Reading Better | July.

I added 24 books to my shelves in July (all my 2022 books are shelved here on Goodreads):

  • I added five 5-star and six 4-1/2-star books (almost half of the books I read)! Again, I included my short reviews from Instagram for the five 5-star books below.
  • 13 (54%) were paper, and all the rest were audio. That’s maybe the best indication I have that I actually did knit a fingering weight cardigan in three weeks.
  • 13 (54%) were borrowed, three I owned, and eight were purchased (five new and three used). Nine of those 11 books count toward my Bookshelf60* goal.
  • 19 (nearly 80%) were fiction, four were memoir/essay, and one was other non-fiction.
  • My intentions were scattered – only four check marks for Diversity and 10 for Growth, but a fantastic 13 for Connection!
  • Four books checked all three boxes: Take My Hand, The Painted Drum, Tomb of Sand, and Portrait of a Thief. None of these were 5-star reads for me, but most were close. a good reminder that I read for many reasons, and I can be perfectly satisfied with a book even if I don’t give it five stars!

Here are those short reviews (with a couple of updates and links added in):

🎧Persuasion … a re-read in advance of the new adaptation (which I haven’t yet watched – but now have plans to, along with Novel Pairings Patreon; we’re reading this and studying adaptations in September!). This is maybe (for now) my favorite Austen – Anne is a wonderful heroine, her happy ending is 🥰, her father and sisters are fun to despise, and the setting reminds me of my 2019 visit to Bath. Austen’s wit, pace, plotting, and dialog are perfection. happy sigh.

🎧/📖 Inheritance … a re-read for my neighborhood bookclub (which I hosted in person!). Shapiro learns through a DNA test that her dad is not her biological father. When I first heard that setup, I didn’t get that it could be a big deal, but now I get it. There is so much to discuss – what DO we “inherit”, ethics re: fertility and artificial insemination (Shapiro was born in 1962; much has changed!), and of course, family dynamics and secrets. We all agreed the writing is gorgeous; we especially loved how Shapiro wove in her Jewish heritage (language and tradition).

🎧/📖 The Colony … a stunning novel about the violence of colonization and the power of language, even in “post-colonial” times. ❤️ the audio to hear the Irish ❤️ the pages because Magee is lyrical with words and white space. Love that it made the Booker list!

📖 A Thousand Acres … for Fiction Matters’ July bookclub. a compelling saga about the complicated relationship and power dynamics among farmers, land, and families. My copy says this is King Lear reimagined, not re-told; I wasn’t very familiar with Lear going in and I think that helped. I’d love to read more of Smiley’s work.

📖 The Chronology of Water … [daughter] Sara put this on my radar: “a powerful memoir beautifully written”. She’s right. Yuknavitch uses the “chronology of water – the way water carved the earth, the way water carries us into the world, the way we are made of water” as the central metaphor to tell her story. And she’s a champion swimmer; water is literally where she’s at home and is the natural connection for the seemingly disconnected fragments she relates. (ALL the content warnings for abuse, addiction, and graphic sex.)

Here are the ♥ notes from my journal:

♥ re-reads that hold up! I had two; they were both 5-stars when I read them the first time and they still are. (also, hosting in-person bookclub)
♥(not) Yerba Buena. Many of my reader friends loved this book. gushed about it. not me. I did like it, but I’m wondering what I was missing? maybe the timing was off? and that’s a whole new kind of book FOMO!
♥ serendipity recommendation from Juliann for the Anthony Horowitz “Hawthorne & Horowitz” books … three days of audio delight (and a lot of stockinette knitting!)
Finding Freedom and connection with Marc! We have a sliver of an overlap in our reading Venn diagram and food memoir is a big piece of that. It was fun to compare notes about Erin’s story; and we both appreciate where she is now even more since we know where she’s been.
Take My Hand and starting a family bookclub (I wrote about this in July’s Looking Back post).
♥ Maggie O’Farrell! I’m now a completist for her fiction and have so enjoyed seeing her evolve as a novelist. It does seem like Hamnet was a departure in terms of setting – all of her other novels are set in “current” times (with some stretching back to the mid-20th century), so late 16th century is really different. I’m so curious to see if Marriage Portrait – set in the Italian Renaissance – is going to mark a new path, or if we’ll see connections back to today.
♥ Growth. I learned about involuntary sterilization. history/ethics around IVF and DNA testing. history of England’s colonization of Ireland and Algeria. bookstore and publishing industry in post-WWII London (Bloomsbury Girls – so fun!). INTROVERTS! India/Pakistan partition (more of England’s colonialism). the development of “agribusiness”. King Lear. art history and the role museums play in perpetuating stolen art. and finally Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir – so much of her story was far outside my comfort zone.

