In My Stacks, March 2017

February was a relatively light reading month for me, so there are some nearly-done books in the stack at the beginning of this month, along with new additions.

March 2017 In My StacksNaomi Novik’s Black Powder War, N.K. Jemisin’s The Kingdom of the Gods, Baratunde Thurston’s How to be Black and the Margaret Millar omnibus have been keeping company with me for at least five weeks. Serious lingerers: I’m not alone in this, am I?

Novik and Thurston are rereads, and included for very particular reading moods, the former for humour and adventure (i.e. the political situation is weighing heavily) and the latter for a more alert version of the same mood.

Jemisin and Millar are demanding each in their own way, the former for its complexity and the latter for its size (the omnibus containing five complete novels). I’m not surprised they have lingered, but I expect I’ll finish reading them before the middle of March.

Comparatively, Héctor Tobar’s Deep Down Dark was only on a stack for a couple of weeks, but I have been reading it in short segments. Even though the story is very compelling (33 miners caught beneath the surface of the San José Mine in Chile in 2010), it’s also very emotional. Vascillating between hope and despair doesn’t feel far from real life these days (although I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve experienced anything like the particular kind of horror these men and their loved ones faced).

This year I’m aiming to read more non-fiction, and given it comprised only 10% of my reading last year, it wouldn’t be too hard to increase, but this reading experience – so gripping and engaging, qualities I associate more readily with fiction – is certainly encouraging.

Wayson Choy’s Not Yet, which chronicles his experiences recovering from a significant heart/respiratory attack, was also a story of survival (as is How to Be Black in some respects). And Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s The Urban Bestiary is a treat (Crow Planet is such a favourite that I delayed my reading of this one, but it, too, is very satisfying).

On the stack, but as yet un-begun, is Teju Cole’s Every Day Is For the Thief, which I imagine slipping into the place which was occupied by Michael Ondaatje’s Coming through Slaughter in February.

Both are strongly rooted in place and time: Cole’s in present-day Nigeria and Ondaatje’s in turn-of-the-century Storyville, New Orleans. Both works depend heavily on photographs, and I have a feeling that they will make a fine pair. Mainly because of this passage from Coning through Slaughter:

“I wanted them to be able to come in where they pleased and leave when they pleased and somehow hear the germs of the start and all the possible endings at whatever point in the music that I had reached them. Like your radio without the beginnings or endings. The right ending is an open door you can’t see too far out of. It can mean exactly the opposite of what you are thinking.”

That’s how I remember feeling while reading Teju Cole’s Open City. And a passage to which I randomly opened in Every Day Is For the Thief reads as follows:

“I have headphones on, and I am listening to ‘Giant Steps,’ that twisting,modal argument of saxophone, drums, bass, and piano that is like a repeated unmaking and remaking of the audible world.

[…] I have no right to Coltrane here, not with eveyrthing else going on. This is Lagos. I disagree, turn the volume up, listening to both the music and the noise. Neither gives way. No sense emerges of the combat between art and messy reality.”

Doesn’t it seem a fine pairing? That’s what I thought about Louise Erdrich’s Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country as well. Thinking it would mesh beautifully with my first forays into reading her fiction. Tracks was so profoundly rooted in landscape that I wanted to put this volume in, before beginning Four Souls. (So, if you are hoping to read along, there’s still time to read Tracks and catch up!)

The other volume in my stack is Edith Wharton’s The Reef, which I’ve chosen with LibraryThing’s Virago Modern Classics group in mind. Last year I finally managed to finish her classic The House of Mirth, and I have a nice stack of her books yet to read. The only others I’ve read are Ethan Frome, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence. And this time? I am expecting sorrow and disappointment.

Many of the women in my Mavis Gallant reading are disappointed as well. Maybe that’s why Janice Kulyk Keefer suggested leaving time between readings (which I am doing, reading about one story each week). But people – women and men – are often disappointed, are they not?

Also for March, I’m reading some Irish novels, inspited by Cathy at 746 Books and some Irish short stories, inspired by Mel at The Reading Life. For a classic, Kate O’Brien’s Not Without My Cloak. And, contemporary choices: Anakana Schofield’s Malarky and Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies. There may be chatter about them here, or perhaps just brief peeks online as I turn their pages.

How’s life on the page, in March, for you so far? Have you been reading something challenging or inspiring?

Have you already read any of these or do you have some/one of them on your TBR?

