ConversazioniClub Read 2021

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Mar 29, 11:17am

You know how this works. What were your favourite reads for Q1? You can mention your least favourites too.

Modificato: Mar 29, 12:40pm

The first Quarter of the year has been really fantastic both in volume and quality, but the few that stick out:

In a Grove by Ryunosuke Akutagaw and Patriotism by Yukio Mishima, both of these are short works, the first a multi-perspective account of terrible crime that explores self-truths and self-denials, the other just how far one will go for loyalty. Very sticky stories.
Across the Green Grass Fields by Seannan McGuire, the latest addition to the Wayward Children Series, strong world building and a unique protagonist learning to stand for themselves.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, a shocking reminder of how little progress we have made and how far we have to go.
Generation Kill by Evan Wright, I really liked the HBO show, thought I should the book. Both are good even if it is a somewhat myopic view of the war and the soldiers who fought it.
Kamikaze by Yauso Kuwahara, An important book in understanding the complex motives of the men who sacrificed their lives in a last ditch effort, in a way that is unimaginable.
Penance by Kanae Minato, A slow burn revenge tale of some very damaged women. Minato is incredibly good a weaving an incredibly complex plot without getting lost in the details. Anything she writes is something I want to read.
Thunder & Lightning by Lauren Redniss, the author of the graphic novel Radioactive, she has such unique and incredibly way of telling a story, this time covering the broad topic of weather. It was a joy to browse through these pages.

Modificato: Mar 29, 4:32pm

My 5 star reads in the 1st quarter:

Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano - Jean B. removes himself from his life as a documentary film maker in Paris. He moves to the Parisian suburbs and recalls his early life with his wife. I can’t explain it but I love this book.

Klara and the Sun a futuristic machine doll creates a healing mythology about the sun. Ironically it works for the human but not for the doll.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang clones created to carry on humanity lose any spark of that humanity. Rogue clones reignite that spark and come full circle. There’s a bit of science lacking humanity here.

There is something similar in these 3 books - a search for something that will inspire us to carry on. How to become more than ourselves.

Mar 29, 8:27pm

I've had an outstanding quarter, with 26 books read. Most of those were 4 or 4.5 stars (I almost never give 5 stars)

Here are my 4.5 star reads:

Happisland and Fantasviss, by Roserens
Moon of the Crusted Snow, Rice
Peace Talks, Finch
The Better Mother, Sookfong Lee
The Chalet, Cooper
Down By the River, O'Brien
Venice Rising, various
Mothering Sunday, Swift
Passing, Larson
Here is the Beehive, Crossan

I did have one 5-star read, just because how could I fault anything about The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 2, Winnow & Various (credited to Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Mar 30, 12:16am

I'm reading very slowly this year so don't have much to pick from but my favorites so far would be:

1) Yeonmi Park : In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom
2) Hongci Xu : No Wall Too High: One Man's Daring Escape from Mao's Darkest Prison
3) Cao Xuequin : The Story of the Stone

The first I would recommend to anyone. The second I would recommend to those interested in the topic.
And the third I'm still on volume 3 out of 5 but I've been enjoying myself so far so at least the first two volumes definitely enter the favorites category.

I DNF'ed two books this year which is a new thing I'm doing. Before if I wasn't enjoying a book I'd just leave the bookmark where it is and put it back on the shelf as an unread book to maybe be picked up later. But now I'm full on considering them as read and relinquishing the idea of picking them up "maybe sometime in the future".

Mar 30, 2:23pm

So far, 2021 is shaping up to be an excellent reading year. While I have finished fewer books than usual (28, when my average for the first quarter sits around 41), all of the books I have read are ones I would classify as good to great, and more of them fall into the "great" category. One of the things I added to my book journal this year is a page for favorite reads, with a couple lines for each month. This helps me think back on my reading more regularly, and it makes it easier to pull together lists (though with a full half of my reads for the quarter showing up on that list only means I'm narrowing things down slightly).

Favorites for the first quarter, in order of finishing them:

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
* The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Witch Hat Atelier, volume 7 by Kamome Shirahama
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
Her Caprice by Keira Dominguez
Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
* The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
* The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

This list includes a lot of buddy/group reads (ten or twelve, depending on how I want to count things), and the three starred titles are rereads. If I had to pick least favorite titles, that...distinction would go to the two self-help style books I read this quarter. There wasn't anything terrible about either of them, but they also didn't blow me away or provide any excellent, actionable advice. Both fall into the good, but not great, category.

