Reading Year. Q2

Another 1988 pages and 91 days later.

We are half way through 2017 which also means we are half way through the reading year. And so far it’s been a rollercoaster. Starting off strong, the second quarter of the year has been slow. I’ve been struggling to find time to pick up a book or hold my attention when reading. But enough of that, let’s see what are the books I’ve read instead.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I first “met” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie thanks to her famous TedTalk on feminism. Then I’ve watched a couple more of her speeches, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Of course, it didn’t take me that look to get one of her novels.

Americanah is a story about a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who moves to the United States to pursue her degree.  The novel follows Ifemelu’s new life in a foreign country where she starts writing a witty blog about her discoveries about race in American culture. Occasionally, a story takes places back in Nigeria, and through that, we learn about Ifemelu’s high school sweetheart Obinze – another important character of the book.

I found Americanah slightly too long and repetitive at times. What seemed exciting and witty at first, later worn out and left me rushing through pages in the search of something new.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I’ve been meaning to read The Handmaid’s Tale for years now. However, I took matters in my hands only after Hulu announced they will be releasing TV series based on this dystopian novel.

The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the near future New England, post nuclear war where most of the women are no longer fertile. The story follows a group of women, called Handmaids, who are passed around houses to give offsprings to couples that are not able to conceive. The Handmaid’s Tale is narrated by the protagonist, Offred, who explores the hierarchy in newly formed society, as well as suppression of individualism and freedom in it.

Written more than 30 years ago (1985), The Handmaid’s Tale is still relevant to this day. I would highly recommend this book to anyone!

Augustus by John Williams

Augustus is a historical epistolary novel that tells a story of Augustus, an heir of Julius Ceasar, who becomes the emperor of Rome after an unexpected death of his uncle. The book is divided into two parts. The first one tells a story of how Augustus rose to power while the second describes his ruling years. Throughout the book, the reader gets to see how Augustus changes both as a person and ruler due to different circumstances and coming off age.

From all the books I’ve read in the second quarter of this year, Augustus must be one of my favorites. Even though I had to look up quite a few names mentioned in the novel, after some time things got more familiar and I was able to enjoy it fully. Still, to this day, I can’t get over how much of a work such piece of literature takes and how effortless it turns out to be as you read it. Brilliant!

How to be Both by Ali Smith

Thrifted at the local preloved books store, How to be Both is my third read by Ali Smith.

How to be Both is a story that is told from two different perspectives. One shares a story of a nowaday teen who has just lost her mother and another follows a painter in 1460s in Italy. Even though both of these stories have connecting points, they could be read as standalones too. And depending on the copy you own, you could be reading ‘modern’ story first, and then ‘historical’, or another way round.

What impressed me the most about How to be Both is how intelligently Ali Smith puts together the events happening in the past, present and future. It is especially notable whilst following George’s internal monologs. At times difficult to follow, these monologs reflect the nature of our mind going places. Lovely read!

A Field Guide of Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit has been making an appearance on quite a few bookstagram accounts I follow. A couple of months back during my stays in Vilnius, I came across one of her books in my favorite bookshop and decided to take a plunge.

Filled with stories from different centuries, quotes and observations, A Field Guide to Getting Lost is a read about loss and getting lost.

For someone who doesn’t read non-fiction that often, it was especially difficult holding my attention. Towards the second half of a book, the manner in which this book is written started to wear a little and I lost my interest completely.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

“But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction – what has that got to do with a room of one’s own?” Capturing from the first sentence, A Room of One’s Own is an essay on women and creativity, education and literature, money and space (of one’s own).

It is hands down my favorite read of this quarter if not one of the best reads of this year. Read it if you are interested in writing. And most definitely read it if you are interested in the tradition of women’s writing.

Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams

Yes, yet another John Williams and unfortunately the last one.

Butcher’s Crossing is a story of Will Andrews.  A young man leaves his studies at Harward behind and heads to American West in hopes to explore the wilderness and human-nature relationship. Andrews comes to a fictional town called Butcher’s Crossing where he meets buffalo hunters and later joins them on their expedition. Physically and mentally challenging, the hunt proves how powerful nature is and how resilient a man can be when it comes to surviving.

I’ve never read a Western before but I am glad I was introduced to this genre by John Williams. It was complicated to particularly like or dislike all the characters, as they were so well-drawn and had their own reasons for behaving one way or another. No less impressive were descriptions of the wilderness that left me yearning for a getaway in wild nature. As I’ve now read all three John Williams books, I must say that no matter how good Butcher’s Crossing was, I enjoyed it the least.

 

Comparing to the first quarter of the year, the second quarter wasn’t as exciting. Even though I’ve read 7 books, I feel like something vital was missing throughout these past three months that would have made the reading experience more pleasant. And I can’t help but think it’s due to me being a rather impatient reader, rushing through the pages without fully engaging into the story.

Coming back to the reading year goals, so far I’ve read 17 books (Q1+Q2). That means I’m only 5 books away from completing my 2017 reading challenge! If you want to follow my reading journey in real-time, follow me on Goodreads. And if curious what happened in the first quarter, head here.