I usually only post books here that I have absolutely loved, because I always think who cares about what I actually think about a book. I just ought to say – is it good? Or not? If I had any relevant or intelligent thoughts about books I would surely not have bombed my English literature degree quite… so… badly…
But the problem is that I haven’t read any book that I really loved for ages and ages. So I thought I would just write down all the books I have tried and failed with or finished and liked 85% or some 99% in the hope that in return you will post some recent books you have read in the comments section to inspire us all.
Sorry I have forgotten almost all the author’s names.
Where the Crawdads Sing
A man is found dead in a muddy puddle somewhere in the deep South and the semi-feral marsh-dwelling beauty Kya has the key to what happened. This has been very popular in America and is racing up the charts here. It was okay but terrifyingly humourless and in parts veering into slight Danielle Steele territory. It’s also a bit and-then-and-then-and-then in the middle – and the twist is dismal.
Ask Again, Yes
This is a very well-written but slightly bumbling, meandering book about two intertwined families in America from the mid-70s until sort of now. It’s like a really delicious bowl of soup: at first you’re like “Oh this is so great,” then you’re like “is this still soup?” and then “oh my god, how much more soup is there going to be? Is there going to be a crouton at some point or what? I need some toast or sthng”; if you actually want to finish the soup you have to dig deep. But, like I said – the soup remains delicious.
The Silent Patient
I avoided this book for a long time because my friend finds the author to be a bit of a personal nemesis so I dodged it in solidarity. But then I’m afraid I was in a bit of a reading rut and so had a peek inside out of curiosity. It’s a very readable and creepy book about a psychiatrist with a patient who has not said a word about a murder for the last 10 years or however TF long and he has to get her to talk in order to solve the crime. It’s very accomplished in what it sets out to do, which is to keep you turning the pages, but the end I found slightly annoying in its clever-clever-twisty-cleverness. It also didn’t quite fulfil the role I want a book to fulfil in my life which is something good to read that I can return to – I found myself staying up until 2am ripping through this, trying to finish it, which was fucking annoying actually.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
I was intrigued by this because it was no.1 on the bestseller lists, but I just couldn’t plough on through it, I don’t know why – it was perfectly okay. I might have another go at it.
My Friend Anna
This is the true story of the Russian con-artist Anna Sorokin by her friend, who was duped out of many thousands of dollars. This started life as a Vanity Fair magazine article and it’s possible that it should have stayed as that. Still, it’s a reasonably gripping read as the net closes around Anna and the hunted turns into the hunter.
My Sister, The Serial Killer
I absolutely loved the first 2/3 of this – I loved the is she/isn’t she? actually a serial killer element – or do we have an unreliable narrator? – the metaphor of serial killing for all sorts of things that go on within sibling relationships. The last third fell to bits – for me – but I have got no regrets in reading it and I look forward to what the author does next.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Lori Gottlieb is an irritatingly accomplished American psychotherapist; she is a former big-hitter in television (she worked on Friends and on ER) and then retrained as a doctor and then as a psychotherapist and!! she is a very successful journalist and writes these brilliant pop-psychology books that sell a million copies. So I was delighted to see that this book, about her own practice as well as the therapy she received for a small break-down in her forties, is mostly 90% good but is also a bit patchy. It’s small and mean of me, I know, to be pleased about this. But it’s the truth! Definitely worth reading though as it’s mostly really good and very funny.
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
I mean, is Ronan Farrow actually real? Or is he one of those digitally-designed Instagram bot things? His perfect skin, his supernatural intelligence, it’s all a bit suss isn’t it.
He, too, makes me feel small and mean and stupid and unaccomplished when you know that he’s this prodigiously clever Fulbright scholar (or something similar) – turned-rapist-catcher. But Catch and Kill is self-effacing, clever and gripping as he tries to nail Harvey Weinstein’s ass to the wall. I’ve never (obviously) been on such a big story as this, but I have been on stories that people have dismissed me away from – (as Ronan is many times on the Harvey thing) – only for someone more tenacious to break the story properly. I know how disheartening it is when someone in seniority says “there’s no story here, go away” and how pretty much impossible it is to come back and say “no but sorry there is”. Farrow is very interesting about his own family and the well-documented historical what-happened weirdness with Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow.
Expectation by Anna Hope
This is a good, solid book – it follows three women, all friends, through a flat-share in their twenties and beyond. At the start I thought this book had been written by someone young but it turns out the author is actually mid-forties and it sort of makes sense as when you get to 35+ and beyond you do start getting slightly obsessed with what’s-become-of-so-and-so and this book is very much that.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
My husband was surprised that I liked this book and so was I – it’s a very stylish Western by the very stylish Patrick deWitt who also wrote French Exit, which is one of the best books ever. The Sisters Brothers follows two brothers with the surname Sisters, who are hit men in the wild west. It stops just short of the actual horrifying violence that peppers Western novels like Lonesome Dove, which opens – opens! – with the visual of a pig eating a snake. I’m just not into that kind of stuff and thankfully deWitt finds it possible to tell and authentic story without feeling the need to curl up in a foetal position and ring your therapist. (Not as good as French Exit, can I make that clear.)
Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth
Sorry ignore everything I said in my intro, I loved this book. One Hundred Per Cent. It is about two girls on a semi-permanent bender pretty much across the UK and it’s fabulous.
Diary of a Drag Queen by Crystal Rasmussen
This is the extremely graphic and explicit year in the life of Tom “Crystal” Rasmussen, drag queen and wannabe journalist. Written 4 years ago, it is a challenging and sometimes confusing book – Crystal sometimes writes so spikily and defensively that you think “Oh, do fuck off” – at other times it’s very moving and effective at describing the genuine fear and actual physical danger you are in if you appear in public in half-drag. But there are also long undergraduate essay-style semi-lectures on what it means to be non-binary, the importance of not mis-gendering someone.
And then there are the minute-by-minute very detailed descriptions of Grindr hookups, which are genuinely informative and occasionally very faintly stomach-churning. There is poo and vomit and semen everywhere. But I did appreciate not only the honest description of felching, but why you might want to do it. It doesn’t sound very hygienic, but neither is letting my cats sit on the kitchen surfaces.
I was with Crystal entirely in the angry section about “pink washing” – i.e. we are fine with the queer community if it’s all about rainbows and glitter and excellent interior design, we’re less okay with open conversations about gay-bashing, HIV and bumholes. I recalled immediately my fury at exactly the same social approach to motherhood – I spent years fucked off at society’s total blank-face when it came to the reality of early motherhood; we are only allowed to be blissed-out and fluffy, we’re not allowed to be exhausted and fed up and pissed off with the whole fackin thing. Of course that’s all changed what with the Scummy Mummies and the Hurrah for Gin lady – I wonder if things are changing for Crystal’s community too?
I was happy that I scored highly on the “are you a LGBTQIA+ ally?” test and a light went on in my head at the phrase that “gay men are allergic to intimacy” – which might explain why gay men never want to be my friend, as I am all about intimacy.
Anyway that’s what I read recently. How about you? Are you reading a good book?