Recent reads: End of summer
It’s been a while since I wrote about reading and books and such. I slowed down a bit with the reading in July when we had some really nice weather, but as the weather got unbearably hot and then the smoke moved in, I started reading with a vengeance to since I couldn’t be outside as much. But fall is coming, who knows where the books will take me, but, as always, my list of what I want to read is very long.
Having and Being Had
I’m not sure exactly how to talk about this book of mini essays, but I can say definitively that I loved it. Eula Biss uses the purchase of her first home to reflect on a wide variety of topics, especially capitalism and how our wealth is acquired or not. She’s in a connundrum I often feel, the capitalist system is awful and yet it is what we live in. Biss often laments how she wants time to write, she wants to retire some day and in order to do these things she’s investing and saving and participating in a system that is not the best, to put it mildly. I highly recommend this one, the writing is fantastic and Biss explores ideas from a different angle than I would’ve thought of and it made me think deeply—good fodder for my daily walks.
Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks
I’ve found Patrick Radden Keefe’s writing to be completely engaging, reading two of his previous books, so when I saw this collection of his New Yorker articles, I couldn’t resist. His articles span topics ranging from the fraud in the wine market to a Swiss banker whistleblower to a really lovely profile of Anthony Bourdain. I always wonder where Keefe gets his ideas, because some of these stories are things I’ve never heard of but I found them fascinating.
I didn’t love this book but I’ll give it credit for having a twist at the very end that I totally didn’t see coming. Ann Stilwell graduates college and is hoping to get out of her home town and secures a summer position with The Met in New York City. Unexpectedly they don’t need her at The Met and she ends up at The Cloisters instead. She works with a woman and the curator on the history of tarot cards and, well, I won’t say much more, but you start to wonder about what’s really going on there. I didn’t love these characters so it was hard to love the book, but I finished it because I was curious about the end and the twist made that worth it for me.
Coq au Vin
The second book in the Nanette Hayes mystery series, which was as delightful as the first. These are short books, filled with action and quick reads, rather hard to put down. Hayes finds herself in Paris trying to find her aunt to help her but, of course, ends up in the midst of something she doesn’t completely understand and a mystery that is from her aunt’s youth.
The first book in Mick Herron’s spy series doesn’t disappoint. I heard about the series due to the show on Apple+, but wanted to read it before watching anything and I’m really glad I did. A quick moving spy thriller, involving spies who are considered sub par, was funny and entertaining. I recommend the book if you haven’t watched the show yet, based on the trailer for the show which I watched after finished the book leads me to believe they were quite faithful to the book. I’ll be continuing on with the books.
The Water Knife
It’s the near future and Las Vegas, California, and Arizona are all fighting over the Colorado River and water rights. But in this book, the near future feels like now, especially given the negotiations over water that were done this year and the way in which Phoenix is finally admitting they can’t build forever and supply people with water. The powerful head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority sends her agent, Angel, to Phoenix to find out what’s going on. Angel meets a journalist covering the horror of living in Phoenix and the stories of the refugees from Texas, everyone looking for ways into Nevada and California as states have shut down their borders. It’s a difficult story to read and I had to stop reading it before bed as it was too much for my brain to handle right before sleep, but it’s compelling and I had to finish it.
They have no idea what they’re doing. These are the people who are supposed to be pulling all the strings, and they’re making it up as they go along. (p 344)
Jane Harper is back with the final Aaron Falk mystery of the triology and it wasn’t a bad mystery, but it does feel like the formula has been played out a bit. As is normal in these books there are secrets that not everyone knows and as Falk works to solve the current disappearance he’s also sucked into a mystery from years earlier. I finished it, but it wasn’t the best of her books that I’ve read.
A slim volume that I read in one sitting, soaking up the wonderful writing of Claire Keegan. The story is lovely and quick and full of emotion and of course, Irish family dynamics. It’s a quieter story than Small Things Like These and doesn’t pack quite the same emotional punch, but I enjoyed it just as much.
Emmanuel Carrère sets out to write a book about yoga along with his experience doing a ten day silent retreat. Unfortunately, life has other plans and instead he writes a memoir about how his life unravels unexpectedly and so much of what he intended to write about; how he had it all together, doesn’t work. But the book is better for it as Carrère devles into his life and where it’s at and what’s going on. It wasn’t always an easy read, but I’m glad I read it.
A Dangerous Business
Jane Smiley writes a mystery that takes place in Monterey in 1851 and we meet Eliza, a woman who works at a brothel after her husband is shot shortly after they arrive in California. Eliza is a curious type and loves to read when she can get her hands on books, she’s also upset when women start being killed. She and a friend decide to investigate just like Poe’s detective stories they’ve read. A fun read and the mystery was well done.
“Between you and me, being a woman is a dangerous business, and don’t you let anyone tell you otherwise.” – Mrs Parks
Midnight In Chernobyl
If you’ve watched the HBO series, Chernobyl, then you know this isn’t an easy story to watch but this book, while a hard read, is so well written. The first third of the book is especially difficult, but it’s fascinating. G’s been after me to read it ever since he did and I finally did and have to admit, it was hard to put down.
In essence Chernobyl is the story of a very large bureaucracy that is completely unable to function with any level of competence. The culture of those in power in the USSR by the mid 1980s is one of power grabs and ass covering and, unfortunately, many thousands of people paid the price when the reactor melted down. Adam Higginbotham does what the best nonfiction writers do, he pickes real people and we follow their stories throughout the crisis and in the years after. There are a lot of moments when you almost can’t believe what you’re reading and the lack of competence on the part of the government. Highly recommend this one.