Usually, I read thematically, or generically, or whatever the correct terminology would be for “by genre.” I read one mystery and the next thing I know, May has turned into Mystery Month. Same for romance or sci-fi or thrillers or spy novels.
(By the by, if you’re looking for an excellent spy/special ops/Bourne type series, look no further than Orphan X, followed by the Nowhere Man, by Gregg Hurwitz.)
Lately, however, my reading has been all over the place: past, present and future. The following three recommendations have nothing in common with each other, apart from the fact that I enjoyed them all.
One of my fave books so far this year, Yiddish for Pirates is a treasure trove of linguistic gymnastics for word nerds. Shortlisted for this year’s Giller Prize and nominated for the GG, the book is written in mish mash of English and Yiddish and pirate slang, with some of the best insults this side of Shakespeare.
Moishe leaves his home in the shtetl for a life of adventure, taking only some food and an illegible book belonging to his father. Setting out to sea, he acquires a parrot (or rather, the parrot acquires Moishe). Shipwrecked, he encounters Columbus and adventures ensue: the Spanish Inquisition, true love, piracy, the Fountain of Youth…
Where do you start describing a book like this: it’s Shakespearean, it’s Biblical, it’s narrated by a parrot! And it’s hilarious.
Speaking of hilarious, I giggled (Snickered? Chuckled? Lolled? Whatever. Trust me. It’s funny.) throughout Theft by Finding. Diary excerpts would be astonishingly boring in any other hands, but David Sedaris could make a grocery list enthralling.
If you’ve read all his other books, you of course have a sense of Sedaris’ life and family, but this book is a different kind of memoir, giving the reader a sense of what was happening before those books were written (hint: lots of drugs, questionable working conditions, hunger), and Sedaris’ reaction to the early years as a published author. Both funny and fascinating, I wouldn’t recommend this for a first time David Sedaris reader, but it’s a definite must-read if you’re a fan.
I wish I’d read this book before taking the recent Austen quiz in the New York Times. I would have scored so much higher. Spruce beer! Who knew? Not me, obviously.
I went into this book with high hopes: Jane Austen and time travel; two of my favourite things. Had there been a dragon in there, I would’ve rated it five stars, but I guess the author was going for authenticity. As it is, I give it a solid four.
Two members of the Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics travel back to 1815 with the mission to find and befriend Jane Austen through her brother Henry, and acquire Austen’s manuscript for The Watson’s, along with letters from Jane to her sister. The only caveat: engage as little as possible. Avoid changing the past; even little changes can affect the future in unforeseeable ways.
The story has two distinct parts, although they aren’t labelled as such. For most of the book, Liam and Rachel live in 1815, dealing with the customs, hygiene, language, and food of the time, and working towards completing their mission for the Institute. The author does an excellent job of invoking the past and imagining a present day person’s reaction to the living conditions.
Then there’s the aftermath, in the present (the book’s present, which is our future, or one iteration of it. Time travel. So straightforward…) Since I hate spoilers, I won’t even attempt to summarize the ending. At first I was unsure whether I liked it, but on further reflection, I’ve decided I do. I’d love to hear your reaction, if you’ve read this one.
What have you been reading lately? My dance card of summer TBR books is filling up fast (August is shaping up to be Fantasy Month, with Anthony Ryan’s The Legion of Flame and The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland on deck), but there’s always room for one or two more.