It’s time for a review of my June reading. All of my selections have been dictated by the Seattle Public Library’s summer reading BINGO card. I’m now deep in the throes of competitive reading with strangers from around the city in hopes of being the lucky winner of a stack of new books. Check out the scorecard and play along. Here’s what I read in June:
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Category: checked out from the library
A quietly sad and well-written novel about what can happen when we choose appearances over authenticity. I was surprised to find that this was categorized as adult lit rather than YA. That made me less forgiving of the heavy-handed role of racial prejudice and certain unlikeable characters. But, I’m a sucker for first novels and a lover of dysfunctional family stories so this book was mostly a win for me.
The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
Category: from an independent bookstore
This was my book club’s pick for the month. My lukewarm recommendation of this book is more likely the result of my own cheapness and the fact that the book is only available in hardback than an accurate reflection of the quality of the novel. I mostly enjoyed this road not taken story—bouncing back and forth between two plausible life paths—but found the narrator’s over-enlightened modern perspective on autism jarring in this story set in the 60s. While the journey was quick and fun, the destination was disappointing.
The Dinner by Herman Koch
Category: translated from another language
This book takes place during a single dinner, with key plot points revealed like timed courses. The characters are erratic and unlikable. The plot is farfetched. The suspense is overdone. And yet, I liked the book as a whole. It was the literary version of a still life: Very few people keep a well-stocked fruit bowl with one stray pear artfully placed on a counter nearby, but it’s still impressive when an artist captures the colors and texture of a pear just right. If for no other reason, this book is work reading to appreciate Koch’s fabulous caricature of an upscale restaurant.
Category: collection of short stories
Choosing to read this anthology was a bit self-serving, but I enjoyed the range of essays from my fellow writers. It’s the first book with a spine that includes my byline. So, yeah … I liked it. A lot.
The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
This book is written at a gentle pace that matches the unfolding lives of the characters. Chevalier captures scenes in painstaking detail and allows the reader to be completely immersed in a world where subtleties—an open mouth, a wisp of hair, a concealed grease spot—mark significant shifts in power and intention.
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki
Category: graphic novel
I get what this book is doing. I like realistic, subtle portrayals of depression and dysfunction as much as the next girl. It turns out, I just like those portrayals in writing. I’ll take 1,000 words over a picture any day. I suspect that for those better able to appreciate graphic novels, this will be a hit.
A Boy’s Will by Robert Frost
Category: collection of poetry
I have long loved The Road Not Taken and, mistakenly, believed that I would love all of Robert Frost’s poetry. A Prayer in Spring and Revelation were two of my favorites in this collection from 1913, but I found the poems uneven. Though, to be fair, this is an early collection of Frost’s writing. I suspect that most famous poets—as well as anyone who dabbled in angst-ridden rhymes in their youth—cringe a bit at their early works.
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Category: recommended by a friend
A solid recommended from my friend Brooke. This book is a series of letters between Helene Hanff (a New York writer) and Frank Doel (a London bookseller). While the letters start off as little more than an old-fashioned Amazon.com transaction—Please send me X edition of Y: I’ve enclosed some cash but don’t know how to convert dollars to pounds, so do the math and let me know if I need to send more—they become exchanges between friends brought together through a love of literature. This collection of correspondence is curated into a tiny, charming, and thoroughly enjoyable book.
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Category: you finished reading in a day
This stunning story, told in alternating narratives, completely captivated me and was my favorite read of the month. I was sad to see it end, but lacked the restraint to make it last longer. I admired the vividness and authenticity of the relationships as well as Nelson’s writing style and her tidy-in-the-best-way plot.