Wednesday, March 7, 2012
(still from here, from this video)
It's been a while since my last book recommendation post, but I hope my tardiness has at least produced an airtight list of recommended reads. You can find my suggestions and a link to a longer reading list after the jump.
The City & The City (China Miéville)--Easily my favorite book of the last few months, The City & The City is set in two fictional neighboring eastern European cities whose contentious political rivalry has forced the cities to remain completely separate, with a mysterious and frightening border control system to police the borderlines. It's a mystery novel and it hits the ground running with a very strange murder that occurs between the two cities, forcing the two governments to communicate in order to understand the murder. Typically, I don't care for the jerky pacing of mystery novels, but this one belies its genre: it is subtle, beautifully-written, and its political commentary is complex. I literally couldn't put it down.
Waiting for Sunrise (William Boyd)--This is out in the UK but comes to American bookstores in April. I was hooked from the start, where the protagonist is an early psychoanalysis patient with a colleague of Freud's in Vienna. The plot is fast-paced (sometimes a bit tricky to follow) but the inclusion of history, psychology, salacious love affairs, botched spy missions, and some strange narrative strategies made this a winner in my book. It reminded me of a more sensational version the The Untouchable, one of my all-time favorite novels.
Mrs. Woolf and the Servants (Alison Light)--I actually read this last year for my comp exams, but I've been re-reading it for one of my chapters and loving it. The academic in me can't recommend this without the cliched academic "some-of-this-is-pretty-problematic" caveat--Light is purportedly restoring the marginal narratives of Woolf's household employees, but she writes their stories primarily through the lens of Woolf or in relation to Woolf. Part of this disjunction stems from the difficulty of finding a lot of accurate historical sources on the servants outside of Woolf's letters and diaries. But since I am more interested in Woolf and her experience in the house than the servants, this wasn't an enormous drawback for my reading experience. To get to the point: this is a great read for history buffs, or people who enjoy a well-drawn biography. Light's portraits of the servants and their lives are peppered with great factoids, her writing is accessible and light on its feet, and the book has a great narrative, so it's a pleasure to read even while you're absorbing an enormous amount of history.
Last time, a few people asked if I had a Pinterest board for what I've been reading, so I made one! If you're interested, you can find it here. I update it every so often with books I'm starting or finishing, and the comments can be fabulous--it's like crowd-sourcing opinions on your next read. It includes other books I liked but didn't lurve (for example, MWF Seeks BFF, a really fun memoir/pop-sociological study on female friendship; or The Lonely Polygamist, which fascinated me because it was about polygamists but failed the Bechdel test despite the abundance of female characters).
Read anything great lately? Do you have a pinterest reading board, too? Please leave your suggestions/opinions/recommendations/counterpoints below!
Labels: book recommendations