End of Year Book Tag

This has been going around WordPress and booktube, so let’s just jump straight into it.

I. Is there a book that you started that you still need to finish by the end of the year?

These books have been haunting me for months.  It’s not even that I’m disliking any of them (well, I am disliking one) – it’s that this is a very bad combination of books to be reading together, apparently.  But I will finish them all by 2020 for the sake of my sanity.

II. Do you have an autumnal book to transition to the end of the year?

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Since I’m doing this tag late, I’ll choose a book that I think could work for fall or winter.  Though Winter is in the title, I read this in September and I thought it was the perfect fall read.

III. Is there a release you are still waiting for? 

There are plenty of anticipated 2019 reads that I haven’t had the chance to pick up yet, but I’m not waiting on anything else to be published before the end of the year, I don’t think.

IV. Name three books you want to read by the end of the year.

The Translated Literature Book Tag

This tag was created by Diana over at Thoughts on Papyrus, and in the spirit of Women in Translation Month I figured I should do before the end of August!  I am not focusing only on female authors for this tag, though that would definitely be a fun spin to put on it.

I. A translated novel you would recommend to everyone:

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The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder.  Despite how niche its premise seems (math + baseball is a combination that would ordinarily cause me to run for the hills), I think this is one of the most universally appealing books I’ve read in a long time.  It’s sweet but not too saccharine, melancholy but not too depressing.  It’s just a nice, and short, story that I can imagine would appeal to most readers.

II. A recently read “old” translated novel you enjoyed:

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This is neither recently read nor very ‘old’, but whatever, in an effort to mix up my answers a bit and not talk about the Iliad for the billionth time: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, translated from the German by John E. Woods – originally published in 1985.  I read this four or five years ago on the recommendation of a German friend who was suggesting some German lit for me to read and I thought it was brilliant.  Set in eighteenth century France, it follows a boy with an unnaturally keen sense of smell, and it has some of the most descriptive imagery I’ve ever read.  I’d highly recommend it, with the caveat that it’s incredibly dark and twisted and violent, and definitely not for everyone.

III. A translated novel you could not get into:

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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves.  I desperately wanted to love this book, because Ruiz Zafón’s descriptions of Barcelona were written so gorgeously – the city itself was like a character in this book, which is something I love – but I could not get over the pervasive sexism (Clara’s narrative arc in particular horrified me) and how inexcusably predictable the plotting was.

IV. Your most anticipated translated novel release:

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The Teacher by Michal Ben-Naftali, translated from the Hebrew by Daniella Zamir.  This is publishing from Open Letter Books in January 2020, and the summary from their website says:

“No one knew the story of Elsa Weiss. She was a respected English teacher at a Tel Aviv high school, but she remained aloof and never tried to befriend her students. No one ever encountered her outside of school hours. She was a riddle, and yet the students sensed that they were all she had. When Elsa killed herself by jumping off the roof of her apartment building, she remained as unknown as she had been during her life. Thirty years later, the narrator of the novel, one of her students, decides to solve the riddle of Elsa Weiss. Expertly dovetailing explosive historical material with flights of imagination, the novel explores the impact of survivor’s guilt and traces the footprints of a Holocaust survivor who did her utmost to leave no trace.

Ben-Naftali’s The Teacher takes us through a keenly crafted, fictional biography for Elsa—from childhood through adolescence, from the Holocaust to her personal aftermath—and brings us face to face with one woman’s struggle in light of one of history’s great atrocities.”

V. A “foreign-language” author you would love to read more of:

Sofi Oksanen (Finnish-Estonian), Yoko Ogawa (Japanese), Mathias Énard (French); these are some titles that I’m looking forward to reading by each of them.

VI. A translated novel which you consider to be better than the film:

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Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, lol.  Better than its many, many film adaptations.  Also better than the musical, and I freaking LOVE the musical.

