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I was afraid of this book, but I loved it.
It was fat and literary and difficult and daunting. But I finished it and now I'm eying all of its friends in the #tbr pile because I want more.
I know. You want to know what book I’m talking about. I’ll get there, but first:
I think of myself as a pretty light —but decently educated or something like that—reader. Like, I can handle Jane Austen, but you can keep Nathaniel Hawthorne. Trollope yes, Melville no. So when it comes to current literary fiction I’m never quite sure what I’ll like.
I’m not even always sure what qualifies as “literary”. I thought Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow was “literary”, but apparently it’s “commercial”. I thought Ninth House was “commercial”—actually I thought it was fantasy—but nope, that’s “literary”. (I would really like someone to explain that to me.)
So let’s put it more this way: I tend to go for the approachable read. If the topic looks hard or the setting looks confusing, if I am afraid that reading it will make me feel sad or guilty or stressed, or maybe it just looks like a whole lot more about nuns in the Middle Ages than I am here for (confession: I bought Matrix under duress, because I knew better, and then gave it away after 3 pages)—I’m a hard sell at best.
But a juicy rom-com about the stars of a popular TV show, secretly in love as teens and now reunited for the reboot? Sign me up.
Which is why it came as such a surprise to me when I put Kayla Olson’s The Reunion down after a couple of chapters and started wandering through the house in search of something… else?
Note—I expect to love The Reunion. It’s fun and spot on and I was absolutely liking it, although I haven’t gone back to it yet. It just wasn’t what I was in the mood for. Turns out, sometimes I want to eat tacos—as in, fun and easy but with some substance—and sometimes I need more depth and complication. Something that wants a whole lot of time to simmer, or maybe demands a trip to H Mart or an overnight marinade.
Maybe I od’d on the holiday rom-coms I was binging when I last wrote. Maybe it’s a season of long nights and big feels and I need books that are giving that same energy—although usually I’d reach for the opposite.
Maybe I’m feeling unusually mentally strong and agile and emotionally healthy. But for whatever reason, what I wanted was a long, in-depth, glorious multi-POV family saga of the Caribbean diaspora, and I found it in Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson—which also has Where the Crawdads Sing vibes in a good way, but if you didn’t like Crawdads, don’t skip this because of it. It’s just that there’s an ongoing mystery about a past death. I loved this—and bonus, it’s just out in paperback. If you read it, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
What am I reading now? As usual, it’s a whole list.
FICTION: Babel—because Anne Bogel (What Should I Read Next/The Modern Mrs. Darcy) had it on her list of absolute favorites from 2022—and I wouldn’t usually have put that in her wheelhouse, and Jeff at the Bookriot Podcast also loved it. New motto: I usually like what people I like like. The Reunion by Kayla Olson, as previously mentioned. Passing, by Nella Larsen—a Penguin classic from 1929, and an excellent one.
Also, Attention Span by Gloria Mark, (because Cal Newport recommended it on HIS podcast) and Seven Games by Oliver Roeder (because I was researching a book idea). The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman of Four Thousand Weeks:: Time Management for Mortals, which I loved. The TK counts, since I’ve started it and intend to finish it. I’m in the middle of Susan Cain’s Bittersweet and have been for oh, about six months—but I’ll finish that too so it counts. Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami is still open but… if I’m honest… I don’t know if I’ll make it. I honestly can’t tell if it’s a cultural and language barrier—or if the guy’s kind of an asshole.
Thoughts? Recs? I’ll take them!
How many books do you usually have going at once?
Hey—I’m KJ, book addict and rabid recommender of same. I write this so the humans around me can live with me. The animals are cool with it and always agree to read whatever I suggest, but they never do.
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