September Reading

I, Claudius Robot Jessica, have an off-again-on-again tradition of not posting anything to this blog for most of the year, feeling guilty, making one post before Dewey’s Biannual Brilliant and Amazing and So, So Fun 24-Hour Readathon, and then neglecting it again. Well, we’re on again!

Here’s what I read in September. I read more than normal because I had too many books due at the library (with renewals maxed out already) and two books that I got ARCs of from Goodreads that I thought I should read and review before they came out. Anyway:

Medea! This is an ancient Greek play about a woman who is so angry at her husband that she needs some serious revenge. Give this to a guy who thinks women are irrationally angry all the time and see if he can spot why Medea is so angry cause, from where I’m sitting, she has Good Reasons. It’s pretty amazing to read something that is literally thousands of years old but still so nuanced and, sometimes, quite modern-feeling. For how short it is, Euripedes has your sympathies shifting over and over. Read this after Gone Girl.

My strongest impression upon finishing: Wow, that was really short.

The Walking Dead: Compendium One collects volumes 1-8 of the comic. One of the most popular zombie, post-apocalyptic stories out there, largely thanks to the TV show. While I’m not the biggest fan of the show, I liked it a lot better than the comic, unfortunately. I think the pacing in the show is much better – the first volume in particular moves way too quickly – but I also think the show is more nuanced, or at least believable, in its characters (which are the same as the comic, but you know, not quite the same). The comic has a troubling tendency to have people go “crazy” without seeming to understand what that would actually look like. I also wasn’t a fan of the art. I doubt I will continue on with the series.

You’ve probably heard of Station Eleven. It’s been one of the buzziest books around since last year. Like the Walking Dead, this is post- (and pre- and during) apocalypse, but there are no zombies and I liked it a whole lot better. Still, I’m glad I waited until the buzz wasn’t quite so loud because this wasn’t quite what I wanted. It’s a lovely book and totally worth reading, but post-apocalypse is a setting I really like and have yet to find my perfect story. This one rates near the top, though, and I think you should read it if it sounds at all up your alley. My IRL book club just picked this for November – what good timing!

Goodreads book #1! Count me as one of the ones who liked Gilbert’s smash hit Eat, Pray Love. I found her honest and vulnerable and incredibly privileged. I loved her TED talk(s?) on creativity and creative genius even more, so I was excited to dig into Big Magic which builds on that TED talk. Largely, I quite enjoyed it. As someone who struggles to produce things – creative or otherwise – I was pretty inspired just by reading someone else’s thoughts and engaging with someone else’s ideas, both when they matched my own and when they didn’t. Here’s a link to my Goodreads review if you want to know what I thought in (much) more detail.

On the same day I finished Big Magic, I also finished Things Fall Apart. This is a classic novel that I never read in high school, about Nigeria and colonization. It was less about colonization than I thought it would be – only in the last third does even a missionary (often the first step in colonization) show up. I don’t know what to say about this book. The protagonist is difficult to sympathize with until the colonizers come, from a modern perspective. Neither the traditional protagonist nor the colonizers are idealized, which is clearly Achebe’s purpose, but idk. It left me with some neutral feelings. I left my star rating blank on Goodreads – not because I hated it, but because what I feel about it doesn’t translate into a rating, if that makes any sense.  Things Fall Apart is definitely a classic for a reason, and if you’ve never read it, go on and pick it up! A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid would be an interesting companion.

Goodreads book #2! Applegate is the author of the Animorphs series, which I totally loved SO MUCH as a kid. I was very excited to read this – look at that giant cat on the cover! Unfortunately, that giant cat is imaginary and even more unfortunately, he isn’t in the book all that much? I liked the book well-enough outside of that, with themes like being poor, struggling with housing, and parents who make mistakes, but I’m not sure how much Crenshaw added, outside of one scene that made me tear up. (Crenshaw tells his boy that imaginary friends all hang out in a lounge together when their humans don’t need them and then he tells him about his dad’s imaginary friend! Ahhh, so sweet.) Here’s a happy ending, though: I put my ARC into the Little Free Library on my block, which has a lot of kids, and last I looked, it’s been picked up! My main takeaway: I might need to revisit the Animorphs sooner rather than later. A friend has sent me the first three books. Oh, yes. I’m feelin’ it.

And lastly, The Cuckoo’s Calling by You-Know-Who (hahaha, Harry Potter jokes, am I right?). JKR’s second adult novel, but first mystery, first in a series, first pen name. I like mysteries and I love Harry Potter so I was going to pick this up eventually. I have thoughts and feelings about this, but I’m struggling a little bit to find my words. I’m not sure about her use of dialect, and some of the descriptions of people put me off in their harshness. This book isn’t in tight third person perspective, so it felt a little to me like the author rather than the character being harsh, which put me off even more. That said, I really did like it, especially our two detectives: Cormoran Strike (what a JKR name, right?!) who is rough-around-the-edges and experienced, and Robin, his temp secretary who harbors secret, long-held fantasies of detection which, combined with her intense competence, make her super useful.  Yup, I’ll be seeing those two again in a few months, I’m sure of it!

And that’s it! My September reading. I also read a selection of Philip K. Dick’s short stories for my RL book club but I’ve been getting ranty whenever I talk about those, so I thought I’d leave it for another post (maybe). I’d like to promise more regular posts in the future, whether they are reviews or wrap-ups like this, but I don’t want to make a promise I don’t know if I’ll keep, so I’ll just say: guten nacht, and see you in a few days for the ‘thon!


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