The Monthly Round-Up: May

Another month of reading is over and yet, somehow, I still have a million books to read. This could have something to do with how many I keep buying. I don’t know: there must be some logical explanation. Here’s what I read in May.

  1. Narcissism for Beginners by Martine McDonagh
    Catcher in the Rye– esque trip to the UK for privileged man-child with dubious background. It grew on me.
  2. The Circus by Olivia Levez
    I went a bit berserk requesting new YA titles on NetGalley a few weeks ago and reading this made me wish my past self had been a bit more discerning. Review here.
  3. The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle
    Continuing my recent obsession with verse novels, this is a YA read about a girl who campaigned against slavery in Cuba. It was rather beautiful.
  4. The Ice by Laline Paull
    I loved The Bees by Paull so I was all over requesting this on NetGalley but it was surprisingly boring. It is a testament to my unwillingness to abandon books that I actually finished it.
  5. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
    One of my favourite books of 2017 so far; my review’s here and you can buy the book now and make it a massive and gorgeous bestseller which should absolutely happen.
  6. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste
    Continuing my African literary odyssey, this is set Ethiopia in 1974, as revolution begins to tear apart society. It’s a really enthralling and traumatic book: well worth reading.
  7. The Breaking of a Wave by Fabio Genovesi
    Something a little gentler, this is set in a small Tuscan town and follows the town’s inhabitants as they deal with tragedy. Weirdly, it’s also sweet and funny.
  8. Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
    I’ve had this on my shelf for over a year and finally got to it in May. It was interesting enough, although all the Courtney Love shade was completely not needed.
  9. Augustown by Kei Miller
    This is brilliant: set in a Jamaican town and veering between odd past events and politically charged violence in the present, it’s an extraordinarily good book.
  10. Reaching for the Stars: Poems About Extraordinary Women by Jan Dean, Liz Brownlee and Michaela Morgan
    This was lovely; a collection of poems, aimed at younger readers, about the achievements of women and girls throughout history. It made me smile a lot and I immediately started buying copies for other people’s daughters. Here’s my review.
  11. The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson
    My least favourite of Jackson’s novels, this plodding story of a bunch of interchangeable and annoying neighbours took a really long time to go anywhere, by which time I’d already lost interest.
  12. Mr Either/Or by Aaron Poochigan
    Not actually out until October, but look out for it then: this wildly entertaining verse novel follows an undercover agent hunting down an ancient and supernatural object and getting shot at a lot along the way. One of the most original things I’ve read this year.
  13. Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou
    My love of Mabanckou continues with this Man Booker International Prize longlisted story of an orphan whose life becomes more complicated when he escapes his orphanage and falls in with some ‘interesting’ crowds.
  14. Above Sugar Hill by Linda Mannheim
    Short stories set in a specific part of New York: I didn’t love this but it was okay.
  15. Release by Patrick Ness
    Predictably beautiful YA novel from the king of beautiful YA novels.
  16. Do What You Want edited by Ruby Tandoh and Leah Pritchard
    This is a zine focused on mental health. It looks gorgeous and is a fascinating read too; the approach is on highlighting mental illness and the ways in which people suffering from it can be supported.
  17. White Fur by Jardine Libaire
    I wasn’t sure about this to start with but I quickly fell in love with the Romeo and Juliet-influenced plot and class issues between the central couple. A really excellent read.
  18. Shopgirl by Steve Martin
    I read this because it’s the starter book for next month’s Six Degrees of Separation and really wish I hadn’t bothered. It was mercifully brief but just so annoyingly stereotypical with female and male characters alike that I couldn’t really enjoy it.
  19. A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom
    A decent YA read about a teenage girl struggling with her mental health. It took a really long time to grab my attention; I was hoping it would match up to Lindstrom’s Not If I See You First but my dreams were sadly shattered.
  20. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
    I read this for some wider knowledge of Williams’ work, as I’m teaching A Streetcar Named Desire for approximately the millionth time. This is another excellent play, although I’ve now watched the film too and the plot was so different that it annoyed me a lot.
  21. Plum by Hollie McNish
    McNish’s new collection of poetry is just as affecting and relatable as Nobody Told Me, but covers a wider range of experience, from young childhood to motherhood. McNish rules.
  22. Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar
    I loved this. It’s about a man who quite randomly becomes an astronaut, forced to leave behind his wife as well as the difficult legacy of his politically poisonuos father. It’s a brilliant mix of sci-fi and domestic drama.
  23. Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
    I have mixed feelings about this. The stuff about the discovery of a new, Earth-like planet is really cool, but the adolescent drama is, oddly, a bit less convincing.
  24. Worth Dying For by Tim Marshall
    I loved Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography and, while this wasn’t quite as enthralling, it was extremely interesting and quite witty. Using flags and their origins as his starting point, Marshall provides a primer on many of the geopolitical issues that still rumble on. It’s really fascinating.
  25. Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Ness
    A YA verse novel about the son of an alcoholic rock star, this had some good moments but, overall, the verse was a little too straightforward for me.
  26. Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
    I really enjoyed this graphic novel; the characters of the Rat Queens are all so cool and badass. I’m looking forward to picking up the next book.
  27. Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky
    A ridiculously beautiful book about the women who’ve made amazing scientific discoveries, I bought this to read with my daughter but the science was a little too complicated for me to explain to a pathologically curious 4 year old. Lovely for an older reader or someone less prone to showing up their mother’s scientific knowledge by asking “why?” every ten seconds though,
  28. The Bureau of Second Chances by Sheena Kalayil
    To begin with, I thought this wasn’t going to be my kind of thing at all; it’s about a widower who moves back to India from London after 30 years away, and the ways in which he establishes a new life there. It’s very, very gentle, but I found myself enjoying reading something nice for a change.
  29. Here I Stand, edited by Amnesty International UK
    An excellent collection of hard-hitting short stories on the subject of human rights: I really recommend this and I’ll be using it at school next year.
  30. Captain Marvel Volume 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick
    This is a fun and fast-moving graphic novel. I’d never encountered Captain Marvel before but I now love her.
  31. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
    Such a cute and lovely YA romance – not a genre I usually enjoy – and one which was exactly what I needed to read. Worthy of all the hype.
  32. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
    This is an intriguing thriller-type book about a dad with a very shady past and a whole host of bullet wounds to show for it, and his daughter as they try to start a new, law-abiding life.
  33. Delusions of Gender: The Read Science Behind Sex Differences by Cordelia Fine
    I was fascinated by this study of myths about male and female brains, boys being better at maths and why children opt for gendered toys. It’s quite complex at times but largely accessible and often very witty.
  34. Godblind by Anna Stephens
    I wanted to read some grown-up fantasy and that’s what this is. The massive number of narrative viewpoints threw me a bit, but this is definitely a book for people who generally enjoy the fantasy genre.
  35. City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
    Some hardcore political YA with a backdrop of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this is quite a challenging read but a really worthwhile one.
  36. Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
    Short but sweet: this India-set novel about a reasonably dysfunctional family is entertaining and interesting.

Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think?

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5 thoughts on “The Monthly Round-Up: May

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