VII. A translated “philosophical” fiction book you recommend:

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Vita Nostra by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko, translated from the Russian by Julia Meitov Hersey.  This is a hard book to explain – it’s essentially a fantasy novel set at a magical boarding school, but it isn’t interested in plot or characters as much as its central thesis: that the world is not as limited as we think it is.

VIII. A translated fiction book that has been on your TBR for far too long:

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A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous, translated from the German by Philip Boehm.  This is a compilation of diary entries kept by a woman in 1945 Berlin, in which she chronicles the sexual assault endured by German women after the occupation of Berlin by the Russians.  This sounds absolutely harrowing which is why I probably haven’t reached for it yet, but it’s been on my shelf for ages.  If I don’t read it by next August, it’s definitely going on my TBR for next year’s WIT Month.  (I only saw the ‘fiction’ part of this question after I’d already chosen this for an answer – it’s nonfiction!)

IX. A popular translated fiction book you have not yet read:

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My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein.  I know, this is bad.  I kind of have this mental block with Elena Ferrante because I like the idea of reading these books in the original Italian, and then I’m too lazy to actually do that?  So they just remain unread.  But I know that either way I do really need to remedy this.

X. A translated fiction book you have heard a lot about and would like to find more about or read:

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Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, translated from the French by Tina A. Kover.  There is something about this book’s summary that refuses to stick in my brain so I still have absolutely no idea what it’s actually about (it’s a family saga, maybe…?), but I have heard nothing but good things about it from those who have read it.  Plus, that cover!

Tagging: Hannah | Marija | Callum | Kristin | Laura

The Literary Fiction Book Tag

This tag was created by Jasmine over at Jasmine’s Reads on booktube.  I was NOT tagged for this by Claire from Claire Reads Books but we have since decided to advocate in favor of booktube/book blogging cross-pollination so I am doing this tag as a self-proclaimed ambassador of booktuber/book blogger relations.  Also I like literary fiction, as you may have noticed.

1. How do you define literary fiction?

Claire had a really good answer for this so I highly recommend watching her video, but I’ll try to come up with something.

I basically think of literary fiction as fiction that’s particularly concerned with style, structure, and quality of prose. That’s not to say that literary fiction has ‘good writing’ and genre fiction doesn’t (because first of all, ‘good writing’ is way too subjective to be a real standard, and second of all, that statement would be blatantly untrue), but in genre fiction, I see the prose more as a vehicle to move the story forward, and in literary fiction, I think the writing and stylistic choices dovetail more with the author’s thematic intentions. I also think an interest in social commentary is a common feature.

2. Name a literary fiction novel with a brilliant character study

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Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

Since Claire already talked about The Idiot by Elif Batuman (my go-to answer for any question like this) I will instead go with Conversations With Friends.  What I think Sally Rooney does so well is balance characters’ inner lives and interpersonal lives, and while I think she did that splendidly with Connell and Marianne in Normal People, I think it’s Conversations With Friends where her prowess at characterization is most prominent.  Each of the characters in this book are frustrating, complex, contradictory, and layered, none more-so than the protagonist, Frances, one of the most vivid characters I’ve ever encountered.

3. Name a literary fiction novel that has experimental or unique writing

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A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride

I just finished reading this the other day so it’s the one that’s on my mind the most at the moment (and Jasmine also used this in her tag), but it’s honestly the perfect answer.  Eimear McBride has a striking prose style that can probably best be categorized as stream of consciousness, but it’s not the kind of rambling Joycean stream of consciousness that a lot of us think of when we heard the term.  Instead, sentences are abrupt, terse – thoughts begin and then cut themselves off and trip over one another.  It takes some getting used to, but once you warm up to the style McBride’s skill is undeniable.  She writes with similar prose in her sophomore novel, The Lesser Bohemians, which I actually read first, though I do consider A Girl if a Half-formed Thing superior in just about every way.

