At the beginning of the year I challenged myself to read 52 books in a year, and I’ve now hit the halfway mark on that challenge. To be honest it’s got away from me a bit – 3 months in I was practically bang on target, but since then the numbers have slipped and I’m a shameful 8 books behind. I’m trying not to let it get to me too much; in the past month I’ve been on a solo holiday and moved house, and a lot of my free time before that was spent organising those things rather than relaxing with a book.
Hopefully I’ll be able to make some ground up in the coming months, but even if I don’t I’ll still be happy that I committed more time to reading, and expanded the range of books I’m reading. Here are a few of my most notable reads from April to June.
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
I vaguely remember seeing the film adaptation of Never Let Me Go a few years ago, and if anything I found the book more haunting. The idea behind it – that the students can know why they were created, understand the fate that awaits them, and yet be so culturally conditioned that they just accept it – is so powerful, it played on my mind days after I’d finished reading it. The story can meander sometimes, as Ishiguro switches back and forth between the present day and childhood memories, but no story is wasted – each one adds a new layer to the story, and to the complicated friendships that exist in it.
Heartburn – Nora Ephron
I love Nora Ephron films and really wanted to enjoy her books, but for me Heartburn just didn’t quite deliver. It was entertaining enough, and in a lot of ways had the same comforting relatability and light humour that I love so much in her films, however in book form it didn’t work in quite the same way. It was an easy read that I made my way through quickly but when I finished it I didn’t feel sad that it was over, and it didn’t stick in my mind as my favourite books do when I read them for the first time. Maybe I’ll give another of her books a go further down the line, but right now I don’t feel any particular urge to.
Lullaby – Chuck Palahniuk
At the risk of sounding negative Lullaby was a bit of a disappointment too, but I’m going to talk about it because Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favourite authors and I want to try to pick apart why Lullaby didn’t hit me right in the gut like most of his novels do. It did have several of those quote-able lines that are so typically Palahniuk and the end has a twist you don’t see coming, but the interesting base theme of sound as a potential danger in a society that is obsessed with noise gets muddied by other stuff, and eventually becomes quite…boring. It doesn’t touch Invisible Monsters.
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
In my 3-month challenge update I talked about how much I loved The Kite Runner, and I quickly bought A Thousand Splendid Suns, simultaneously excited to read Hosseini’s sequel and worried that it wouldn’t be able to match up to his debut. If anything, it surpassed it. Maybe I enjoyed it more because it focused on women – while the characters in The Kite Runner are predominantly male, A Thousand Splendid Suns provides a window into the hardships of life for women under the Taliban, and tells the story of how two women built a relationship in the face of dehumanising laws and a cruel husband.
A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson
I finished reading this book in the airport at the end of my holiday while wiling away a 2-hour flight delay, and after I closed it I laid it carefully in my lap, staring at the front cover as I tried to process the ending. Kate Atkinson’s storytelling held me spellbound all the way through the novel’s 600 pages, and just when I thought she couldn’t get any better she came out with the most quietly heartbreaking ending that seemed to suck the air from my lungs. An absolute must-read.
What books have you been reading lately? I’m always looking for new reads, so leave your recommendations in the comments!