What I read in May

I always set myself a reading goal of 52 books for the year (so on average a book a week). Well, somehow (lockdown), I’ve hit that goal 5 months into 2021. Here are the top 10 fiction and top 5 nonfiction books I’ve read so far this year — what should I put on my to-read list for the rest of the year?

Fiction:

The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott
Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox
No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
The Yield by Tara June Winch
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Nonfiction:

Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Read on for reviews of the books I read in May:

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What I Read in April

Okay, so after all my big talk last month about how I might have to split up this month post’s into two because of all the books I was going to read, I actually had a pretty slow reading month. I got a just a wee small little bit obsessively hooked on a podcast (The Magnus Archives) and so instead of listening to audiobooks I found myself listening to the podcast, and instead of reading… I also found myself listening to the podcast. 90 episodes in means it was a quieter reading month than the last couple (and I still have half the podcast to go so May might have fewer than usual books in it as well). That said, I still got through a good few excellent books; read on for my reviews or check them all out on Goodreads.

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What I read in August

In August I did something I rarely do these days: I read a book I didn’t like. Between Goodreads, friends’ recommendations, and just having a very good sense of what I enjoy, I rarely start a book I’m not pretty certain I’m going to like. Which is good, because I hate to DNF (short for “Did Not Finish”) a book. I did finish this one, but I wish I hadn’t taken the time. Still, it was a great month for reading, with some quiet days and extra free time and a couple of long commutes and travel times meaning I read eight (!) books in August. And the others ranged from good to an absolutely incredible new favourite. Here they are:

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One More Thing by BJ Novak (2014): 4/5 stars

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There’s a video on Youtube of BJ Novak telling the story of “Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle.” It’s pretty grainy and the sound quality isn’t that great… and I’ve watched it enough times that when I reached the story in Novak’s first story collection, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, I could hear his voice in my head and could probably have recited the story nearly by heart myself.

Maybe that’s a sign I’ve followed BJ Novak’s career too closely, along with the fact that I recognised a few of the collection’s shorter “stories” as originally being from his Twitter account, but ever since I started watching The Office and Ryan Howard became one of my favourite characters on the show even in his most hate-able moments (that blond hair), I’ve been a big fan. So in fairness, this is a pretty biased review, as I already knew his sense of humour and writing style was in my wheelhouse.

Regardless, I loved this book, and stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to finish reading it. Every time I thought “I’ll stop after this story, save the rest for the next day,” I found myself reading another. Some were longer, while others were only a few lines (for example, “The Literalist’s Love Poem”: Roses are rose. Violets are violet. I love you.). The thing that I found most engaging about the collection was the tone.

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This Love is Not for Cowards by Robert Andrew Powell (2012): 4.5/5 stars

tlinfc-coverI don’t know much about the Liga Mx. I follow the English Premier League and the Spanish Liga, and I’ve even started watching a bit of Bundesliga recently (although I’ve yet to find a broadcast with English commentary so the only words I can pick up are things like “Dortmund” and “das fitness coach”), so I hardly have time to watch yet another league anyway, although I sometimes catch a match on Univisión while I’m at the gym. I know a few key words and names in Mexican football, Hérculez Gómez and Chivas and Chicarito and the Azteca, but comparatively, I’m in the dark. Before reading Robert Andrew Powell’s gripping book, This Love is Not for Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez, I had certainly never heard of Los Indios de Ciudad Juárez.

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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (2012): 4/5 stars

Before I begin this review, I’d like to take a moment and say that I’m sick of reviews referring to The Casual Vacancy as J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. While the Harry Potter books certainly originated as a series for children, the themes, particularly in the last three books, are appropriate for those who grew up with the series (I was in elementary school when the first book was released, and high school when Deathly Hallows came out), as well as younger readers and, yes, adults. However, I am alright with reviewers describing The Casual Vacancy as Rowling’s first book marketed toward adults because I do think that’s true—and I don’t think I would advise it be read by anyone under the age of twelve or so, due to the amount of profanity and sexual content (and violence, but then again, Deathly Hallows).

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