Mar 30, 2:44pm

A good quarter for me in terms of quality (lacking in quantity as always compared to many of you).

Two 5 stars reads - Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies & Touching The Void.

Worthy 4.5 star reads: Wolf Hall and All That Remains: A Life in Death by Professor Sue Black.

Mar 31, 5:50am

Best reading of my first quarter:

Novel: One Station Away by Olaf Olafsson. I have now read all of Olafsson's novels.

Short Stories: A Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford (admittedly, I read only this one collection this quarter)

Crime Novel: (hmm, must decided between the latest Rebus (#28), DCI Banks (#27) or DI Karen Pirie (#6)...all were very good....
..the winner is Val McDermid's Karen Pirie in Still Life.

Poetry: Best Canadian Poetry 2020 edited by Marilyn Dumont et al (2020)

Nonfiction: In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life by James Dietz (nonfiction: historical anthropology, 1977) (since reading this, I have acquired the expanded and revised edition (1996) and have read parts that I have been able to identify as new or revised material.

Mar 31, 9:03pm

Five Stars:

JR by William Gaddis - Best of Q1

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky - Reread, but first read of Oliver Ready translation
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - Reread
Molloy by Samuel Beckett - Reread
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner - Reread

Four 1/2 Stars
Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Apr 1, 3:48pm

Lots of books I enjoyed in the past trimester, but I want to highlight Histoire d'un ruisseau (Story of a stream) by Élisée Reclus and De la forêt (Of the forest; Aranyaka) by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay.

Apr 2, 11:29am

I've also read a lot of good stuff, although I'm surprised to find I'm back to "normal" counts, with only 36 books read (last year it was getting up to twice that at times). Highlights:

The bridge on the Drina, obviously! I don't know why it took me so long to get to it
Spur der Steine and Weltzeituhr — two very different, but both very interesting DDR novels
The tower at the edge of the world — a lovely novel about childhood in the Faroes
The hitman's guide to housecleaning — the silliest Icelandic/Balkan crime novel I've read for ages
— the first four books of my Toni Morrison readthrough, especially Song of Solomon

Biggest waste of time was probably:
The seven basic plots

Apr 2, 12:23pm

My favorite first quarter reading experiences:

* The Rover by Joseph Conrad: a comfort reread of Conrad's final novel (or at least the last published during his lifetime).
* Pennant Race by Jim Brosnan: a breezy baseball memoir and a fun bit of time travel back to baseball circa 1961.
* A Manuel for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin: a stupendous collection of short stories, acute observations about the human condition and muted but extremely affecting emotion.
* The Zelmenyaners: a Family Saga by Moyshe Kulbak: A Yiddish classic, a comedic novel about a several generations of a Jewish family in Belarus trying to find their way in the post-revolution world of the 1920 and 30s.
* The Comedians by Graham Greene: another reread, this time for my book group. This is Greene's novel of the horrors of Haiti during the Duvalier regime, as filtered through the disaffected perspective of two unmoored Englishmen and a naive American couple.

Apr 2, 6:39pm

My favourites which I rated as 5 star reads were:

Clayhanger - Arnold Bennett. This was the next book from my shelves and it has been a long time since I read any of Bennetts opus. I soon got back into his world and thoroughly enjoyed Clayhanger
The Age of Longing, Arthur Koestler This ticked two of my reading genre boxes: 1951 and science fiction.
L'Écume des Jours by Boris Vian. This was the next book from my french pile and when I worked out that the souris were actually talking mice and not somebody smiling I got along fine.
Nones W H Auden. a collection of poems published in 1951

One book did not quite make the 5 stars, but came close and it was another surprise from 1951 Cairo to Damascus John Roy Carlson

I enjoyed the following four star reads;
Le Dit du Mistral Olivier Mak-Bouchard
Le Rivage des Syrtes Julien Gracq
La Familia Grande Camille Kouchner
Rain on the pavements Roland Camberton
Non Stop Brian Aldiss
The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson

Apr 3, 1:20pm

It looking like a good year for many, so maybe things are picking up. Quite a few chunksters are showing up too. Often this thread has a lot of books which are unknown to me, and serves as an introduction to them, but for some reason this time around, some of my all time favourites appear as well.