“I love the. Something of all it. Feeling ruined. Fucking. Off. I’m ready. Ready ready. To be this other other. To fill out the corners of this person who doesn’t sit in the photos on the mantel next to you.”

– Eimear McBride, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing

4. Name a literary fiction novel with an interesting structure

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How to be Both by Ali Smith

It’s an obvious answer, but I’m going with it.  How to be Both is noteworthy for the fact that it’s a novel comprised of two different halves: one story is about a girl, George, living in contemporary London, and the other is about a painter, Francescho, in Renaissance Italy.  50% of the editions printed begin with George’s half, the other 50% begin with Francescho’s.  But rather than being two disparate short stories connected in a single binding, How to be Both is very much a novel, one whose meaning shifts ever so slightly depending on which section you get first.  It sounds like a gimmick, but it’s done brilliantly.

5. Name a literary fiction novel that explores social themes

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Milkman by Anna Burns

Set in 1970s Belfast, Milkman is a novel about the Troubles, which captures the atmosphere of social unrest with unerring precision.  Anna Burns perfectly brings to life this community characterized by paranoia and terror and distrust, and ties into that a searing commentary on what it’s like to live under surveillance as a young woman.  It’s both a universal portrait of femininity in times of crisis, and distinctly Northern Irish in its portrayal of the Troubles, tackling social themes on both micro and macro levels.

6. Name a literary fiction novel that explores the human condition

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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I could actually use this book as an answer to every single one of these questions, but I have to put it here, because I have never read another book that offers more of an unapologetic examination of what it means to be human.  It’s hard to talk about this novel’s plot as there’s a twist partway through that reframes the entire narrative and I think it’s best to go into it not knowing what that twist is, but, this is my favorite book, so I don’t know how to give praise much higher than that.

7. Name a brilliant literary-hybrid genre novel

I’m going to name a couple:

Literary thriller: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
Literary sci-fi: Kindred by Octavia Butler
Literary historical fiction: Human Acts by Han Kang
Literary erotica: The Pisces by Melissa Broder

Drive Your Plow: technically a murder mystery about a woman living in the Polish wilderness whose neighbors keep mysteriously dying, but it’s literary for the attention paid to the slightly offbeat prose style, and the fact that the narrative is less concerned with the murders themselves than their social implications.

Kindred: sci-fi because it’s about time travel, literary because the time travel is just a vehicle used to explore social themes of Civil War era slavery in the US.

Human Acts: about the Gwangju Uprising in 1980 Korea; literary for the prose style and unconventional format.

The Pisces: a woman has sex with a merman — but it’s literary for its highly intelligent commentary on love, loss, loneliness, desire, mental health, and femininity.

8. What genre do you wish was mixed with literary fiction more?

Given how much I adored The Pisces, I could definitely go for some more literary romance/erotica.  But honestly, I read across all genres, so seeing ‘literary’ attached to anything is a big selling point for me.

In an effort to further my booktube/book blog cross-pollination agenda, I will be tagging a bunch of people.  But feel free to skip it, obviously, and feel free to do it if I didn’t tag you!

Tagging:

Callum | Hannah | Sarah | Naty | EmilyLou
Karissa | Elise | Laura Frey | Laura Tisdall

The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2019

Obligatory intro about how I cannot believe the year is halfway over.  Also, you can see my past answers for this tag here: 2017 | 2018

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2019

Hands down, no competition, Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe, one of the most informative and engaging pieces of nonfiction I’ve read in years, which masterfully contextualizes the Troubles and fills in so many gaps that Keefe’s primarily American audience is bound to need filling in.  I can’t recommend this highly enough.  Review here.

The only two other books that I can confidently say will make my top 10 of the year so far are Maus by Art Spiegelman and The Fire Starters by Jan Carson.

Question 2 – Your favorite sequel of the year

I’ve only read one sequel in its entirety – The Killer In Me by Olivia Kiernan.  Thankfully I loved it – I thought it was a lot stronger than its predecessor, and even though I’m not wild about police procedurals most of the time I’m really hooked on this series.  Review here.

