Mid-Year Reading Review

I saw a bookish blog post which sounded like an interesting review of the half-year so far, and was not quite as challenging to complete as the Six in Six tag. But I refuse to call it the Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag – too American a term for my taste! It is now July rather than June, but I have too much happening at once.

A gorgeous selection of Shirley Jackson covers, courtesy of Simon from Stuck in a Book.

Best Book You’ve Read so Far

This was quite a hard category, because although I’ve read a lot of good books this year, there wasn’t one that completely saw off the competition. I suppose I will stick to tried and tested old favourites like: Shirley Jackson: The Sundial (which is both very funny and sinister, my favourite combination) and the rather depressing Simone de Beauvoir: The Woman Destroyed

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet but Want To

Tawada Yoko: Scattered All Over the Earth, transl. Margaret Mitsuutani

The reviews for this book are somewhat mixed, but I cannot resist a book about language and cultural identity, and this blurb sounds crazy:

Welcome to the not-too-distant future: Japan, having vanished from the face of the earth, is now remembered as “the land of sushi.” Hiruko, its former citizen and a climate refugee herself, has a job teaching immigrant children in Denmark with her invented language Panska (Pan-Scandinavian): “homemade language. no country to stay in. three countries I experienced. insufficient space in brain. so made new language. homemade language.” As she searches for anyone who can still speak her mother tongue, Hiruko soon makes new friends. Her troupe travels to France, encountering an umami cooking competition; a dead whale; an ultra-nationalist named Breivik; unrequited love; Kakuzo robots; red herrings; uranium; an Andalusian matador.

Biggest Disappointment

This seems a little unkind, as I know it’s considered a classic of Australian literature, but I found Christina Stead: The Man Who Loved Children really hard going. I also really wanted to like Berlin-set Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel but found it annoyingly self-absorbed.

Biggest Surprise

From opposite ends of the social class in two very different countries: Princess Martha Bibescu showing subtle understanding and political flair in her war-time Political Journals, while Nakagami Kenji portrays the hard and violent life of Japa’s outcasts in The Cape, transl. Eva Zimmerman.

Favourite New Author

From Romania Doina Rusti: The Book of Perilous Dishes, a delightful historical romp; from Italy, Natalia Ginzburg’s essays The Little Virtues

Book That Made You Cry

I don’t usually cry at books, but, as one might expect, The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman does not leave you indifferent, while Gael Faye’s Petit Pays, based on his experiences of civil war in Burundi and Rwanda, show that humans are incapable of learning the lessons of the past.

Book That Made You Happy

This sounds counterintuitive, perhaps even crass, but I found much gentle optimism and encouragement in Josie George‘s remarkable memoir about living with disability A Still Life, while Ways of Walking: Essays edited by Ann de Forest (appropriate name, that) is a lovely collection of essays about all sorts of walking: in urban and rural areas, across forbidden lines, around airports and on ancient pilgrim routes. A collection to dip into and savour!

19 thoughts on “Mid-Year Reading Review”

  1. I really like the sound of A Still Life, and by some miracle my library has it – so I’ve bookmarked it.

    My daughter has read a lot of graphic novels and has told me about Maus, so I must borrow her copy. She was also keen on Fun Home, and I was interested to read that Netflix’s brilliant Heartstopper began life as a webcom/graphic novel too. I think the only one I’ve actually read so far is Persepolis.

    Looking back through my journal I realise just how many excellent books I’ve already read this year.

    1. I like graphic novels in general, although I don’t often get a chance to read them (they are quite expensive and my local libraries here in UK don’t stock much). Maus was a reread because of the recent furore about getting it banned in the US.

      1. Haha – I find I feel like that about more and more fictional characters!

        When I had to trudge through Romeo & Juliet with my unwilling son (for Standard Grade English) I just wanted to tell both of them – but Romeo in particular – to grow up. What a pair!

  2. Well, I’ve had quite a good reading year, but it includes not a single one of these. And in fact my TBR list is ridiculous. So for this time only, I’m not adding to the list.

  3. Well I haven’t read any of these Marina but your last two, A Still Life and Ways of Walking, do attract me and I’ll keep them in mind

  4. The Tawada Yoko could be interesting, though maybe the author has tried to cram too many things into one book?

    I ‘ve been struggling with how to do a mid year review and you’ve now solved that for me!

  5. Huge thanks for this list! You are always providing me with titles that sound really good, and I know it’s a lot of work to keep up a blog!

  6. I’m too lazy a blogger to do a mid-year review. There are two outstanding books I’ve read so far – Mischief Acts by Zoe Gilbert, and The Half Life of Valery K by Natasha Pulley. Plenty of other excellent stuff too. I think I’ve read The Sundial, else all your choices are new to me.

    1. Oh, believe me, it’s much easier to do a mid-year review than write a new review. I am just running out of time with everything before I go on holiday, so I opted for this!

  7. You remind me how much I want to read more Shirley Jackson, I’ve read a large book of her short stories and two novels, but there are lots still to explore. I tried a novel by Christina Stead a few years ago, it totally defeated me, I don’t think I read more than about 50 pages.

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