Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Rooster Crows!

Hey Kelly,

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Well, at least for me, and you know, if it wasn't winter. So, maybe just a shitty time of year but with an awesome thing to prepare for. Forget it. You know what I mean. At least Darrell gets it. He just said, "What are you doing? Homework?" And when I said that I was blogging about the Tournament of Books, he squeezed me and said, "It's your fantasy football." Aww... he totally gets me.

They released the short list last week, and here's my current situation regarding the 2015 TOB.


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This obviously is the book of the year. Everyone was talking about it and reading it. I just finished it today, and I very much enjoyed it. I wanted to keep reading it and I was looking forward to seeing what would happen. I liked the story, the writing, and its construction. I do wonder how I'm going to feel about it upon further reflection. There are certainly a few questions that I've immediately wondered about: what does it mean to have a hero that's a Nazi, but has neither interest nor disinterest in Nazi ideology? When there are multiple characters, is is okay for their narrative voice to be so similar? Either way, a good book and one that will be interesting to discuss. I certainly wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone; it's a solid and well-crafted novel.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Honestly, there's part of me that hardly believes I read this book. As you know, I'm pretty squeamish about reading about rape. And, yet, this book called to me. I loved it, but it was so utterly harrowing, both for the physical torture Mirelle endures, and her even more painful, emotional recovery. I think this is an amazing book, and I wouldn't blame anyone ever for just not being able to read it.

Redeployment by Phil Klay
I heard the author of this book on Fresh Air one night as I was driving home from class. I thought it sounded pretty good even though I'm not a huge fan of short stories. Once it won the National Book Award, I was sure it would end up in the TOB (Although the Booker Prize winner didn't make it, which is sort of wild). I enjoyed it, far more than other Iraq books I've read. It's always hard to talk about a book of short stories, but I found this book to be careful and precise with its language in a way that masks the wild and untamed fury and fear of war.

Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Oh, how I loved this book. This is more like a series of vignettes than a true novel, telling the story of a woman who gave up being an art monster for the pedestrian life of working mother. It was affecting and I can still remember lines months after reading it. I don't think it has much of a chance in the cutthroat forest of the TOB, but this was a brave little bird singing in a nest. I loved it.

A heartbreaker:
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
My friend and coworker Jeff recommended Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger to me a few years ago. I didn't love it, but it was an interesting enough book about a broken down house and the broken down family trying to keep it together. Jeff died last month, and I'll read The Paying Guests in honor of him. He was a voracious reader, and we loved to talk about books together. He was probably the only other person in my department who didn't give a hooey about highbrow or lowbrow reading, he just would read anything. He especially loved stories about the creepy and macabre people that hovered right on the edge of society. I'll miss him.

In the on-deck circle:
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Has ever a book sounded so perfect for us? I got this from the library last week, and it's what's next.

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor
Picked this one up for $2.99 on Kindle last week. The only thing I really have to contribute at this point is that it's bothering me a bit, that storeys instead of stories. What's up with that?

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
I am super ambivalent about this, but I downloaded this one from Audible. As you know, I found the "come back for $3 for 3 months" plea impossible to ignore, but I'm a terrible, terrible listener. In Goodreads, someone recommended this audiobook. I'm going to give it a try, Kelly. Wish me luck.

Warming the bench:
Most of this group were books I've maybe heard mention of, or hadn't heard of at all. That means they're just going to have to hold until them come in at the library.

Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyer
This one sounds sort of like the possible train wreck of the tournament, which I think only because someone on Goodreads said they finished it and they had no idea what they just read. I usually dislike those books (Ivyland and Green Girl), so I'm not hopeful for this one. Who knows?

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
I'm wary of this one only because I abandoned a previous novel by this author, The Book of Night Women. We'll see.

Adam by Ariel Schrag
A debut novel and a coming of age novel---This has hot fucking mess written all over it. I'm not sure what it is about this one that's not sitting well with me, it just sounds sort of awful. I hope I'm wrong.

Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball
This sounds pretty interesting to me, so much so that I added it to my Amazon cart from the long list. It seemed I'd like it even if it didn't make it to the actual tourney. But there's a lot of things lining up before it.

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
I like how this book made it in, the bookstore recommendation. But in general, I'm not so fond of the person alone in the wilderness novel. Unless a handsome stranger arrives and they fall in love. But since this isn't an 80s romance novel, I'm not super hopeful for that. *sigh*

What's up with the trilogies:
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
I can't imagine I'll get to this one since it's third in a trilogy, and I hear they aren't really stand alone novels. Oh well, I can't read them all, Kelly, no matter how hard I try.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
At least this is the first one! I'm interested in this trilogy, maybe because I find the cover art of the packaged trilogy to be compelling--the one with the red line and the feather?

