Bookish Summary for July 2018, Plans for August

Only 10 books this month (of which two were flash fiction collections, so much easier to read in bits and pieces). I’ve really struggled to read, and I’m not quite sure if it was because I was busy and tired, or going out too much, or just too hot to be able to concentrate properly.

6 written by women, one anthology, and 3 written by men. 3 in translation.  Penance and Vernon Subutex were the only two of #20booksofsummer which I read this month, which means that I am only up to 6 out of 20. It’s not going to happen, is it?


I don’t know if my lack of reading enthusiasm influenced my appreciation of the books, or whether the lack of brilliant books led to a slump in my reading, but I have a confession to make. Quite a few of the books were not particularly exciting – mildly disappointing, in fact. I expected more, for instance, from Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends but overall I thought it pretty average, while Home Fire was reasonably good but didn’t bowl me over for all its prize winning. Vernon Subutex was the most disappointing, simply because I have high expectations of Virginie Despentes and have enjoyed her provocative, satirical writing in the past.

However, there were also some successes. I really liked Wolfgang Hilbig’s The Tidings of the Trees and Hometown, Carrie Etter’s collection of flash fiction dedicated to typical small-town America and life lived at its more precarious margins. I discovered the first thanks to Asymptote Book Club and the latter thanks to the Flash Fiction Festival. Which just goes to show that sometimes you need to allow someone knowledgeable to guide you into a new reading direction rather than rely on your favourite genres or media recommendations. American by Day was a fun crime read, contrasting Norwegian and American cultures and policing styles, although the mystery part of it was perhaps not really all that mysterious or satisfactory.

I’ve got some excellent books lined up for Women in Translation month though,  all of which I have just recently received in the post:

  1. Gine Cornelia Pedersen: Zero, transl. Rosie Hedger (which the translator very kindly sent to me) is the story of a young girl with mental health problems and has been described as ‘punk rock’
  2. Teresa Solana: The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories, transl. Peter Bush – a collection of dark, crime-seeped stories set in Solana’s native Barcelona (thanks to publisher Bitter Lemon Press)
  3. Lilja Sigurdardottir: Trap, transl. Quentin Bates – 2nd book in the series about a single mother trying to escape her drug-mule past (thank you to Orenda Books)
  4. Beatriz Bracher: I Didn’t Talk, transl. Adam Morris – powerful story about people caught up in Brazil’s military dictatorship (Asymptote Book Club’s July title)
  5. Marina Tsvetaeva: Moscow Diaries 1917-1922, transl. Jamey Gambrell – diaries and essays written by one of my favourite poets during one of the most turbulent periods in Russian history (taking advantage of NYRB book sale)
  6. Lucy Fricke: Töchter (Daughters) – two middle-aged friends take the seriously ill father of one of them to a Swiss clinic, but things don’t quite turn out as planned. Described as a sort of Thelma and Louise road trip, it’s supposed to be both hilarious and thoughtful, and was recommended by a couple of my favourite German book bloggers.

Other books for August will be all the ones I have to review (a long, long list, as I’ve been even more lax in my reviewing than in my reading): Michael Stanley: Dead of Night; Antti Tuomainen: Palm Beach Finland; Pierre Lemaitre: Inhuman Resources; Roberto Saviano: The Piranhas. I also have three library books that I would really like to finally get around to reading, although I’ve renewed them repeatedly: Romain Gary; Eliade: The Old Man and the Bureaucrats; Norman Manea: The Fifth Impossibility (Essays on Exile and Language).

15 thoughts on “Bookish Summary for July 2018, Plans for August”

  1. I think the heat has definitely made a difference. I have struggled to concentrate at times and have to say I was pleased to see the rain. Some interesting books lined up,for August – one of which we may have in common although mine is an older edition!

    1. OOoh, which one do we have in common? I suspect the Tsvetaeva. I was so enamoured with her as a teen – and she still breaks my heart with her poetry.

      1. Correct! Although mine is not a pretty new NYRB but an ugly old hardback. I shall be posting about it tomorrow. And I agree about her poetry – just beautiful and as you so rightly say heartbreaking!

  2. I’ve struggled with the heat – its definitely impacted my reading. Usually I read around 3 books a week, at the moment I’m lucky to finish one! Here’s hoping the cooler temperatures see us back on track 🙂

  3. I think we all go through reading slumps, Marina Sofia. And it’s sometimes hard to say whether that leads to our disappointment in books, or whether it works the other way. In any case, you do have some fine reads lined up, and hopefully, that will revive you. I’ll be very interested in what you think oi Solana’s collection. I liked her series, and it’ll be interesting to see that side of her writing.

  4. Sorry to hear about your reading slump. Summer sometimes does it for me too, the disruption of routine, the short nights… I hope you get over it soon! I look forward to your opinion on the Tsvetaeva diary.

  5. I seem to have been in a reading slump for months. Sitting reading in the garden in the sunshine would have seemed like bliss while I was working but I didn’t have the energy to enjoy the experience now I get the chance

  6. Marina Sophia, you are astonishingly hard on yourself! It has been in the 90’s here for over a week and I find myself reading light books I have never even contemplated picking up before. You drive yourself and accomplish so much I am repeatedly impressed. But everyone needs a vacation, even from their favorite activity–even if that activity is reading. Reading is not a passive sport!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, but I think it’s more passivity that I’m aiming for. It’s not about being driven, it’s more about learning to relax and just sit down in the garden and read instead of trying to be at my desk and review, do blog posts, check out other blogs, prepare marketing materials for Asymptote, check children’s homework, housework etc.

  7. Having read the first two parts of VS, I can see how you might be disappointed coming from Despentes’ other work. I haven’t raed any of her other books, but the impression I got from American reviews of them was of an angry feminist writer, and that’s certainly not what VS is all about…

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