Reading Better | July.

I added another 20 books to my Read shelf last month, bringing my YTD total to 113 (Goodreads link) – and a whopping seven of those (almost one third!) were 5-star reads for me.

Here are a few more stats from July’s book journal summary page:

nearly two-thirds – just like last month – (14/20) were words on a page – and unlike any month in recent history, none were e-books.
75% (15/20) were borrowed, two I owned, and three were purchased (two “new”, and one “used”).
all were fiction – another “unlike any month in recent history” (which I’m not planning to repeat).
My Reading Intentions were pretty well balanced:

Connection – 10
Growth – 6
Diversity – 9
Delight – 20 (again! every one of them!)

Four books checked all four boxes:

Nickel Boys
Girl, Woman, Other
Tiger’s Wife
Home Fire

Interesting to note that all four were backlist and all four were prize winners; and the last two were Fiction Matters’ bookclub selections for July (neither was even on my radar before they were announced).

Other ♥ notes from my journal:

♥ the quality – SEVEN 5-star books … and all were backlist.
♥ Niall Williams – he’s a new-to-me author this month (The History of the Rain was a Fiction Matters’ bibliobrunch recommendation in June and after I finished I immediately went to his backlist and read Four Letters of Love – see below – it’s my sleeper pick).
♥ so many other new-to-me authors … so much more backlist to explore!
♥ recurring themes of story, myth/fable/magical realism, borders.
♥ Harbinder Kaur (Elly Griffiths’ Stranger Diaries and Postscript Murders) and Lady Julia Grey (Deanna Raybourn) are perfect palate cleansers.
♥ bookclub discussions.
♥ mixed feelings about the Hot New Releases. I read three (Olympus Texas, The Other Black Girl, and Silver Tears) and wasn’t totally blown away by any of them. My favorite was Olympus Texas and a lot of that was the two hour book club discussion which included the author (if you get the chance to see Stacey Swann talk about the book – do it – she’s a delightful human!)

This month’s Sleeper Recommendation is Four Letters of Love by Niall Williams (Goodreads link).Close readers might notice that the version I’m holding (and the version I linked above) is different from the version I read and shelved (top photo). The one I read was the one I borrowed; it’s the original, published in 1997 as Williams’ debut. I gave it 4-1/2 stars, but book-darted so many passages, I knew I needed my own copy. The new version is the one I ordered, published in 2015 (thankfully, the pagination matches, so all my book darts were easy to transfer). It includes an Introduction by John Hurt and an afterward by the author. I read those new sections on Sunday was blown away – again! – by the writing. Hurt’s Introduction, especially, pointed out a few things I’d missed and now that I see them, the book is an easy 5 stars. That said, I am glad I read the Introduction after I’d read the book. As so often happens, the Introduction includes a few spoilers and I’m glad I got to see the story come together without them.

These parts, however, contain no spoilers, and John Hurt sells this better than I could:

“From the moment I read the first lines, ‘When I was twelve years old God spoke to my father for the first time. God didn’t say much.’ I was hooked, I was a goner, tumbling headlong into this sweeping magical tale. This is odd to me – I am by nature, or more possibly upbringing, of a more pragmatic mind [ahem, clearly this is not me!]. The boldly romantic does not always sit easily. I confess that had I read some of the reviews (which were fulsome in their praise) I might well have thought, ‘Well, I’m sure it’s wonderful but I don’t think it’s quite for me.’ How very sad that would have been.” – p. vii

Hurt goes on to say:

In Four Letters of Love ‘the natural and supernatural conspir[e]’ to form a reality in which we see daggers, spears, shards of glass where none exist. We smell eucalyptus, juniper, bruised and crushed roses in places where they shouldn’t be. We meet angels, winged horses, shining fluttering white birds and people who no longer inhabit the everyday world. We witness miracles and, more alarmingly, we come across God, tucked into the very fabric of the narrative.” ~p. viii

If that sounds intriguing, by all means, I highly recommend you pick this up. and if it just sounds absurd, perhaps this isn’t for you. As always, if you do read it, please let me know … this one checked Delight for me and I would love to add Connection, too.

And now, I have only one square (or two, counting the center one) to complete my Bingo card.I had every intention of finishing this one last month and it just didn’t happen. August, for sure.

And that’s another month of reading better. I have high hopes for August … although seven 5-star books is going to be a very tough act to follow! What stood out about your July reading? or what are you looking forward to this month?

10 thoughts on “Reading Better | July.

  1. The Fiction Matters patreon looks so fun. You’re such a bad influence!!

    Congrats on another excellent month — you’re on a roll! I’m pleased you enjoyed Harbinder Kauer so much. Which did you like more – The Stranger Diaries or Postscript Murders? Niall Williams is going back on the TBR – thank you!

    I’m excited to get to Swimming Lessons in the next few days – it will make me a Claire Fuller completist! I’m also looking forward to Northanger Abbey (which I haven’t read yet) and The Whispering House.

  2. My July reading was nowhere near yours – in quality or quantity! Traveling to CO and back did that, and we start moving things into Ryan’s house on the 16th, so my August reading won’t be anything to write home about either. I am looking forward to meeting with a friend to talk about books, so hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later. Happy Reading!

  3. So much good reading! My July was pretty good, though of course not as filled with as many books as yours (some of us do have to read for work sometimes, too!). I’m sure that card will be filled in no time. Are you planning to start a second card?

  4. My July reading was very good and I am coming to terms with not having a cover all for my card because there are so many title I want to read that don’t fit. More reading is a good thing.

  5. Okay, I LOVE Niall Williams and I am off to find Four Letters of Love! Thank you so much for the recommendation!

  6. Your book journal would be so fun to thumb through (even in the future!). Niall Williams is hard to find around here. I had to special order The History of Rain. You’re reading so much more than I am and I love using your recommendations as my book source!

  7. Your capacity to read blows me away! I decided last month to extend my book bingo season. It’s the first year I have participated and my books are all over the card. I don’t want to give up because I have really enjoyed researching books for the different topics. My reading with eyes time is tough to come by, so nearly everything is audio. I did finish Without Reservations, by Alice Steinbach. It’s a travel memoir that I thoroughly enjoyed and got to read with my eyes! My TBR becomes ever longer when you post, but you are an inspiration. Enjoy your final selection! Can’t wait to hear about it.

  8. I have to say the last 30 minutes of A Paris Library made me sit up and say “what?” I have a greater appreciation for what occupied Europe experienced during WWII. This book made it seem more real than some of the others or maybe it’s because I was just there.

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