Books Read: June 2022
I made an amazing discovery this month; a lot of the books that have long waits for digital loans are sitting on the shelf within my library system and available for checkout immediately. Even better? Many of them were on the shelf at my local branch! For the first time in a long time I read only paper versions of books this month and I reall enjoyed it. I also read a lot this month, I’ve been in retreat mode and so I’ve shut out most of the online life and read books, worked with yarn and fabric, and gardened. It’s been good for my soul in the midst of all that’s going on.
Based on the legends of Arthur and his companions, Nicola Griffith tells the tale of a girl with no name who sees that she can be more, that she has a story, and she leaves her mother to seek it out. It’s about love, jousting, honor, and what can be when you trust yourself. The writing is amazing in this short, fast moving story.
Empire of Pain
The subtitle of this book, The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, sums up very well what the book is about. It isn’t about Purdue Pharma, per say, or the opiod crisis, but rather the family behind the company that made the drug that triggered the crisis. It’s at once hugely enraging but also fascinating; I read it so quickly because of that fascination and because Patrick Radden Keefe is a great writer. The start of the story is so much earlier than the 1990s and OxyContin, as it begins with three brothers, one of whom pioneers how to market and sell drugs. It’s very much a tale of how people with money can get away with the worst evils.
The Code of the Woosters
I’d never read P.G. Wodehouse, but felt like the timing was right for something funny and utterly ridiculous and that is exactly what I got in this book. We follow Bertie Wooster and his ever faithful man Jeeves as they try to help Bertie’s aunt, two good friends, and avoid upsetting a friend’s father. It’s a story of missed moments, bad communication, and comedy and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Ray Carney is trying to live a good life in Harlem. He’s married with one child and another on the way, but circumstances keep pulling him into living a bit of a double life, with his upstanding furniture store business and his side hustle fencing stolen items. Colson Whitehead is great at creating characters and places that suck you in and his latest is no different. We see Carney in three different vignettes as his life changes and he grows older, but we also see Harlem and New York City through his eyes in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Highly recommend this one.
Following his two targets back-to-back, the banker and the peddler, Pepper had to say they were in the same business. There were the obvious junkies in Harlem, swaying, grooving to some inner refrain, and then there were citizens you’d never know were on junk. Normal people with straight jobs who strolled up to Dixon’s men, copped, then split to their warrens. Then there was Duke. Every day Duke hustled, doing his own handoffs in restaurants and club rooms, pushing that inside dope: influence, information, power. You couldn’t tell who was using what these days, their drug of choise, but half the city was on something if you had your eyes open. (p 182)
The boys’ constellation knowledge stalled after the Dippers and the Belt, but you didn’t have to know what something was called to know how it made you feel, and looking at the stars didn’t make Carney feel small or insignificant, the stars made him feel recognized. They had their place and he had his. We all have our station in life—people, stars, cities—and even if no one looked after Carney and no one suspected him capable of much at all, he was going to make himself into something. (p 311)
This isn’t a great book, but it hit me in the right way since it uses knitting to tell the story. Mary’s daughter died suddenly and she’s frozen by her grief, after a lot of badgering from her mother, she goes to a shop to learn how to knit. She joins a weekly knitting circle and as she learns to knit we learn the stories of the women in the circle. It was, in many ways, hard to read, but also I ripped through it, wanting to know if Mary would get through it, would her marriage survive, would she continue to knit?
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law
Mary Roach is a funny writer and takes the idea of human and nature coming together and talks about it in all kinds of scenarios. Bears eating our garbage, rats running around our cities, birds and how they can spoil the Easter service in Vatican City, and much more. I loved this book and if you read don’t skip the footnotes as they are equally as funny. It’s a fun read, and easy to pick up and put down as the chapters are somewhat self contained.
My Life in Middlemarch
Is this a memoir? Is it more about a book and its author? I’m not exactly sure even after reading this one how to categorize it, but I enjoyed it. Rebecca Mead talks about the life of George Eliot as well as how Middlemarch has been a constant companion in her own life. But I found the parts about Eliot the most fascinating, what a life in a time when it wasn’t easy to live life in a way that wasn’t the norm.
The Secret Adversary
The first book in the series featuring Tommy and Tuppence and I loved it! So great to see how they came together to unravel mysteries, and Christie writes so well about the married couple. In a quest to make money, the broke pair who are only friends at this point, decided to advertise their services to help people solve problems and from there they’re sucked into a mystery that is at once incredibly strange, but also really well done. I’ll be reading more of this series for sure.