I’ve also started two others: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang (I’m about 40% through) and Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb (around page 120) so the jury’s still out on both of these, but I don’t have any complaints about either so far.

Question 3 – A new release that you haven’t read but really want to

All UK releases, but oh well.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes: This is an Iliad retelling that recounts the Trojan War from an all-female perspective: need I say more?

Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson: I believe this is a memoir (essay collection?) about health and the body and feminism, or something like that.  I haven’t heard a single negative thing about it.  This is the only one of these three that I own and I can’t wait to pick it up.

What Red Was by Rosie Price: I mean, I rationally understand that marketing comps aren’t to be taken too seriously, but when a book is pitched as Normal People meets Asking For It… I mean.  I need to read it.

Question 4 – Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea, Valerie by Sara Stridsberg, and The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson will hopefully all be excellent.  More thoughts on why I’m excited for these here.

Question 5 – Your biggest disappointment

When All Is Said by Anne Griffin: I just don’t get this book; I simultaneously don’t get why I didn’t like it more and don’t get the excessive amounts of praise it has received.  Everything about this book seemed like it was going to be right up my alley (Irish! depressing!), so it’s probably my biggest disappointment of the year that I remained so utterly unaffected by it.  Review here.

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden: Is there anything worse than enjoying a book only for it to be utterly undermined and destroyed by a horrifically bad conclusion?  More on that here in one of my rare spoiler-filled reviews.

The Cassandra by Sharma Shields: You know me – I love a Greek myth retelling and I adore Cassandra, but this was ruined by positively absurd characters and awful plotting.  Review here.

Question 6 – Biggest surprise of the year

Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev: This book seems to be very hit or miss for most people due to Shalmiyev’s slightly unconventional style of prose, but I really got on with it and this remains one of the most heart-wrenching memoirs I’ve read.  Review here.

The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino: A very random title by a debut author that I hadn’t heard anything about – I picked it up on a whim and adored it.  Review here.

Cherry by Nico Walker: it is a rare and talented author that could keep me riveted by the story of a young, remorseless man who joins the army and develops a drug addiction.  Review here.

Question 7 – Favourite new to you or debut author

Mathias Énard: It could just be Charlotte Mandell’s exquisite translation, but Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants probably had the most beautiful writing of anything I’ve read all year.  I just adored everything about that book and cannot wait to read more from Énard.

Robin Hobb: When I started Assassin’s Apprentice I fell instantly in love with Robin Hobb’s prose, and despite that book’s overly slow pace, I got the impression that I had found a new favorite fantasy author.  Royal Assassin has so far been confirming that suspicion!

Colin Barrett: Such a brilliant fresh new voice in Irish fiction that I cannot wait to read more from in the future.  Calm With Horses from his collection Young Skins remains one of the best short stories (novellas?) I’ve ever read.

Question 8 – Your new fictional crush

Pass.

Question 9 – New favourite character

Billy from Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is so my type it’s not even funny.

Tom from A Natural by Ross Raisin is a quiet character who made a huge impression.

Fitz from the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb has been a brilliant protagonist whose journey I’m really enjoying following.

Question 10 – A book that made you cry

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Only one – Maus by Art Spiegelman.  I pretty much don’t cry as a general rule, but my god, this book wrecked me.  Thankfully I was house-sitting while reading this and was alone so I could unashamedly weep through the last 100 pages or so.

Question 11 – A book that made you happy

This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps: Though this occasionally touches on heavier subjects, there were so many anecdotes that actually made me laugh out loud.  The story about Busy breaking her leg while moshing to Nirvana at a school dance makes me laugh even thinking about it now.

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: To describe this as a romp would be somewhat dismissive of its thematic depth, but my god did I have fun reading this.

Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett: Bizarre and occasionally unsettling, but very hilarious as well.

