because it’s impossible to summarise just what it is that Ali Smith has given us. It defies categorisation of any kind; from gender to narrative style to characterisation, everything is fluid. This is not a book that you can skim over in one sitting. Instead, take the time to absorb every word as it is clear that the author wrote each one deliberately. Every sentence has weight and meaning, and nothing is there to fill the gaps. What we are left with is a work that makes you do just that: work. Some people will love it, some people won’t even be able to finish the first part.

 

Homegoing | Yaa Gyasi

320 pages | Viking | Rating: 3 stars

51ChYVhSoDL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Summary: A novel which spans generations and an ocean, beginning with Effia and Esi on the Gold Coast of Africa. It follows their descendants navigating three continents, with each chapter focusing on a different character’s story to tell the narrative of the slave trade and its lasting impact.

This book had a lot of hype and I think it ruined it for me. I expected something earth-shattering and heart-breaking that stuck with me after I’d read the final page but in reality, I can barely remember the individual stories. Maybe this is because it jumped so quickly from character to character that I didn’t have time to really connect with them? I found myself having to refer to the family tree at the front of the book every time I started a new chapter because I couldn’t remember what had happened or who was who’s descendant. What I got from Homegoing wasn’t a close relationship with individuals but an overall impression of how the slave trade’s legacy is still present in modern society. It was a great study of underlying prejudices in society in general, but if you asked me to remember the exact narrative, I’d be pretty stuck.

 

Not That Kind of Girl | Lena Dunham

265 pages | Fourth Estate | Rating: 3.5 stars

81ZqOFyzSjLSummary: A collection of essays and stories from Lena Dunham’s life so far, covering everything from the TV industry to in-depth recounts of her sex life to dealing with mental health.

People have perfectly valid reasons to dislike Lena Dunham. She’s very outspoken and her feminism is viewed feels very exclusively white and middle-class. I picked this up after binge-watching her TV series Girls and falling in love with how brutally honest she can be. The way I read this was that she was writing from her position about her situation, and not trying to speak for anyone else. In that sense, it was like I had sat down with her for a drink and she was telling me stories that most people wouldn’t dream of ever admitting. I laughed in public when I was reading this book, which earned me some funny looks. Upon finishing this, I felt like all the things I consider to be my weird quirks are actually probably normal. I reckon she’d be an incredibly interesting individual to meet in person (can someone arrange this or?).

 

The Circle | Dave Eggers

528 pages | Penguin | Rating 2.75 stars

9780385351409_p0_v3_s1200x630Summary: Mae is hired by the Circle, the world’s largest internet company, which promotes transparency and connectivity. However, the further she delves into the world of the Circle, she discovers there is more to it than meets the eye.

There’s a movie adaptation of this coming out starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, which is what brought it to my attention in the first place. The concept of connecting all aspects of our lives through this one medium, the Circle, isn’t far from the way we use our online profiles now, so it felt scarily relevant. However, Dave Eggers really dragged it out to fill approximately 500 pages. It seriously did not need to be that long as I’d worked out where this was going about 200 pages in. I think it would have had more impact if it had been a short, sharp narrative, but then again the slow-building narrative does seem more reflective of the way the Circle works… Maybe I’m undecided on that point still. The characters were flat, especially Mae. Oh my god, I wanted to knock her out of her kayak and leave her in the sea so many times. The concept was clever and highly relevant, but the execution just felt a bit lacking.

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman 

499 pages | Penguin | 3.75 stars41jWdXkLySL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

A look at how we think, judge and make decisions, as well as advice on when to trust our intuitions and when to check our mental processes.

That’s probably the most painfully brief summary in the history of book reviews. The introduction alone is so intelligent and filled to the brim with interesting ideas, evidence and evaluations, so it is impossible to condense the contents into a crude sentence or two. Kahneman is clearly very accomplished and highly intellectual, so don’t expect a book with incredible prose; it is as scientific in style as it is in subject. It was also a slow read for me as it is so dense and my brain needed a bit of a break after every section. However, once I wrapped my head around the statistics (I am not mathematically inclined whatsoever), it became clear just how applicable his studies are, from every day life to the stock market to politics. This one is hard work but worth it in the end.

Have you read any of these books and what did you think of them? Did you read anything good this month? Recommend me some more titles to add to my Amazon wish list!

Best wishes,

Siobhán

 

Side note: the way I rate means that I rarely give 5 stars unless it was mind-blowing and potentially making its way onto my list of all-time favourites. 
4 stars = amazing book that has minor flaws or is just missing something, even if I don’t know what that something is. 
3 stars = above average, really enjoyed it but I had a few problems with it. 
2 stars = some redeeming qualities but just not doing it for me. 
1 star = complete and utter waste of my time, the publisher’s time, the author’s time…


2 thoughts on “May Reading Wrap-Up

    1. Thank you sweetpea! It’s definitely one to try if you like books that challenge traditional narrative structures. I’ve seen Karen Fowler crop up a few times, I’ll have to have a look at that one! x

      Like

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