The Lonely City: Adventures in the art of being alone


Read 28/02/2018-07/03/2018

Rating: 5 stars

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing is more than I expected it to be. I thought I would read some personal reflections on navigating a strange city on your own mixed with a bit of art criticism. Instead, between the pages of this wonderful book, I found understanding, thoughtfulness, sorrow and love. Continue reading


21st-Century Yokel


Read 28/12/2017-02/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve been reading Tom Cox’s nature writing for a while now, first through his columns in The Guardian and more recently via his website. He’s an interesting writer. He writes about nature in a way that makes sense to me. It’s difficult to describe, but it has to do with nature being entwined into life rather than held at bay and experienced for leisure. His writing style reminds me of W G Sebald. He’s whimsical without it being a pose.

I pledged for his latest book on Unbound. I haven’t read any of his other books, despite four of them being about his life with a clowder of cats and me being the sort of person who has to stop to say hello to any cat I encounter. 21st-Century Yokel, though, seemed the kind of book about nature, folklore, understanding the place where you live, walking, landscape, myth, and sheep cuddling that I’d been waiting for. Continue reading

Lincoln in the Bardo


Read 12/12/2017-22/12/2017

Rating: 3 stars

I went into this novel blind. I’ve heard of George Saunders. He features in Nick Offerman’s book Gumption. He’s someone I’ve been meaning to read but never got round to. Lincoln in the Bardo won the 2017 Booker Prize. It was on the shelf in the library last time I went in to change my books, and someone had recently told me I should read it.

The same someone told me that Lincoln in the Bardo is a strange book, boring for long stretches then, just as you’re about to give up on it, something interesting happens that hooks you back in. They also told me that it was kind of like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but not.

It’s certainly a strange book. Continue reading


Half Broke Horses


Read 02/11/2017-05/11/2017

Rating: 3 stars

I chose this book for Arizona on my US Reading Challenge. It has good scores on both Goodreads and LibraryThing, and a review in the New York Times praised it for its reminder of what life was like for many in the western states of the US from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. The publisher, Simon and Schuster, has this to say:

Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa or Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix readers everywhere.

Wow, right? Continue reading


The 19th Wife


Read 16/10/2017-30/10/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Onward in my tour of US authors by state, and to Utah. All that I know about Utah is it has a Salt Lake and is the home state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. All that I know about the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, is gleaned from being an archivist and having watched a couple of episodes of Big Love once. Continue reading


In Cold Blood


Read 26/09/2017-06/10/2017

Rating: 4 stars

As I started this book, it felt like I knew the story already, and yet I didn’t. I had watched the film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, based on his experience writing the book, which has left me with a strange half knowledge.

It took a while for Capote’s writing style to gel for me. I’d come from volume 7 of The Sixth Gun (review to come), and prior to that had read Peter Carey’s memoir Wrong About Japan, both of which were punchy and fast flowing in their own ways. In Cold Blood starts off more melodramatic in tone. It made me think of those true crime TV programmes where re-enactments take place and a man with a sonorous voice intones the story over the top of the action. A bit like Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories, for readers in the UK.

As I settled into Capote’s style, though, I found myself gripped by the scenes he was setting. Continue reading


Wrong About Japan


Read 20/09/2017-22/09/2017

Rating: 4 stars

My husband noticed this on the non-fiction shelves in the library. I like Peter Carey’s novels, and a memoir of how he and his teenage son became captivated by manga and anime and travelled to Tokyo to meet artists and directors in each industry sounded interesting. Continue reading