Dead fucking last:
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
I'm not even going to *try* this unless a miracle happens. I just read Jacob de Zoet and I didn't love it, and even David Mitchell fans say this isn't his best work. I'm David Mitchell'd out, I think. Maybe I'll feel differently in March, but I doubt it.

I know you're going back to follower status this year, but are there any that seem interesting to you?


  1. I've only read All the Light We Cannot See and I really enjoyed that. I also look forward to discussing the topics you brought up.

    I will not/cannot read An Untamed State. Seriously cannot even imagine the circumstances where I would read that book.

    As for "follower status" -- mostly, I'm just not going to really go "all out" to read so many of the books. It really thew off my reading game last year, and that's not worth it. But I am planning on reading a few of these...

    Definitely going to start on Station Eleven shortly! But I have a fear -- how can this book possibly live up to the hype? It seems like it is going to be soooo good.

    I've heard a lot of good things about Dept of Speculation so I'll check that out.

    Also highlighted on my list are two that just seem like WTF? Wittgenstein Jr and Adam -- the weirdos make me curious. I have read Ariel Schrag's graphic novels, so I really want to like Adam. But I'm all ready to abandon those MF'ers if they stink.

    I am curious about The Paying Guests (although I am sorry for your sad association, but it's a great way to honor Jeff) buuut... only if I have time to read it as an e or pBook. Not an aBook -- it's too out there to go in through my ears.

    I won't read Redeployment. In general, I don't do war stories. And All the Birds, Singing for the same reasons you mentioned. Also out is A Brief History of Seven Killings -- I'm not interested in the story and it's over 700 pages long, so nope. And Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay is out (3rd in the trilogy problem).

    "Storey" is the British spelling, so yeah... that seems weird. The author is an American and so is the main character, so maybe it's because it's set in Europe? Guess you'll have to let me know when you read it! :)

    I happened to see Annihilation at the library last week, so I grabbed it. But we'll see how it goes.

    Aaaaand... no play-in round this year.

  2. Dude. I started Station Eleven yesterday evening and couldn't put it down. I probably read 150 pages! I can't wait to go home and read more. It's also good to slow me down on Sandman. I don't want to rush that, so I'm trying to spend some time contemplating before moving on.

    But seriously, Station Eleven is really impressive so far.

    1. Oh yes. I am TOTALLY sucked in.

    2. Yep, yep, yep. And the Toronto in that book. I'll finish it today.

  3. Per our recent book cover discussion---I enjoy this post from The Millions ever year on TOB book covers.

  4. Even though I am not killing myself to read many of the books this year, I just came back to this post to see which one you had mentioned might be a good aBook (Everything I Never Told You) and I looked it up -- YES! That narrator is one of my favorites!

    Hrmmm... now I am slightly more interested in engaging buuut...
    1. That books looks *super* sad (did you read/listen)? and
    2. I am so hooked on Spike reading the Dresden Files right now, I cannot even tell you. I have listened to Books 1-6 since Jan 1. For real.

  5. Yeah, so as it turns out, I must be a complete aBook failure---which is now proven to me many times. I've listened to about an hour of Everything I Never Told You, and quite honestly, it's just hard for me to do.

    I don't think it's the narrator. I think it's *me*. Maybe it's just that I'm surrounded by people talking to me Maybe it's that I'm impatient and want to go faster. I don't know.

    I just have NO Interest whatsoever in listening to the rest of it. I got the pBook out of the library to finish it.

    I think I finally just have to admit that aBooks aren't for me. I have 2 audible credits left, so maybe I'll just download these Spike books for some future road trip. The only aBooks I've ever listened to successfully are the Harry Potter books, and it's always been on long drives.

  6. I've definitely heard the "impatient and want it to go faster" issue from other fast readers I know. Get this -- some people actually listen on the "sped up" setting (I've seen people mention it in reviews). That's nutso to me -- like chipmunks reading!

    Also, you like your downtime/quiet time. It's good to recognize that about yourself. Having someone telling you a story while you're doing chores makes you says "STFU." Ha.

    A lot of people I know who listen to aBooks only listen on road trips, so that may be the answer for you. Now... come visit me and listen to a book on the way. Heh. ;)

    The Harry Potter books are also narrated by one of the all-time BEST narrators, so it's hard to compare those aBooks to basically any others in the world.

    Meanwhile, how is/was Everything I Never Told You, then? Haven't started it. Still a bit curious.