My 2017 bookshelf, part 2: May-August

Back in April, I posted my first 2017 round-up, in which I looked back over the books I had read between January and April. I thought I would keep up this routine now that four more months have passed, as the end of August also marks four months since I started Amy’s Ever-Growing Bookshelf.

I’ve definitely noticed a change in my reading habits since I began blogging. I do feel as though I am reading more; I finished 21 books over the course of the last four months (full list below), bringing my total 2017 count up to 38 and putting me well ahead of schedule in my aim to read a total of 50 books by the end of the year.

Admittedly, I owe as much of this change to Goodreads as I do to blogging. There is something immensely satisfying about seeing everything I’ve read displayed and rated on my Goodreads account, each book adding a little to my 2017 Challenge progress bar. It’s the little things, I suppose.

Not only am I reading more, but I also feel as though I am more fully appreciating what I do read. Previously, I might have disliked what I was reading without ever being sure why that was the case; now, the thought that I might decide to review the book makes me a more conscious, critical reader. While I don’t have the time to review every book I pick up, I really enjoy this new-found engagement with the books I choose to read.

Speaking of which, here are a few thoughts on my May-August reads:

  • As short as it is, The End We Start From by Megan Hunter has been my favourite read of the last four months. Hunter concentrates an intense amount of emotion and experience into her short, sparse prose, and the result is absolutely wonderful. My full review of the book can be found here.
  • Earlier this month, I was pleased to receive my first copy of a review bookThe Tryst by Monique Roffey is an erotic short novel published by UK indie press Dodo Ink. If you’re interested in indie-published titles, I also reviewed Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams a few months ago, after I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign in support of Williams’ publishers Influx Press.
  • I’ve been working my way through quite a few literary award shortlists lately. First up was the Bailey’s Prize; I read Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s Stay With Me and Linda Grant’s The Dark Circle (review) before attending the Prize’s shortlisted reading evening. Then, earlier this month a friend and I took the opportunity to watch the announcement of the Arthur C. Clarke Award at Foyles Charing Cross, where I picked up The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, and Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit. I’m by no means of the opinion that being shortlisted inevitably means that a book is good, but I have to say that I really enjoyed these four particular titles.
  • My most disappointing read had to be Tama Janowitz’ short story collection Slaves of New York. It was one of the oldest residents on my TBR, having been gifted to me way back in 2011, and it was nothing like I had expected. None of the characters were likeable or in any way enjoyable to read about, and the plots of the stories they featured in felt insubstantial at best. I distinctly felt as though Janowitz’ work might have been cutting-edge when she was writing in the 1980s, but it has since significantly dated. A few months beforehand, I read Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City, a recently published work of non-fiction which also explores the New York artistic circles of the 1980s. While I appreciate that Laing had the benefit of hindsight with which to create her work, Slaves of New York just paled in comparison to Laing’s exquisite prose.

My 2017 bookshelf, part 2 (May-August):

IMG_4614.219. Orlando* – Virginia Woolf
20. Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever?* – Dave Eggers (review)
21. A Rising Man* – Abir Mukherjee (review)
22. Stay With Me – Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
23. The Dark Circle – Linda Grant (review)
24. Attrib. and other stories – Eley Williams (review)
25. The Lonely City – Olivia Laing
26. Stories of Your Life and Others – Ted Chiang
27. In the Castle of My Skin* – George Lamming (review)
28. Your Family, Your Body: Penguin Modern Poets 3*- Malika Booker, Sharon Olds, and Wason Shire* (review)
29. The Empty Family – Colm Toibin
30. The Fortunes – Peter Ho Davies (review)
31. The End We Start From – Megan Hunter (review)
32. The Things We Thought We Knew* – Mahsuda Snaith (review)
33. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
34. Slaves of New York – Tama Janowitz
35. Some New Ambush* – Carys Davies
36. The Tryst – Monique Roffey (review)
37. A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers
38. Days Without End – Sebastian Barry
39. Mr Loverman* – Bernadine Evaristo

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2 thoughts on “My 2017 bookshelf, part 2: May-August

  1. I enjoyed both ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘The Dark Circle’ although a friend of mine who knows much more about literature set in Africa than I do felt that the former was very typical of current Nigerian novels and would have liked to see something on the shortlist that was more ground breaking. I am actually halfway through ‘The Underground Railroad’ and enjoying it, although wondering why I am not more emotionally engaged than I am.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting. While most of the literature from the African diaspora I’ve read seems to be set in/connected to Nigeria, I can’t say I know enough to make a judgement on what could be considered ground-breaking. Taken on its own merit, I really enjoyed Stay With Me, although my favourite to win this year’s prize was Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which I read late last year.

      As for The Underground Railroad, could it be because the narrative is meant to be more of an allegorical experience rather than a realist one? I still think you can engage with Cora and her journey, but since that journey isn’t meant to be taken literally, perhaps there’s an expectation for the reader to observe rather than empathise.

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