Is there something in particular you’re looking forward to later this month?

2017-07-23T12:47:38+00:00

26 Comments

  1. Judith March 15, 2017 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I’m so glad to know about Edith Wharton’s The Reef. Had no idea. I read her Age of Innocence and loved it. And, gosh, I believe I’ve read another of hers, but it’s getting late and it’s not in my sights. I want to read House of Mirth (on my Classics Club List). And now, I think, The Reef! The film Ethan Frome, starring Liam Neeson was an absolute disaster, to my mind. Granted I haven’t read the book, but I think it was not well done. Have you seen it? Believe me, I wouldn’t let a poor film keep me away from a book by Wharton. I did see the film The Age of Innocence, and thought that did the book a great deal more justice. Your thoughts?

    • Buried In Print March 16, 2017 at 9:18 am - Reply

      That’s one reason why I like keeping books too: it’s so much easier to remember which ones you’ve read (especially as the years pass)! I’ve seen all the films, I think, and I must have liked that version of Ethan Frome enough to seek out the book (because I read it not long watching, IIRC, long before I was collecting VMCs of her work). There were more than twenty years between my viewing of the Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder film (Daniel Day Lewis, too) and reading the book, so it wasn’t a disappointment. But because her characters seem to have such a strong interior life (not necessarily a happy or healthy one, but they sure spend a lot of time in their own heads), I guess a film version is always going to be up against it on that score. Did you watch them closer together perhaps? I’d like to rewatch “The House of Mirth” now, as I was so impressed by Gillian Anderson in “Bleak House” and “The Fall”; I finally finished reading that one last year, so perhaps I should have a peek. Have you seen that one?

  2. Aarti March 14, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    I’m reading Jemisin now, though the first in another series. I didn’t like the first book in the kingdom series, really, but I do love this book. Which is fairly dark. Why do I read so many dark books?! I need something uplifting!

    • Buried In Print March 15, 2017 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      I hear ya: we’ve got to lighten up! Heheh FWIW, I don’t think I understood the first book in the Inheritance trilogy until I was about 100 pages from the end of this one, the third one. Not that I’m saying you should revisit it – everyone seems to love the more recent series – because it took SO long to even feel like I was halfway getting at the story beneath the story, and now I feel like I really should reread to actually have a chance of really understanding what she was about. (But, also, my SFF-reading muscle is really out of shape, so that might just be my issue.)

  3. Alley March 13, 2017 at 8:19 am - Reply

    Your reading stack is a nice mix! So many excellent books (I hear nothing but good things about Jemisin) and How To Be Black is so good for rereading

    • Buried In Print March 13, 2017 at 10:22 am - Reply

      I remember you loved Baratunde Thurston’s book too: and it reads like it was written yesterday (except for the direct presidential references, but even they feel peculiarly relevant just now). It really is quite a mix, isn’t it? I didn’t realise how much of a jumble my stack might look until I snapped the pic: that’s just how I read.

  4. Rebecca Foster March 9, 2017 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    I liked the fairy tale-like ending of The Wonder–so much cheerier than it might have been! I’ve also read Room, The Sealed Letter, Astray and Frog Music. Of those I liked Frog Music best.

    • Buried In Print March 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm - Reply

      Then you might like her collection of fairy tale retellings, Kissing the Witch, a favourite of mine. I also really enjoyed her older novels, Stir-Fry and Hood, not historical but still with relationships between women at their cores. I haven’t read either The Sealed Letter or Frog Music, (love that cover!), but I’ve considered both (Room wasn’t a favourite of mine either).

  5. Stefanie March 9, 2017 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Excellent reading! I so badly want to read Jemisin and I say that every time I see someone posting about reading her but I have yet to get to it. I need to quit waiting for a break in my reading to slip her into and just request one of her books from the library and start reading.

    • Buried In Print March 9, 2017 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      Oh, I know exactly what you mean. David Mitchell was like that for me, until last year, and Jim Crace amd Jim Harrison are writers with huge backlists who are still on my must-explore list. As you say, there’s just never a “convenient” time, so sometimes the best solution is to wedge one in, amongst other more-urgent library holds, and hope that does the trick. Have you read Octavia Butler? I felt some similar feelings while reading her Xenogenesis trilogy as I’ve felt about reading Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy: such big ideas!

