I’ve been really sensible with my book buying this year so far; I’m kind of proud of myself. It wasn’t a conscious decision – not a New Year’s Resolution, or anything like that – though I have had an increasing sense that I maybe ought to get my book habit under control and start reading some of the ones I already have. This week, I’ve bought two, and immediately started reading both.
Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor
I’ve known I wanted to read this ever since I first saw it mentioned – the main character is a literary translator, which has long been one of my dream careers. Also, that cover has all sorts of positive associations for me. (I know that’s not how we should judge; I know this. And yet…) I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve never read anything like this book – it was so interesting, in all the best ways. The first third or so is a super easy read and flew by. I slowed down a bit – not out of boredom, though – with the analysis of Dante’s work and the lessons drawn from it, but then sped up again. It’s smart, with very real characters and relatable lives in all their messiness, and, in the first part of the book, also funny. Also, bonus: the chapter are super short, which made it a great book to be able to pick up during short bus journeys and the like. It would make an excellent book club pick – there is so much to discuss along the lines of family, marriage, and parenthood, as well as the more esoteric aspects of the novel which discuss the finer points of language and the fidelity of translation as well as cleverly linking those back to the other themes.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
I have been so excited about this book ever since I heard about it at the end of last year. It’s firmly in my wheelhouse, exploring as it does the author’s relationship to a foreign language, Italian. (In a previous life, I was a language tutor; I’m also bilingual and, like Lahiri, write in English, which is technically my second language.) I happened to be at Busboys and Poets on its publication day, and I couldn’t resist buying a hard copy, despite the fact that I already had the Digital Review Copy (DRC). Lahiri wrote the book in Italian, and the original and translation into English are on opposite pages. Plus, it’s a lovely book as an object. And it was signed. So of course, I couldn’t resist.
Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee
There’s been a bit of a theme to my reading lately – you wait your whole life for books about Italian translation, and two come along at once – but this one, despite its title, doesn’t seem to be much about language, as such, but rather about the immigration experience more broadly. It’s this month’s book club pick, and I’m enjoying it so far. It’s the kind of writing that is seamlessly crafted and easy to read and I’m trying to practice not subvocalising with it. (Subvocalising is reading each word silently to yourself, almost as if you were reading out loud, and it’s the reason I read much more slowly than I’d like to.)
One thing that has definitely helped me buy fewer books is that these days, thanks I think to my being a contributor at Book Riot as well as my other various book-related occupations, I get approved to view a fair number of Digital Review Copies. Quite a few of the books I’m most looking forward to this year are now siting on my e-reader, waiting for me. I always yelp in excitement when I get those emails. This week, I’ve been approved to read Suzanne Rindell’s Three-Martini Lunch – I can’t resist a good novel about the publishing industry – as well as Nancy Jo Sales’ American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, which I’d seen on Goodreads and had piqued my interest, being the social media enthusiast that I am (happy 10th Facebook birthday to me!) and toying as I am with writing a YA novel sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Netgalley – one of the two main sites for advance copies – also sent out an email saying that the first 500 to request The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander would be approved automatically. The headline was A Story of Love, Loss, and the Ties That Bind Us – which sounded excellent already, and the blurb pulled me in: “Since her twin brother Eddie drowned five years ago, 16-year-old Elsie Main has tried to remember what really happened that fateful day on the beach.With the help of a mysterious boy, Elsie is granted a rare opportunity to finally put the tragedy behind her and move on. But as Elsie dives further into the truth behind her pain, will she be pulled under the past?” Sounds irresistible to me, and reminded of We Were Liars, which I would have loved were it not for the ending. I clicked straight away and the e-galley arrived. Hooray for book blogging.