Book Report: August Round-Up

September 8, 2022

Along with continuing to read the Ruth Galloway Mystery series by Elly Griffiths (5 more this month), I read some stellar fiction, checking off several titles on my TBR list. I also read more nonfiction than in the last couple months–4 titles. So here’s the report.

Fiction

  • Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead (2014). I have now completed Shipstead’s back list and I have enjoyed each one for their originality and freshness of plot and her development of characters. This novel, her second, is set in the world of ballet. The main character is a dancer in her young years, later becoming a ballet teacher whose son is a talented dancer. An important part of the story is her relationship with a Russian ballet dancer.
  • Honor by Thrity Umrigar (2022). I have enjoyed earlier books by the author, such as The Space Between Us and The Weight of Heaven, and was so pleased when this new novel was ready for me at the library. The main character, Smita, is an American journalist born in India. She is in India to cover a story about a Hindu woman who marries a Muslim man and suffers tragic consequences for that love. As Smita becomes involved with this woman, she is forced to confront her own background and to make life-changing decisions. At one point another character says to Smita, “You know what your problem is, Smita? You focus on the cat hair. Try focusing on the cat.” (p. 319)
  • Recitatif by Toni Morrison. (1983, but in a 2022 edition) This is the only short story Morrison wrote and the introduction by Zadie Smith is longer than the story itself. The story focuses on two women, one black and one white, but the reader does not know which is which. Clearly, the story is meant to highlight our own racism and adoption of stereotypes.
  • Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson (2022). I loved this book and so admire the deft way the author (This is her debut novel.) kept all the twists and turns and number of characters and the changes in their lives clear for the reader. The book is based first on an island, perhaps Jamaica, but also England and the U.S and the “black cake” of the title is a family tradition and also figures in the plot of the book, as does long-distance swimming and surfing. How’s that for an interesting combination? I don’t want to say more, at the risk of giving too much away. I repeat, I loved this book.
  • I also read The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford (2016), and it was a so-so read. Agatha Christie was the main character, so that was promising, but by the end I wondered what the point was. Can’t win them all.

Nonfiction

I wrote in two previous posts about two of the books I read in August. Things to Look Forward To, 52 Large and Small Joys for Today and Everyday by Sophie Blackall (2022) in the August 11 post and Exit, the Ending that Sets Us Free by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot in the August 25th post. I read two other nonfiction titles.

  • I Came All This Way to Meet You, Writing Myself Home by Jamie Attenberg (2022). This was a plus-minus book for me. There was much in the book I didn’t enjoy and couldn’t relate to–drugs, drinking, uncommitted sex– and I am not sure I would like the author if I met her nor am I planning to read her novels. However, I copied two pages of quotes about books and writing in my book journal, and I appreciated much of what she says about solitude and about issues with her body. So plus-minus.
  • Unbinding, The Grace Beyond Self by Kathleen Dowling Singh (2017). I read this book over a long period of time, savoring and reflecting. Before this book I read and loved two others by Singh, The Grace in Aging, Awaken as You Grow Older (2014) and The Grace in Living, Recognize It, Trust It, Abide In It (2016). Unbinding, alas, was her last book before her death in 2017. I think I could read this book over and over again and not begin to receive all that is offered. Three chapters stand out for me, “Becoming,” “Aging and Death,” and “The Sacrament of Surrender.”

We are already into September and summer reading is behind us. Most of the books I read this summer were ones I got from the library, but in the meantime I acquired a number of books for my own library. I am planning to focus on those this month. We’ll see how that goes! Happy reading!

An Invitation

What do you recommend from your summer reading? Any reading plans for the fall? I would love to know.

6 thoughts on “Book Report: August Round-Up

  1. Sounds like you read some really good ones again.

    I’m currently reading The Girl Who Smiled Beads; a heartbreaking story of a young woman’s account of fleeing war in Africa.

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  2. I just read the first Ruth Galloway book nonstop in one day. Picking up the next in the series at the library tomorrow.
    I also enjoyed Swimmers by Julie Otsuka. It prompted me to revisit another of her books which has long been a favorite of mine, The Buddha in the Attic. I would also suggest The Salt Path by Raynor Winn.

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    • So glad you are enjoying the “Ruth Galloway” series. I am ready to read #12. The Swimmers is on my TBR list, and I too really liked The Buddha in the Attic. The Salt Path sounds very familiar and I will need to consult my book journal to see if I read it. Happy reading!

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  3. From the summer I recommend “In Praise of Inadequate Gifts” – by Tarn Wilson. The honest, unflinching, rich essays in this nonfiction book touched both my mind and heart in such a way that I heard myself say over and over This author is GOOD.

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