“You should read this book!”
“Because I liked it!”
“But you also like Iggy Azalea.”
I’ve decided to fill my summer editorials with mini book reviews! The goal is to save time for my community and others to navigate which books they might want to read, by answering the following questions:
☆ what is the first sentence?
☆ what is the genre and year?
☆ what was my favourite sentence?
☆ can you summarize it in one sentence?
☆ what is similar to the book?
This is also clearly for my benefit, to improve my own understanding and prose and learn from local writers. Because all tastes are subjective, I do not claim to present an authoritative account of any of the works and share these reviews to save time / present a twist on the traditional book recommendation’s, “read it because I think you would like it!”
The book list is at the bottom of this post – feel free to read along!
The First Four
1. American Youth, Phil LaMarche
☆ the first sentence: “The two boys walked the high ridge at the center of the wood road, avoiding the muddy ruts along the sides.”
☆ genre: prose (novel), 2007
☆ favourite sentence: “When the cold finally overtook him, and the boy’s body shivered uncontrollably, the father unbuttoned his heavy Woolrich coat, pulled the boy to the warmth inside, and closed the garment around them both – the three, father, son, and firearm, becoming some strange totem.”
☆ summary: boy navigates ‘purity ringesque’ activist run high school after friend is shot in his home.
☆ you might like it if you liked the video for Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”
2. Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture – Interviews with Angela Y. Davis, Davis and Eduardo Mendota
☆ first sentence: “Angela Davis is known by many as the iconic face of the 1970s Black Pride.”
☆ genre / year: non-fiction (interviews on Politics and Prisons; Sexual Coercion, Prisons, and Feminist Responses; Abolition Democracy, and Resistance, Language, and Law), 2005
☆ favourite sentence: “racism has played a critical role in the ideological production of the communist, the criminal, and the terrorist.”
☆summary: accessible introduction to Davis’ anti-imperialist work on prisons, slavery, and American exceptionalism regarding torture and interventionism.
☆ you might like it if you like the concept of race theory meeting Karl Marx
3. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
☆ first sentence: “Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”
☆ genre / year: prose (novel), 1925
☆favourite section: “And were they happy together? Sally asked (she herself was extremely happy); for, she admitted, she knew nothing about them, only jumped to conclusions, as one does, for what can one know even of the people one lives with every day? she asked. Are we not all prisoners? She had read a wonderful play about a man who scratched on the wall of his cell, and she had felt that was true of life – one scratched on the wall. Despairing of human relationships (people were so difficult), she often went into her garden and got from her flowers a peace which men and women never gave her. But no; he did not like cabbages; he preferred human beings, Peter said. Indeed, the young are beautiful, Sally said, watching Elizabeth across the room. How unlike Clarissa at her age! Could he make anything of her? She would not open her lips. Not much, not yet, Peter admitted. She was like a lily, Sally said, a lily by the side of the pool. But Peter did not agree that we know nothing. We know everything, he said; at least he did.”
☆ summary: woman hosts house party.
☆ you might like it if you like F. Scott Fitzgerald and what people think about while talking to each other
4. Kettle Song, Jessica Bebenek
☆ genre / year: poetry (collection), 2014
☆ first sentence: “Slips freed from dust jacket sleeves / in a variance on summation.”
☆ favourite section:
“Sunny days would blind us,
peeling back the curtains like a band aid
and we would walk out in the lightest clothes we owned,
watch live theatre in the park and attend church
for the architecture, and we would come home
and write stories and poems and sing songs
in our underwear and I would read to you, anything,
until my thin voice broke for the love of pausing.”
☆I liked Bebenek’s details concerning hands, plants, foods, and the intricacies of relationships, such as a partner who returns “searching / for fresh vocabulary.” The poems were previously published in Grain, Prairie Fire, Echolocation, [PANK], Qwerty, The Rusty Toque, and Carve.
The Next Four
Voyage in the Dark, Jean Rhys
Dinner with the Lynx [thesis], Sarah Brown
All About Love, bell hooks
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
an indoor kind of girl, frances barnet
a good man is hard to find, flannery o’connor
abolition democracy, angela davis
all about love, bell hooks
american pastoral, philip roth
american youth, phil lamarche
dinner with the lynx, sarah brown
england, england, julian barnes
ficciones, jorge luis borges
kettle song, jessica bebenek
leaving the atocha station, ben lerner
mrs. dalloway, virginia woolf
mystery and manners, flannery o’connor
one hundred years of solitude, marquez
our mutual friend, charles dickens
“summer dust,” caroline gordon
the new jim crow, michelle alexander
the odyssey, homer
the way we live now, anthony trollope
three tales, gustave flaubert
voyage in the dark, jean rhys
why we can’t wait, martin luther king jr.