Another month of excellent books – I’d recommend every one of these:
Strong Female Protagonist: Book One by Brennan Lee Mulligan & Molly Ostertag (graphic novel – fiction)
Really enjoyable comic about a superhero trying to work out what really is the best way to save the world. She hangs up her cape to go to college but she can’t untangle herself from her previous life, or her fame/notoriety. It covers many of the same themes as Watchmen by Alan Moore, but in a slightly lighter way. I also particularly liked Feral’s arc, another superhero who can regenerate, who decides to remain in a constant state of surgery to donate organs, despite the fact she can have no anaesthesia.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (novel)
Unsurprisingly, this was incredible. Disturbing, yes, but incredible. The language is lyrical and beautiful, and Nabokov is able to present this beautiful language coming from a narrator trying his best to justify himself, to make you see his side, but without making him any less repulsive. Monstrous and genius.
Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd (non-fiction)
I read this for the Women’s Lives Book Club. I’d never read any Hurston, and didn’t know anything about her, before reading this and it was absolutely fascinating. Hurston lived a very full and varied life, and was in many ways quite a ‘modern’ woman. Boyd also writes beautifully and comprehensively, and I’d recommend this even if, like me, you haven’t read any Hurston before, as an interesting story about an incredible woman and life in the US in the early 1900s as a black female writer.
Gratitude by Oliver Sacks (non-fiction)
This is a tiny book containing the final four essays Oliver Sacks wrote in the lead-up to his death (you can also read them for free on the New York Times website). A couple of the essays feel a little short, but I love the way Oliver Sacks writes, and this mini-collection is no less beautifully written than his full-length work. I bought this at the same time as Blackstar by David Bowie – both similar but very different ways of creatively dealing with knowing you will die soon.
Notes From No Man’s Land: American Essays by Eula Biss (non-fiction)
I loved this essay collection about race and identity. Biss has a really engaging writing style, and she’s incredibly smart.The essays often move between points in time, focus, or subject, but in a way that’s never jarring and always comes together.The first essay (which begins as a discussion of the invention of the telephone and the fight to get telephone poles accepted by residents and turns into a discussion of the lynching of black people using telephone poles) really sets the tone and style and I loved it. You don’t have to agree with everything she says, and I don’t think that’s her intention, but every essay will make you think. I also really liked that there were notes at the end describing her process for each essay, and I will definitely return to this collection and read each essay together with its note.
Also on the blog this month:
A review of Shaun Tan’s stunning The Red Tree
A review of the Alice in Wonderland exhibit at the British Library
Currently reading: The Weaver Fish by Robert Edeson (novel)