Question 12 – Your favourite book to movie adaptation that you’ve seen this year

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I haven’t read this book yet, but I absolutely adored the film The Miseducation of Cameron Post.  I don’t usually get on with films aimed at teenagers (which is fine! I can admit when I’m not the target audience!), but I thought this film navigated its horrifying subject matter with the right amount of warmth and seriousness, and I was really moved by Chloë Grace Moretz’s performance.

Question 13 – Favourite book post you’ve done this year

Read More Women: a post I did for International Women’s Day where I talk about several popular male-authored works and suggest female-authored alternatives.

Also, all of my Women’s Prize coverage:

Women’s Prize Longlist Predictions
Women’s Prize Longlist Reaction
Women’s Prize Shortlist Reaction
Women’s Prize Longlist Reflections
Women’s Prize Shortlist Review & Winner Prediction

Question 14 – The most beautiful book you have bought/received this year

Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias Énard, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, and Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler are all gorgeous.

Question 15 – What are some books you need to read by the end of the year

Everything left on my 2019 Backlist TBR, Five Star Predictions Round 3, and ARCs I need to read #4 posts, among other things.

How’s your reading year been going so far?  Comment and let me know!

Favorite Book Quotes Tag

Rules:
1. Mention the creator of the tag (Celine @Celinelingg).
2. Mention the blogger who tagged you.
3. List down 5 of your favourite book quotes along with the reasons.
4. Spread the love and tag some people to participate and connect! (There’s no limit in number, so have some fun and just tag!).

I was tagged by the lovely Aurora for this.  I’ve actually done a couple of posts about my favorite quotes before – HERE and HERE – but those posts are from over a year ago, so for this tag I decided to focus on quotes from books I read in 2018.  None of these books are going to surprise you if you’ve been around here for a while, but let’s do this anyway!
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1. Medea by Christa Wolf, translated from the German by John Cullen

“It’s possible they sense my unbelief, my lack of faith in anything. It’s possible they can’t bear that. When I ran over the field where the frenzied women had strewn your dismembered limbs, when I ran over that field, wailing in the deepening darkness, and gathered you up, poor, broken brother, piece by piece, bone by bone, that’s when I stopped believing. How could we be meant to come back to this earth in a new form. Why should a dead man’s limbs, scattered over a field, make that field fertile. Why should the gods, who demand from us continual proofs of gratitude and submission, let us die in order to send us back to earth again. Your death opened my eyes wide, Apsyrtus. For the first time I found solace in the fact that I don’t have to live forever. And then I was able to let go of that belief born out of fear; to be more exact, it repelled me.”

Anything I can say about this passage sounds silly and trite in comparison to Wolf and Cullen’s searing prose, but this is just one of those paragraphs that I had to stop and reread and then reread again.  The imagery she evokes of her dead brother’s decimated body is striking (‘Why should a dead man’s limbs, scattered over a field, make that field fertile,’ that’s so good), and the theme of questioning faith is something that never fails to engage me.

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2. Tin Man by Sarah Winman

And I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.

This is one of those quotes that I don’t think sounds spectacular out of context (not that it sounds bad, necessarily, I’m just not one for grand statements about love and heartbreak), but paired with another line that comes later in the book, this absolutely broke me.

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3. Sight by Jessie Greengrass

“I want only what I think we all must want: to come off as better than I ought, more generous, more sure–kinder than I know myself to be; but I want also to be known, to be counted and to be excused. I can’t have both.”

This line gets right to the heart of something that I think so many women struggle with, or at least I do, certainly.  The tension between person and persona, between the true self and projected self, is something I find fascinating and while I didn’t love Sight from start to finish, this is one element of that novel that really resonated with me.

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4. The Idiot by Elif Batuman

“Even though I had a deep conviction that I was good at writing, and that in some way I already was a writer, this conviction was completely independent of my having ever written anything, or being able to imagine ever writing anything, that I thought anyone would like to read.”