and finally – the monthly TBR! For the first month since I started making this list, I actually read everything (plus two more books – those Horowitz mysteries on audio). So August is a clean slate, mostly full of Booker long list and bookclub selections … and a few books from my shelves (thanks to Bookshelf60* for the reminder 🙂 )

… and that’s it for last month – finally! I’d love to hear about a book or two you’re excited to read (or by now maybe already read) this month!

*My Bookshelf60 project is to read sixty books I already own (as of May 16) in these last six months before my birthday. As of June, I had 15 and July’s 9 brings me to 24. August’s TBR is heavy on new/borrowed books for the Booker long list. I’m thinking September will be a perfect month to read from my shelves!

13 thoughts on “Reading Better | July.

  1. Lots of books and book analyses here! I’ve been perusing the Booker longlist but haven’t chosen anything else after being a bit underwhelmed (and overwhelmed in some ways) by Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies. I was lucky enough to read an ARC of The Marriage Portrait, and while I won’t say too much, I will say that I thought it was stunning. I’m not a big fan of O’Farrell’s earlier work, but she is truly a genius with historical fiction!

  2. We visited The Lost Kitchen when we were in Maine in June, it’s very close to where we stay. We could only shop, of course, as it’s very difficult to get dinner reservations.

  3. I am almost certain I have Inheritance on my Kindle…I need to check on that. I am almost done reading THE STAND. So excited to be close to the finish so I can read a short book, lol.

  4. I’ll be interested in what you think of Smiley’s “other books.” I loved A Thousand Acres (I read it when it first came out), but have yet to connect with anything else she’s written . . . And I agree with Bonny about Maggie O’Farrell. I loved Hamnet, but have not been impressed with her backlist. (I’m really looking forward to The Marriage Portrait.)

  5. I am *almost* an O’Farrell completist (finding it harder to finish a book on paper these days — I keep falling asleep!) and am looking forward to her new one. I really enjoyed The Colony and very likely will read it again with my eyes; while I was thankful to have to audio for the Irish, I think I probably missed things because I couldn’t see them. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the rest of the Booker list; so many aren’t available yet unless I order them, and with so many physical books in this house still unread, I’m trying not to buy unless I know I’ll loe a book and want to keep it in the house.

  6. I’m looking forward to reviewing my reads at the end of the year-so many different, new and diverse authors for me. Am delighted that I’m reading more this year than in years past.

  7. As always, I’m impressed with how much you read Mary and with your very thoughtful reviews. Thanks for sharing. You’ve had me add a few to my TBR list!! I just finished (last week) listening to “Small Things Like These” by Claire Keegan…short but powerful. Highly recommend.

  8. I am now an O’Farrell completist, I’ve enjoyed all of her books, but her more recent ones are my favorites. I recently read a couple of books from the Booker long list, most recently, Trust, although I liked it, I didn’t love it. I’m currently reading Mercury Pictures Presents, about 100 pages from the end and I don’t want it to end!

  9. I had thought I had read Jane Smiley before but the only book I can find that I read was Knitting Yarns by Ann Hood where she had Authors write a piece about knitting. I’ve seen A Thousand Acres before but haven’t picked it up. I will have to keep an eye out at one of the local used bookstores I go to.

  10. I listening to an interview with the author of Sappho and now I can’t wait to read it. I keep reminding myself it’s only half way through August and I will have time to read most of what I’d like. Since I have Covid (yes, finally got it) and it’s not too horrible I will be doing a lot of sitting and reading (if I don’t fall asleep-so tired).

  11. I would like to read the Sappho book. Years ago, I read some of Smiley’s books and enjoyed them. Her books are so different from each other. I’m waiting for Fellowship Point and am about ready to dive into A Plague of Doves. I enjoy your reviews.

  12. Whew! I don’t know how you write these every month! There’s so much to keep track of 🙂 But what a rewarding month of reading – here’s to enjoying your August TBR!

  13. I’ve read several of these books, and enjoyed them as well. I read “Fellowship Point” on my Kindle while we were traveling in Scotland. It was the perfect read–engaging and easy to pick up when I had some reading time.

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