Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!
This was a better week for me, in terms of book count. This is good for my household as it turns out that I get very cranky when I don’t have enough reading time. Some people need to work out every day; I need to work on my to-read list.
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
This book is weird and mind-blowing and surprising and I spent a lot of time not having any idea what was happening AND I loved every word. The book-flap describes it as “a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space-opera mystery” and yeah, that probably sums it up. Set in a universe where the milk of Venusian whales allows travel through the solar system, we learn (via news articles, interviews, diary entries, movie scripts, etc.) about the strange disappearance of a talented young documentary filmmaker, herself the daughter of a famous director (who lives and works on the Moon, as does most of the Hollywood set). This is one of Valente’s adult novels (like Deathless, and unlike the Fairyland series), and veers toward the bizarre-and-occasionally-disturbing side of the street (where Valente can hang out with China Mieville and Helen Oyeyemi). Valente is awesome and wonderful in all the ways and you should read her books immediately.
(LC Score: +1)
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
This Sherlock novel (by the author of Magpie Murders) does a good job recreating the world of Holmes and Watson. It’s always fun to see the old crew (including Mycroft Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars), but my favorite recent Holmes novel, Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye, is in no danger of being knocked from its number one spot.
(LC Score: +1)
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
I have read a handful of Woolf’s books and am always meaning to return and systematically work my way through her oeuvre, but I picked up Orlando after having read a little bit about Vita Sackville-West (and knowing that Orlando is supposedly Woolf’s love letter to Vita). I knew a little bit about the title character, a gender-switching immortal who we follow through 400 years of English history, from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but I didn’t really know what to expect from the book. IT IS SO CHARMING. Why didn’t anyone tell me how funny and charming it is? It’s just wonderful and I’d like to gush on about it some more but I’m off to watch the movie adaptation starring Tilda Swinton. SO CHARMING.
(LC Score: +1)
Emerson: The Mind on Fire by Robert D. Richardson
I’m sure I read some Emerson in high school. I had to, right? In American Lit or something? Whatever I did read left me unimpressed with the Sage of Concord, who I generally thought of as a boring old white guy going on and on about the outdoors and the fabulousness of trees or something like that. (It’s entirely possible that I had confused him with his best bud Thoreau.) I wasn’t all that interested in returning to Ralph Waldo, but I’ve been working my way through the Alcott-adjacent biographies, and <eyeroll> I guess I should know a little bit more about him since he’s one of the giants of American literature or something like that. And, hey, it appears that Emerson has suddenly gotten a lot more interesting in the past 30 years! Richardson calls his book an “intellectual biography,” meaning that he tracks Emerson’s life through whatever Ralph Waldo was reading at the time, so as to trace the influence of literary works and philosophical texts on Emerson’s own thinking. As an obsessive reader myself, I love this idea, but mostly I learned that I am pitifully uninformed when it comes to Western philosophy, and there’s no way I can keep up reading-wise with Emerson (or Richardson, for that matter). Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed this bio and found that Emerson’s writing now resonates with me in a very powerful and unexpected way. I’ve put all his greatest hits on my to-read list, so there’s quite a bit more Emerson in my future.
(LC Score: +1)
Narrative of Sojourner Truth edited by Margaret Washington
Meanwhile, as I fill in the gaps in my Transcendentalist knowledge, I’m still trying to fill in the holes around African-American history. By which I mean: learn some basic African-American history. I wasn’t taught much of anything in school and (embarrassingly for me) I didn’t go looking for it until fairly recently. Sojourner Truth is one of those names I recognized, but could tell you next to nothing about. This is the (short) narrative of her life and experiences, as dictated by Truth to a friend (Truth was illiterate). This particular edition has a helpful historical introduction to Truth’s life and I can’t wait to read more about this amazing woman and her life as an abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
(LC Score: +1)
Library Chicken Score for 10/17/17: 5
Running Score: 107 ½
On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:
- Sojourner Truth’s America by Margaret Washington (I enjoyed Washington’s introduction so much I thought I’d read her biography of Truth)
- Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton (another amazing woman I know very little about)
- 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino (because I recently heard a recommendation and it has a wonderful title)
- Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (another great title for a new YA novel by the author of The Supernatural Enhancements)