Recent books, briefly

First of all, Books Brains and Beer is back (-ish)! Or is he? He isn’t sure. But he has been reading up a storm and posted a bunch of flash reviews. I like short reviews. Every time I see some gigantic review spread in The New York Times, I have a feeling that I could save myself some time by skipping the review and reading the book instead.

Which brings me to my own brief bookish observations.

First of all, all those glowing reviews of Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho are quite right. I’m just going to say that it was Saturday night, and I had some red wine, and this book was perfect. You might want to replicate the setting. It wasn’t the kind of book that sucked me in and made me spent 12 hours on the couch. On the contrary, I kept picking it up, reading a bit, then putting it down. Perhaps it wasn’t the book’s fault and I was just feeling distracted that weekend. That said, I enjoyed myself immensely while reading it. It’s quite fun and also funny. Favorite quote:

‘I had no one to teach me better, you see.’

‘So you have found someone to teach you worse!’

Lest you think it was just an amusing romantic historical romp, here’s a brief list of topics it touches upon: Class. Race. International politics. Colonialism. Gender roles. Education of girls.

My other read was quite in contrast. It was Paul Lisicky’s The Narrow Door, out next January (can I even talk about it yet?). It was a magically beautiful memoir about love, grief, friendship, and how all those things change and are experienced at different points in life. The whole book feels like a quilt made of gossamer. It jumps in time, holding all these fragile pieces together. The sentences are almost translucent at times. For some reason I always find descriptions of male companionship and love incredibly heart-achy and touching. Perhaps it’s because I myself am a queer man. Perhaps this kind of love still feels forbidden from a larger society’s point of view, marriage decision notwithstanding. The Narrow Door has quite a few of those, and I was glad I had a glass of bourbon at hand. I’ll definitely mention it again closer to its release because it is already on my list of 2016 favorites, and we aren’t even in that year yet.

Other books briefly:

You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman. Here’s what you should do. Read this book while listening to electronica. The combined effect of that music genre and Kleeman’s writing style make you feel as if time no longer exists. Or it makes reality feel like a continuous straight line with no beginning or end in sight, with no changes whatsoever. Maybe that’s why, sadly, I abandoned it. I couldn’t handle the depersonalization effect it seemed to have on me.

Saga # 5 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan. For some reason, I refuse to read Saga in single issues. I like the trades. I wasn’t a fan of #4, but this one is pretty good.

IMG_0598Currently reading:

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. Yesterday was its release day, and I spent most of it with a giant raccoon cutout as we shot videos and took pictures for marketing purposes at work (if you don’t get to stage mock battles with human-sized cardboard raccoons at your place of employment, I feel sorry for you). I’ll be honest, Furiously Happy is better than Lawson’s first book, but it did give me an anxiety attack. I woke up at 2 am last night, convinced that some shit was going down. Apparently reading about other people’s mental issues reminds me I also have mental issues. But I’m not giving up, because the book is immensely funny and full of taxidermy, two things I look for in all books and find in so few.

I know you wanted a picture of me with a giant raccoon. You’re welcome.


  1. I saw that cover of Furiously Happy for the first time the other day and convinced myself it was a joke. It’s even worse in human size. THAT would give me an anxiety attack.

    Thanks so much for that quick review of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine. I caught the LARB review a few weeks ago and it’s been on my mind ever since. The comparisons to Gibson sold it for me, although its description sounded more like Simon Ings, which also sells it for me. Like you, the extreme depersonalization might put me off, but I might give it a try anyway. I’m intrigued.

    And another rave review for Zen Cho. Officially on my 2015 awards TBR now.

  2. Take out red wine, insert red juice for me. 🙂 Other than that, these sound like I need them all on my reading list, and stat. Will be looking into them asap.

    1. Also, I love the soundtrack idea. I usually only listen to classical music while reading (like the Old Man, but that’s by coincidence), so I might have to try some electronica while reading too.

  3. I’m back-ish. I’m coming back next month with a kinda-review of Dan Simmons’s Summer of Night. Really I’m going to be looking at it from the standpoint of the world he created, inconsistencies and all.

    And, upon your recommendation, I’m saving up some one sentence reviews.

    Also, my wife made me buy the Lawson book for her because she came across her when researching my mental issues. Anyway, the raccoon freaks me out. And tells me to burn things.

  4. I absolutely loved Furiously Happy. I got a review copy on a whim at Book Expo because I was pulled in by that raccoon, whom I found simultaneously creepy and endearing. Had no idea what the book was about when I started reading it, and was completely sucked in and unable to put it down until I finished, after alternating laughter and tears. And it made a huge difference for me seeing some of my own issues talked about in print.

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