  6. Wendy March 9, 2017 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Hi I’m curious as to why the disappointment in the Mavis Gallant reading group. I’ve never read this author and was thinking I should??

    • Buried In Print March 9, 2017 at 2:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Wendy, I’m sorry if that sounded confusing, but it’s the characters in her stories who seem disappointed to me; I don’t find either the characters or the stories disappointing, and they feel realistic to me. If you’re thinking of giving her a try, I recommended either Home Truths or Stories from the Fifteenth District.

      • Wendy March 15, 2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

        Thanks for the clarification…I will add these two selections to my list!

        • Buried In Print March 15, 2017 at 12:08 pm - Reply

          Sounds great! Also, Mel reminded me on the schedule page, of The Selected Stories collection, which also contains several from these two key collections but a number of others as well from across her lifetime; if you are especially fond of e-reading (as he is), this might be more readily available for you than the separate collections I mentioned.

  7. Rebecca Foster March 9, 2017 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    I think I preferred Every Day, actually. His essay collection, Known & Strange Things, is also very good, but can be dipped into and out of if you aren’t big into photography.

    This is my first from Kent. So far it reminds me a fair bit of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, one of my favourites from last year.

    • Buried In Print March 9, 2017 at 1:38 pm - Reply

      Well, now I’m doubly curious. Have you read others by Emma Donoghue? Now I’m just trying to predict which of Cole’s I’ll end up preferring myself. And how much I might like Kent’s second. The Wonder isn’t my favourite of Donoghue’s, but I do understand its appeal, and it’s quite possible that the things that niggled me about it could have been the things I’d’ve adored in another reading mood (mostly revolving around the resolution).

  8. Rebecca Foster March 9, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

    I’ve loved all of Teju Cole’s books. I don’t think I have any Irish authors on the pile at the moment, but I wonder if a novel *set* in Ireland would count? The Good People by Hannah Kent.

    • Buried In Print March 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      Open City was just great. I loved it. So much that I was pretty sure that Every Day Is For the Thief would be a little disappointing (so I dragged my feet getting to it, years later). But it’s not. Not at all. I have to force myself not to just gulp it down. I’ll be interested to hear how you enjoy the new Hannah Kent. I liked Burial Rites but I don’t feel drawn back to her work particularly.

  9. Helen March 8, 2017 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    What an interesting and varied selection of books! I’ve only read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, but I’m hoping to read more of her books eventually. I hope you enjoy The Reef. You’ve also reminded me about Naomi Novik…I’ve still only read the first Temeraire book and really need to continue with the rest of the series!

    • Buried In Print March 8, 2017 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      She’s not an easy read, is she; Ethan Frome was my starting point as well. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read more until I finished the last one; it took me awhile to settle into her view of the world and a woman’s place in it. Oh, the first Temeraire, though: it’s such a delight to get acqquainted with him and to watch his relationship with Lawrence begin to take shape, the trust and understanding (and, especially, the good humour). Maybe the first one just has to be the best?!

  10. Booker talk March 8, 2017 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Im joining in with Reading Ireland too – have just started to read my first one; Ancient Light by John Banville. It’s a wonderful lyric novel about coming of age – not one you can read quickly so I may struggle to read many more titles in March

    • Buried In Print March 8, 2017 at 5:32 pm - Reply

      The only book of his I’ve read was The Sea, and it was much as you’ve described this one: beautiful, meditative and prose meant to be savoured. I hope you enjoy this one!

  11. Naomi March 8, 2017 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Oh, I loved Marlarky! I hope you’re enjoying it! I’m also hoping to join in on Reading Ireland Month, although the Irish reading hasn’t started quite yet. Your fault, actually… After James arrived at the library and I’m gobbling it up! 🙂

    • Buried In Print March 8, 2017 at 2:17 pm - Reply

      I know exactly what you mean; my Irish reading hasn’t started yet either. I haven’t even picked up all the books I requested from the library, let alone started to read them! And I’m not sorry about After James at all. Also, you are the perfect reader for it: curious AND attentive (not browsing across multiple books like SOME readers I know *cough*).

  12. kaggsysbookishramblings March 8, 2017 at 9:20 am - Reply

    That’s an interesting looking pile. Look forward to your thoughts on the Wharton!

    • Buried In Print March 8, 2017 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      I’m planning to begin reading it in the next couple of days. I can’t recall which one you’re aiming for, but I know it wasn’t this one!

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