I’ve mentioned this line a couple of times on my blog and I’m not sure what else to say about it other than that it makes me feel seen (which in this case feels more accusatory than validating if I’m being completely honest).  I felt such a strong connection to this character, and to her relationship with writing in particular, how she felt she perceived the world as a writer did, how she knew she had some kind of innate talent for writing, but mostly kept that inside her.  I bet if I ever write a book in my lifetime it will be something like The Idiot and I apologize in advance to everyone who will be thoroughly bored by it.

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5. In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

So here it all is, this London. A place that you can love, make rhymes out of pyres and a romance of the colours, talk gladly of the changes and the flux and the rise and the fall without feeling its storm rain on your skin and its bone-scarring winds, a city that won’t love you back unless you become insoluble to the fury, the madness of bound and unbound peoples and the immovables of the place.

The rhythm of Gunaratne’s prose in this novel is almost visceral to read, it’s the kind of writing you want to read out loud over and over to make sure you’re fully grasping the nuance of it.  I just think his imagery is wonderful (‘rhymes out of pyres,’ how brilliant) and this passage captures the frenetic energy of this novel so well.

And, bonus, from one of my first 2019 reads:

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6. Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev

When you’re fished out, you will go to your proper place in a museum to be admired by me only. I will polish your bronze name plaque, and I will be writing the small paragraph, printed on heavy card stock in a tastefully solemn font, about you as a priceless relic, a found shard, degraded, a puzzling piece of history. A head lost, bust found somewhere, a battered woman with blank eyes, erected by those who had infinite worship in their hearts.

This is from an ARC so I’m going to have to check this against the finished copy, but still, I found this passage (regarding a dream where Shalmiyev imagines her mother as a statue submerged underwater) so arresting, and such a vivid description of something that plagues Shalmiyev throughout her memoir – the unresolved love she has for her absent mother that her other family shames her for.

Tagging: Hannah | Callum | Hadeer | Patrick | Emily | anyone who wants to do this

Last 10 Books Tag

I saw this tag on Callum‘s blog and it looked like fun, so here we go!

1. What was the last book you DNF?

I have an ‘accidental DNF’ shelf that has 5 books on it, all of which I attempted to read during the summer of 2012, none of which I finished because fuck the summer of 2012.  I was working two jobs 6-7 days a week, about to move to Europe for a year which was stressing me out because I’d never even been abroad except for Canada, my cat died, I was on a way too high dosage of a medication because my college psychiatrist was an idiot which caused me to feel like a zombie 24/7, I got in an accident which totaled my car, and a male coworker decided to become obsessed with me and I just had no idea how to deal with that.  And sorry for oversharing, but I do want to impress upon you just how extreme my life conditions need to be in order to get me to DNF a book.

Anyway, the books themselves: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (I got about halfway), The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (about 1/3), Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (a little over halfway), Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (maybe 20 pages), and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (about 100 pages).  I will revisit these all one day.

2. Last book you reread?

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Macbeth by Shakespeare which I think I’ve read around four times.  I reread it most recently because I was going to see Sleep No More for the second time (which, if you’re in New York and you like immersive theatre, is a must-see), and I wanted a quick refresher.

3. Last book you bought?

I ordered four of the short stories that Faber released for their 90th anniversary: Mr Salary by Sally Rooney, Come Rain or Come Shine by Kazuo Ishiguro, Paradise by Edna O’Brien, and Daughters of Passion by Julia O’Faolain.  The Edna O’Brien has arrived and I am eagerly awaiting the others!

4. Last book you said you read but didn’t?

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I vaguely recall back in high school claiming to have read Pride and Prejudice which I attempted to read when I was 13, but I only got a few chapters in.

