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What I’ve been reading № 9: ReReading

14.January 2020

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It’s no secret that, basically, I read for work. I read lots and lots of things for work, including excellent literature and theory and hundreds and hundreds of less excellent student essays. I also read a lot of my own writing over and over and over.

It’s also no secret that I had a baby two years (and change) ago.

That turns out to be a potent combination for sucking all the pleasure out of reading for pleasure.

The good news: Thanks to a break between semesters and a lot of free childcare while my parents were visiting I’ve *almost* rediscovered the gut read, the kind of reading where you lose track of time and keep turning pages and pages and pages and it takes ages to pull yourself back up and out into reality.

Last year I read four books. This is a PALTRY number, especially compared to the very impressive lineups shared by a number of my good buddies on Instagram at the end of December. I wish I had stacks and stacks and stacks of reading to show off, but here I am with my little pile of books, feeling pretty great about myself for having managed to finish even one novel last year. Needless to say, I’m aiming for more in 2020.

Thus, with no further ado, here’s what I’ve been reading:

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Elena Ferrante: My Brilliant Friend

I’m late to the party on this one, but it was a great read. I have been reading about Ferrante fever for years and have meant to read these novels for ages, but I finally picked it up after I was prodded into actions by my dear friend Claire. She was right, it’s a fascinating book, compelling for its plot, certainly, but especially for its use of language and the play between dialect and formal language. It makes me desperately want to learn Italian. Go read it. Also, tell me if I should watch the show!

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Kim Stanley Robinson: New York 2140

I’m a long-standing fan of Stan’s books (Especially 2312. It’s amazing. Go read it.) This novel imagines New York after the flood(s) that accompany radical sea level rise. The story isn’t one purely of climate apocalypse, but also involves a mystery, a classic treasure hunt, and a great deal of speculation about the effects of climate change reshaping the coast on the economy, real estate futures, and the whole political system. It reads (like many of Stan’s books) like four or five novels squished together, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s episodic, which makes it clip by, but it’s LONG, so it doesn’t clip by that quickly. Highly recommend, but settle in for a fairly long ride.

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Amor Towles: Rules of Civility

One of my oldest friends, Carrie, gave me this book almost immediately after I had the aforementioned baby and it’s been sitting on my to-read shelf since then. Whereas the previous two books took me about eight months to read (see above: reading before bedtime when exhausted), I devoured this one in about three days just before Christmas. It clearly has pretensions of being the next Gatsby, but that didn’t bother me in the least. It also reminded me a bit of Herman Wouk, whose work I LOVED in middle school (come to think of it, I should reread Marjorie Morningstar if I ever have time to reread a book again). Anyway, this book is set in the 20s and 30s in New York and features sparkling social climbers and high society and a really great woman protagonist. I could not stop reading this (which is when I felt like I really remembered that I love reading) and I recommend you go and read it immediately.

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Philip Pullman: La Belle Sauvage

I’ve been a fan of Pullman’s since I first read The Golden Compass (a book that I reread with frequency – in fact, we read it aloud during the baby’s bedtime feedings during his first year with us) and so I was VERY excited that there are more books coming. I got this for Christmas in 2018 and it’s been gathering dust (ha) next to Towles’s book since then. I read it in just a few days and cannot wait to read the next one. This novel gives a lot of background about Lyra’s Oxford, but isn’t sprawling in the way you might expect. It focuses on a single adventure set against the whole political and religious backdrop of the Magisterium’s rise and Lyra’s arrival at Jordan College and introduces an intimate cast of extremely lovable characters. If you’re a fan of His Dark Materials and haven’t read this yet, do so as soon as possible.

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That’s it for my 2019. What are you reading? What should I read next?

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