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  • Writer's pictureJenna Wilson

Slow Readers Finish... Last | Summer Reads


The image above is a perfect representation of my reading life... except it's more like juggling than a race, and the baton would be 6 books at once, and my legs do not have that muscle tone whatsoever.

 

Hello, hello review time, let's keep it simple here eh? I've totaled 22 books for the year so far, which is more than I've read in several years now. And I would love to celebrate that, I really would, but I set my yearly goal to be 50 and that means I'm woefully behind and doing terribly.


Just kidding, I'm pretty happy with myself. I just also intend to (somehow) more than double my reading pace for the rest of the year. Thanks for understanding my madness!

 

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim


This is my favorite of the year so far, and I don't know that I ever could have anticipated that. I don't hold a lot of room in my heart for many older books, and I am not ashamed to say I don't really like Jane Austen. So women's fiction from 1922?


And I loved it.


"Four women, with very different backgrounds and characters ... respond to an advertisement in The Times offering a medieval castle to rent in Italy that April. As their joint holiday begins, tensions flare up between them, but they soon bond over their past misfortunes and rediscover hope and the pleasures of life in their tranquil surroundings."


I loved every moment with three out of the four women, and the fourth makes a delightful turn by the end. I didn't find it to be a super fast read, but I kept looking forward to coming back to it. It was sort of slow, but in the good ways? I have no idea how to express this. The plot was slow but the writing and the characters were not. It's not thrilling, or page-turning, it's just a gloriously pleasant read. Maybe someday I'll know how to tell you why I liked this so much. Or maybe I'll just have to reread it instead.




The View Was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements, Onjuli Datta


Girl, this is good. It is, to quote the blurb, an "escapist, swoon-worthy debut novel of a famous actress embroiled in a fake tabloid romance, confronting the challenges of being a woman of color in Hollywood and the notion that she might actually be in love."


Escapist indeed. And the very best kind: quick, solid writing, and thoughtful in the way it wove all of Whitman's experiences—as a Hollywood darling, as a woman of color, as a daughter—into her story. And while it's got plenty of escapism, it's comes together to be deeper than your average lighthearted beach read.



I finally read A Year of Magical Thinking—I have owned both this and Slouching Towards Bethlehem (which I'm now working my way through) for quite a while. I don't actually know what's gotten in to me this year, because I've read way more nonfiction than usual.


Magical Thinking was not what I expected expected—I was probably expecting something a little more self-helpy from the title. But this is a book about grief. It was beautiful, in the kind of way that isn't a helpful description at all because it's quite sad. Somehow I learned about myself reading this: even though I can't yet relate to what she went through, I can relate to the tendency to process life events so very slowly, and I felt I got a peek into what that level of grief could look like.




These tiny penguin books feel like such a cheat—they all seem to run under 60 pages or so. I've bought a few of them and have very little shame telling you that I plan to intersperse them through the year to help me reach my 50 books. And here's why they should count: they're not anything I would read otherwise. I'm not a huge fan of long short story compilations, so a small tome with just a few from an author is a workaround that actually gets me exposed to a wider variety of work (especially when they're works in translation, like this).


And these short stories are delightful. Calvino takes the universe and makes it his playground, and writes strange and wonderful little worlds.


 

I only picked a few titles for review up there, but because I'm terrible at any form of picking anything, I have to mention a couple of others real quick...


Oh wait, I started to do that and they turned into their own paragraphs. Sigh. Here's the rest of what I've liked from 2022 so far:


The Invisible Life of Addie Larue (V.E. Schwab) was quite good. I would definitely recommend if this sort of things suits your taste: speculative fic, historical + contemporary in the same book (but with the same character!), immortal life, and wishes turned to curses.




I read A Gift from the Sea (Anne Morrow Lindbergh) in slow pieces that felt really appropriate to the contents, and I have to agree with a lot of reviews I've seen that this stands up well to time, even in moments when it does feel its age, you can sort of read between the lines to understand where she's coming from and how she might address those bits now. I may come back to this one over time -- it helps that it's short.


Dearly is Margaret Atwood's recent poetry collection. I have never been much of a poetry reader, but am trying to work through a few collections this year to change that. I really enjoyed this, so maybe I'll turn out to be a poetry reader after all. I was already an Atwood fan, and I also reread her Good Bones and Simple Murders this year, and a recent short story "My Evil Mother." A+ to both.


Finally, two others I also read this year in the poetry genre, with varying levels of enjoyment: Misha Collins's (yes, the one who is also Castiel) Some Things I Still Can't Tell You and Lana del Rey's Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass. They were fine. That's all.

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