July Reads 2015

I haven’t been posting reviews in July as I had a bad illness patch for a good chunk and wasn’t reading much. But! But a few books did get read, and reviews and bookish things will start again this month.

the haunting of hill houseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (novel)

I really enjoyed this and can see why it’s one of her most famous novellas. I loved how ambiguous it is – nothing is ever really explained and you could interpret the ending in two different ways. It’s slow and quiet in that old-school horror way that relies on your imagination, and that Shirley Jackson does so well. I saw the 1999 version of The Haunting (based on this) a while back, and the film completely changes the plot (and isn’t great) so I was expecting something very different. Ignore the film and head straight to the book.

the paying guestsThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (novel)

I had high expectations going into this as two separate people said it gave them book hangovers and they loved it. I wasn’t quite as impressed. The first two thirds or so were enjoyable enough to read but nothing special. The final third was much more interesting and where all the themes about what’s right/wrong, consequences, and trust are at the fore. Because the book is written is from the point of view of the central character, but written in the third person, you really get pulled into the mistrust of certain other characters towards the end, which I liked. Overall, enjoyable enough, but no book hangover for me.

order of the phoenixHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling (novel)

Part of my re-read alongside the Witch, Please podcast (the last episode about the Goblet of Fire film made me do weirdo laughing out loud on the bus). Despite this being the longest book, and one I don’t think I’ve ever re-read, there was less I’d forgotten than the other shorter books. I love the character of Umbridge, and the point it makes about people not being easily split into good and evil, but it’s obvious this is the one where the editors had the least amount of input.

the examined lifeThe Examined Life by Stephen Grosz (non-fiction)

I’m still not sure what I think about this collection. I usually like a lightness of touch and the writer leaving space for the reader to fill, but many of the chapters felt a bit lacking something. I definitely preferred the longer chapters which talked about issues more broadly, as well as specifically. I wonder if maybe because I’m a clinical psychologist (though not a psychoanalyst) some of the thoughts weren’t as new to me, so lost some of their impact. I was also having something of a post-illness existential crisis at the time, and was perhaps looking for something the book was never trying to offer, so I’m going to have another flick through in the future to see if I feel differently at a different time.

Currently reading: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (non-fiction, and really excellent so far)

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