5. Last book you wrote in the margins of?

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I think I’ve talked before about my incredibly stupid reason for not annotating my books: because my mom borrows a lot of them and she hates annotations which makes me self-conscious about it.  But, I did take part in Kaleena’s Traveling Book Review for Cat’s Cradle which necessitated writing in the margins, and it was quite a lot of fun.

6. Last book you got signed?

A little over a year ago I saw my queen Caroline Alexander give a talk about translating the Iliad, and she signed The War that Killed Achilles and my copy of her Iliad translation.

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Also, my dear friend Patrick borrowed my copy of A Little Life a while back and after he finished reading it asked if he could keep my copy and buy me a new one, which I didn’t think anything of, only to have a SIGNED COPY arrive in the mail, which is pretty damn cool.  Also, how ridiculous is Hanya’s signature?!  Ugh, I love her.

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7. Last book you lost?

Nothing comes to mind!

8. Last book you had to replace?

I guess I didn’t have to replace it, but I owned the trashy 80s romance cover of The Secret History, which I eventually gave away to a friend after I bought the more standard one.

9. Last book you had an argument over?

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I am all about having respectful disagreements and constructive discussions about books, so I do not use the word ‘argument’ lightly here, but I do think #antigonegate qualifies.  My favorite part of this was that the person arguing with me over Home Fire hadn’t even read the book.

10. Last book you couldn’t get a hold of?

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Speaking of Antigone, one thing I usually keep an eye out for in bookstores is Jean Anouilh’s adaptation, with no luck so far.

Tagging whoever wants to do this!

Book Postscript 2018 Tag

One last 2018 wrap up post!  This tag was created by Adam @ Memento Mori on booktube – I’m not sure if anyone else in the blogging world has adapted it but I thought it sounded like a really fantastic way to highlight some of those books that tend to fall through the cracks at this best and worst list time of year.

1. The longest book you read this year and the book that took you the longest to finish.

According to Goodreads the longest book I read (and I am so embarrassed by this since the page count isn’t even that crazy) is Emily Wilson’s translation of the Odyssey, coming in at 582 pages.  That obviously includes the intro, etc, but I did read this cover to cover.

The book that took me the longest to finish was probably Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, which I apparently started on June 30 and finished on October 30.  As I explained in my review I was really enjoying this and then I just fell into a period where I wasn’t in the mood to read it at all, but once I got back into it I started loving it again.

375335872. A book you read in 2018 that was outside of your comfort zone.

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso: the only graphic novel I’d ever read before wasn’t even a graphic novel, it was a graphic memoir, and that was Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, so this was a pretty big change from my usual fare.  I enjoyed this, it didn’t change my life or anything and I’m not convinced it earned its spot on the Man Booker longlist, but I’d definitely be interested in reading more graphic novels going forward.

3. How many books did you re-read in 2018?

Only 4 – The Odyssey, Antigone, and the Bakkhai, translated by Emily Wilson, Robert Bagg, and Anne Carson respectively, as well as Macbeth by Shakespeare.  Almost worryingly on-brand.

4. Favorite re-read of 2018.

All 4 for different reasons.  The Odyssey because I think Emily Wilson is superb and one part of her translator’s note (below) nearly made me cry; Antigone because I was rereading it after finishing Home Fire and pairing them together really enriched both texts (and because I was coming off a really fucking stupid argument about how I apparently do not understand Antigone in the slightest, which I just found amusing); the Bakkhai because I am worshipful of what Anne Carson can do with words; and Macbeth because I reread it in preparation for seeing Sleep No More the second time which I got so much more out of with the text fresh in my mind.