This quarter has been a definite improvement for me in terms of actually sitting down and reading.

Best book hands down: The Blue Book by A L Kennedy

Quirkiest book (and also a great discussion provoker): Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

Best book to dispute aloud with the authors about: Great Heart by James West Davidson and John Rugge

Best non fiction: A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan

Best difficult lessons book: Where the Apple Ripens by Jessie Kesson

Apr 3, 1:26pm

>14 baswood: Just had the same mouse problem on reading Il n'ya pas de souris dans les airs, resolved when I then read j'en ai bien peur, but since it's Aventures d'Alice au pays des merveilles it could have gone either way.

Apr 3, 1:40pm

I ended up with 49 books for Q1 which is pretty much on track for a normal year despite the much slowed March (work...).

Ignore the order - these are just unranked lists.

Favorite novels and novellas:
Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama - quirky Japanese crime novel which should not have worked as well as it did.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler - dystopian Science Fiction at its best. I did not love everything in the book but that is always expected.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - Tudors historical novel
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley - King Lear in rural Iowa in 1979.
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky - evolutionary science fiction

Honorable mentions: Minor Detail by Adania Shibli (double timeline story set in Palestine), The Lobster Kings (King Lear inspired but with a lot of twists and imagination), The Time Machine (Wells is good even in his first novel). There were also a few more that may have made top 5 in a different quarter and definitely made the honorable mentions list but in Q1'21, they paled.

Favorite Poetry and Drama:
The 20th Century in Poetry
A Nail the Evening Hangs On by Monica Sok (poetry)
King Lear (Norton Critical Editions)
Sovereignty by Mary Kathryn Nagle - a double-timeline historical play about the legal system and the indigenous population.

Favorite non-fiction:
Hands down The History of the World, 6th edition by J. M. Roberts and Odd Arne Westad
Special mentions for A Land Apart: The Southwest and the Nation in the Twentieth Century and History: A Very Short Introduction.

And now I am off to write my March reviews :)

Apr 3, 9:00pm

As I usually do for these things, I'm including all the books I've given 4 or 5 stars to.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Network Effect by Martha Wells
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Make It Scream, Make it Burn by Leslie Jamison

Hmm, I thought maybe there would be more non-fiction than that. Still, not a bad list, I think!

Apr 4, 10:01am

My Q1 favorites -

seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
the huntress, Kate Quinn
small as an elephant, Jennifer Jacobson
the survivors, Jane Harper
Exit, Belinda Bauer

I also happened to read 3 historical novels set in Bombay. Liked them all.
widows of Malabar Hill, Sujata Massey
murder in old Bombay, Nev March
meet me in Bombay, Jenny Ashcroft.

Apr 12, 8:39am

I only finished eight books this past quarter, but three of them were exceptional:

A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne

Apr 14, 9:59pm

I've had a fairly goo reading year so far. No five stars (those only happen once a year, if that) and too many four-star books to list. So the best are

The True Deceiver an excellent novel with intriguing characters and enough layers/ambiguity to make for great discussions.

Infinite Jest is not a pleasant read and certainly not a short one, but when DFW wants to tell a plot driven story, it is amazing. I'm sure it is also problematic, but I was too immersed int he world to notice (it is not good that a novel this long fails the Bechdel test, but someone had to point that out to me)

I loved the structure of In the Dream House, a memoir told in vignettes, each one titles as "The Dream House As ______". I definitely gave an extra half star for "The Dream House As Choose Your Own Adventure" which I thought was brilliant and highlighted the author's wry humor.

No absolute dogs, but I have somehow managed to read a few (too many?) surrealist works and I don't think it is my thing. (Not a fan of it in painting either).

Apr 15, 6:18pm

No real knockouts for Q1, but I very much enjoyed:

Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber
The Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Weedeater by Robert Gipe
The Cold Millions by Jess Walter
All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Maggio 5, 5:21pm

Late to the party, and not even sure what I have to share, other than Wolf Hall. What did i read in Q1, anyway?

Ok, checked my list. Just three I want to list here:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
A Promised Land by Barack Obama, who reads this on audio.

Maggio 6, 9:23am

>23 dchaikin: Any quarter including Wolf Hall is a good one.

Maggio 6, 11:43am