In theory, July was meant to be when I got to all the books I’ve been buying and stock-piling. It was meant to be the month I finally read Middlemarch, which I have been talking about reading now basically since George Eliot finished writing the bloody thing.
Anyway, here’s what I read in July.
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang
This was extremely peculiar; the second part, in particular, made me want to scrub my own skin off. The writing is quite lyrical and absorbing, but all except one of the characters are just far too weird to even think about.
- The Wicked and The Divine Volume 2: Fandamonium by Kieron Gillen
This was excellent; loads of cool new characters were introduced and it had a great ending. It made me excited for the third book (you’ll see how that turned out in a second).
- Brand New Ancients by Kate Tempest
This is a 40-odd page narrative poem about modern isolation; it’s similar in tone and content to Tempest’s novel, The Bricks That Built the Houses. I really want to find a way to use this at school next year.
- The Wicked and The Divine Volume 3: Commercial Suicide by Kieron Gillen
This was a total letdown; the usual series artist was busy or something so each section is illustrated by someone different, which just makes it really hard to follow, and at least one of sections looks horrible. At least this made me realise that I’ve finally started actually looking at the pictures in graphic novels, which is something I’ve had to train my speed-reading self to do.
- Paper Girls Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
Another graphic novel, and I liked this one; it’s witty and had a plot that really surprised me. Also, it’s about badass twelve year old girls, so it’s a win.
- Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
I’m so pleased I finally read this; I had it on my Kindle but decided a few chapters in that it was something I needed to read ‘properly’ to appreciate it fully (does anyone else have this issue with e-readers?), so I bought the paperback and it was really, really excellent. It features lots of things I don’t usually like (slightly annoying characters, not much actually happening, thinly veiled haranguing), but I loved it; it’s the book I’ve spent the most time with this year because I just didn’t want it to be finished. I’m very keen to read Adichie’s other books now.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
I haven’t watched Blade Runner in a long time, and reading its source material made me think I should revisit it; I really like the film but the book didn’t do it for me. I felt like too much was introduced and not fully explained (for example, is there a real reason that androids have to be killed? Or is it just the idea of androids which people don’t like?).
- Show and Prove by Sofia Quintero
This focuses on two teenage boys in the Bronx in 1983; it was really immersive and made me want to say “word” a lot. Which I don’t think I can pull off, sadly.
- Batman: Harley Quinn by Paul Dini
I read one of the New 52 books about Harley Quinn last month and didn’t really like it; she came across as really one-dimensional and I wanted more from the character. This one delivered; it showed how she ended up as an inmate rather than a psychiatrist at Arkham and gave me a lot more detail about her relationship with the Joker.
- Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
This was recommended to me by a trusted sci-fi fan at work; it’s about a weird society on another planet, where everyone’s waiting for people from Earth to come and save them. It took a while to get into but I ended up really enjoying it. Apparently the sequel is harder work, but I’ll be giving it a go in August.
- The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
I’ve been meaning to read this for ages; I liked all the actual wolf stuff (it’s about a young Russian girl who retrains domesticated wolves so they can live in the wild), but the tone was strange. Sometimes it was deadly serious, with children being threatened by evil soldiers, and then witty banter, which made it a little confusing.
- The Muse by Jessie Burton
I reviewed this here; it was entertaining enough, but, if a book’s going to use historical events, I think it needs to be a bit more focused on truthful representation of details than this is.
- Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
I love Ansari; he’ll always be Tom Haverford to me and that’s a beautiful thing. This book was both very entertaining and very interesting, with loads of insight into dating in the 21st century (and loads of reasons for boring married people like me to be glad they’re boring and married).
- Suicide Squad: Pure Insanity by Sean Ryan
I’m really excited to see the Suicide Squad movie and, if there’s one thing I really like, it’s ruining a film for my husband by repeatedly saying, “this isn’t the same as the book,” so I’m trying to read as many of the graphic novels as possible before seeing it.
- Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
This was another slow-starter, but I’m so glad I stuck with it; there were lots of elements which reminded me of other fantasy YAs, but the violence and unique narrative voice set it apart.
- Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman
I didn’t really get into this; the premise of a Russian immigrant family whose adopted son goes missing, as well as the idea of a trip to Montana, made me want to read it, but the characters were all really hard to relate to.
- Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
I won this from the publisher on Twitter: woohoo! I felt a little conflicted about the book; much of it is very hard-hitting and Valenti’s experiences of sexual harassment, especially as a child, are really disturbing. Crucially, I think too much of this isn’t linked to the central idea of female objectification and, consequently, at times, it’s more of a list of bad relationships. The section on becoming a mother, however, is extremely powerful.
- The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
I only discovered this by trawling through random books on Amazon but it is one of my best ever impulse book buys. It’s a stunning story about an albino woman in a Zimbabwean prison, convicted of murdering the man to whom her parents sold her. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in ages.
- And I Darken by Kiersten White
This started slowly but the characters, especially Lada, made me intrigued enough to stick with it. There’s a lot of political machination and complex plotting, and it is quite hard to keep track of who’s double crossing who, but it’s a very good historical YA with an excellent feminist protagonist. Still waiting for the title to make sense, mind.
- Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman
I love reading Hadley Freeman’s columns in The Guardian and this book about eighties movies and what we learn from them was even more entertaining. As an example of how effective it is, I am watching Footloose while writing this list.
- Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2: Angela by Brian Michael Bendis
I am a big fan of the film, so it makes sense that I enjoyed this graphic novel; it was very funny and smart, and I liked finding out more about these characters.
- Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Post-apocalyptic, Africa-set YA fantasy with huge amounts of feminist content; this was unlike anything I’ve ever read and was very, very odd. It also contained one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen committed to paper.
- Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest
I am officially a Tempest fan; I’ve read her novel and now two of her poetry collections and I really, really love her style. The way she uses rhyme is so fresh and exciting; I’m determined to force some of this on my students next year.
- A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher
This is a YA retelling of Les Miserables from Eponine’s perspective, which I found out about during a Twitter chat about classics. It was a sweet version of the story, giving Eponine a bit more development than she receives in Hugo’s original, although I did find it a bit slight; the brevity of the book meant that everyone seemed to fall in love after about 3 seconds of knowing someone, which felt weird.
- Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
I’m slightly conflicted about this; it’s an interesting premise (what if the American Civil War never happened?) but I didn’t find the main character very appealing. I also don’t know how to feel about a white author telling the story of an escaped slave; I need to process my thoughts about this book.
This puts me on 177 for the year, which shouldn’t make me as happy as it does. Oh well.