It is traditional in statements like this Translator’s Note to bewail’s one’s own inadequacy when trying to be faithful to the original. Like many contemporary translation theorists, I believe that we need to rethink the terms in which we talk about translation. My translation is, like all translations, an entirely different text from the original poem. Translation always, necessarily, involves interpretation; there is no such thing as a translation that provides anything like a transparent window through which a reader can see the original. The gendered metaphor of the “faithful” translation, whose worth is always secondary to that of a male-authored original, acquires a particular edge in the context of a translation by a woman of The Odyssey, a poem that is deeply invested in female fidelity and male dominance.” – Emily Wilson

5. A book you read for the first time in 2018 that you look forward to re-reading in the future.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder, Milkman by Anna Burns, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Also, I anticipate reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley at least two more times (and I have already read it twice).  First because I used one of my audible credits long ago to get the audiobook since it’s narrated by Dan Stevens and I enjoy his voice immensely.  And second because I want to read the original 1818 text at some point.

6. Favorite single short story or novella that you read in 2018.

I love this question.  I’m torn between these two:

The Universal Story from The Whole Story and Other Stories by Ali Smith: A man buys a secondhand copy of The Great Gatsby in a used bookshop.  The narrative switches focus about a hundred times in a couple of pages and it’s just spectacular.  I don’t know how to explain this.  Just read it.

Hell Screen by Akutagawa Ryunosuke, from The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories edited by Jay Rubin: A talented painter is commissioned to create a folding screen that depicts Buddhist hell.  As he’s unable to paint an image that he hasn’t seen firsthand, he inflicts torture on his apprentices.

And, if it counts as a novella (what’s the qualification for being a novella as opposed to a short novel anyway, does anyone know?  Please tell me):

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss: A teenage girl and her parents accompany an anthropology course on an excursion to Northumberland, where they live for a few weeks as Iron Age Britons once did.  This book is subtle and harrowing all at once.

326203327. Mass Appeal: A book you liked and would recommend to a wide variety of readers.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  I have seen a couple of negative reviews of this, but for the most part I’d say it’s near-universally adored, and for good reason.  You’re going to want to put your skepticism aside and just give this one a try, because it actually does live up to the hype.  The characters are wonderfully vivid and the story itself is immersive and heartbreaking and just lovely.  I read this in two days and I couldn’t put it down.

8. Specialized Appeal: A book you liked but would be hesitant to recommend to just anyone.

I’m going to go with two different retellings of Euripides’ Medea:

Medea by Christa Wolf: It’s not that I think you wouldn’t find this book enjoyable if you don’t have a working knowledge of/obsession with the Medea myth, because I do think it’s exquisitely written regardless, but the real joy for me in reading this was seeing Wolf’s unique subversion of the familiar story, so I would hesitate to recommend this to anyone not already interested in Greek mythology, as opposed to something like Circe which holds a much wider commercial appeal.

By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr.  This is one of the best plays I have ever read, but I think you would need to share my morbid fascination with all things tragic and macabre to appreciate this downer.

9. Reflect on your year as a bookish content creator (goals met, good/bad memories, favorite videos blog posts you made, etc).

This was a perfectly steady year for my blog – I didn’t make many changes, but I did continue to post regularly and I’m very happy with that.  I also decided this year that rather than following Top 5 Wednesday etc. I have more fun when I’m inspired to create my own book lists for no particular reason.

One such list that I’m proud of is my Adult Books About Young Adults post which I wrote in the hopes of lessening the misconception that all adult literature is about 40 year old straight white men.

I’m also proud of finishing the Man Booker longlist in time for the winner announcement, as it was the first time I’ve ever read a literary prize longlist in its entirety: in case you missed that you can read my longlist reaction, shortlist reaction, longlist recap/winner prediction, and reaction to the winner announcement.  I’m still pleased with myself for predicting the winner correctly.

I didn’t quite manage the Women’s Prize longlist, but I came close – you can see my shortlist reaction, shortlist review/winner prediction (I did not guess correctly), and reaction to the winner.

I do quite love these two literary prizes and I had a lot of fun with both this year.

10. Tag some fellow bookish content creators.

Aurora | Marija | Hannah  | Hannah| Emily | Sarah | Ren (I’m not sure if you do tags?)

Definitely feel free to skip it etc.  And tagging anyone else who wants to do this!