13 Books I Read in January

13 Books I Read in January

As not all of you are following me on Instagram or Goodreads, I’m planning to regularly jot down what I’ve been reading. These are not meant as reviews (we’d be here all day), just quick indications of what I loved, liked or struggled with. I’ll keep doing longer reviews when I read something that inspires me to write one.

I’m pretty happy with my reading in January. As I had more time than usual, I got through a reasonable amount of text (although I read hardly anything when in Estonia for five days, what I hoped to be prime reading time). I’ve also set some broad reading goals for 2018: to read books I already own; to read big books that demand focus and time investment but also poetry and comics; to read at least one work in Estonian per month. Also on that front, it’s been going rather well.

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. I absolutely adored this epic, unique fantasy and have been angry with myself for not reading it sooner. The book has won every conceivable award, as have the two sequels that I already own and will read very soon. Highly recommended.

2. Bitch Planet vol 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick. There has been a lot of hype around this dystopian feminist comic and I understand why. It is hard-core, perceptive, darkly witty and very progressive. It doesn’t give a fuck about being pleasant and that’s of course the point. I’m happy I read it, not yet sure I’ll continue the series.*

3. My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs by Kazuo Ishiguro. Ishiguro’s Nobel lecture is very short and very lovely. If you are a human being who likes books or writing or just other humans, I very much recommend it.

4. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. Many people find these essays extremely funny and I guess they are – I just didn’t quite click with them. I preferred the more serious ones with less hilarity and profanity (although I’m generally a fan of funny profanity). But again, glad I read it: one cannot just read middle aged white ladies all the time.*

5. The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman. I loved the first book in the series and told everybody about it. The sequels haven’t quite been of the same quality, although the fourth one is decent, just not super engaging. There are some major developments with the characters in the end of the book, though, so if you’re invested in them, might be worth your time.

6. Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen. My knowledge of Cohen’s oeuvre is pretty dismal, I just know that all the cool people tend to like him. And yes, they are right. This is a great collection of poems that goes from zen to sex and back in a heartbeat.

7. Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff. Yes, reader, I went there and I have no regrets. Of course you need to treat this with caution, but I found it interesting. Keep in mind, though, that my expectations were low. There are lots of gossipy details about Trump’s awfulness, if that’s what you’re after. I mostly enjoyed it for the descriptions of his team and their constant war.

8. Saga vol 8 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan. Another series I’ve praised before on the blog and it remains absolutely excellent. You could even argue that it’s getting better. If you read one comic this year, make it Saga (I know that many of you have done so already).

9. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. I did a full review on this lovely fantasy book. It’s not perfect, but very few things are. Very enjoyable though.

10. Valede kataloog. Inglise aed by Tõnu Õnnpalu. Õnnepalu is one of a very small number of Estonian writers whose style seems entirely effortless, with nary a wrong note, ever. He is also a great observer (if maybe a bit repetitive here) and that rare writer who isn’t embarrassingly naive or heavy-handed when writing on current affairs.

11. Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa. This slim volume packs quite a punch and tackles issues like xenophobia, race, colonialism, gender and violence in contemporary South Africa. I found the treatment of mistrust or even hatred between Africans very enlightening.

12. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. One of the most celebrated novels of 2017, Lincoln in the Bardo is very difficult to describe. I also find it difficult to say why I liked it: the form is very experimental and it’ll either work for you or not. I am generally suspicious of anything that looks gimmicky, but loved – and was impressed by – this. Recommended if you want to stretch your comfort zone a bit.

13. Hopsti üle vikerkaare by Anneli Lamp. Yes, its my mother’s book – not the first one, but for some reason I haven’t included them before. I prefer her poetry to her prose pieces (this book has both, but the first dominates) and of her poems, its the most everyday ones I like best.

What have you enjoyed reading recently?

*Read on Kindle and therefore not pictured.


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    • 2

      I have been conservative with my book buying, but going to a book store today, as there are a few I’m really craving – Winter, the new Barnes, Feel Free.

  1. 3

    I loved Paul Beatty’s The Sellout so much last year (form/style as well as content) and have been hoping for a similarly dazzling experience from Saunders (waiting for it in paperback) so glad to see your recommendation here. For weeks I’ve been alternating between Dr Zhivago (because of the Russian revolution centenary) and Les Miserables (because I can sing along to the whole darn musical and had never read anything by Hugo before, and again, I wanted some history, and seriousness, and Napoleon turns up quite often, and it turns out there are songs in the novel too, just not of the musical theatre variety). Middlemarch (a reread) and Vanity Fair loom in the near future too. I‘m cutting back on magazines and newspapers to fit in more serious reading (bring on War and Peace, bring it!). I go through phases of lots of short stuff, lots of essays, lots of light stuff, but this serious phase doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. Thanks, world, for making me take refuge in prose.

    HUGE Ali Smith fan. I’ve seen her at book festivals, she’s a fantastic raconteur. Artful and There But For The are my back-catalogue favourites. Always need to read more poetry too – Anne Carson is incredibly good.

    • 4

      This is a seriously impressive phase you’re going through! I’m reading Ali Smith’s Winter at the moment and now I wonder if I should give The Sellout another go, for some reason I could not get into it. I really do hope you’ll like Saunders, actually I think there are similarities in his and Smith’s style. Plus, in the latest books, ghosts!

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