Reading Report: August-October 2008

I haven’t done one of these in a while, and the truth is, I haven’t read that much… at least not books. I’ve been distracted by all the things going on in the world, and busy with my own work in progress.

In August I read an advance copy of a book called Winnie’s War, by Jenny Moss, a historical book about the Spanish Influenza epidemic of the early 20th Century. I’m lucky enough to live in an era where new authors easily find each other online, and am thus in a network of ARCs flying back and forth around the English-speaking world as we swap them around. I posted my glowing review here.

I also read the better part of a John Le Carre novel, which I quite liked but didn’t finish. It seems like I’ve read some other books, but I’m a bit stuck now what they are… well, a few manuscripts by friends that can’t be talked about, research for my own work, way more political blogs than are good for me.

More recently I read The Night of the Gun by David Carr. Most of it takes place in Minneapolis, and much of that on my home street. I found myself looking for clues to see if it was on my block, but I’m pretty sure his street was on the other side of the cemetery. It’s a junkie memoir, one which tries to be something more, but ultimately a junkie memoir, if a pretty well written one.

I probably never would have gotten around to reading it but for a new grown-up book club I’ve joined, and actually kind-of started. The idea was to read books with local connections, and while I lobbied for Helene Cooper’s book (which is only marginally local), Night of the Gun won the vote. It was a fun one to talk about, anyway, as our critiques quickly gave way to talking about familiar names and places. I’m kind of excited about the local book club, now. It just makes so much sense to talk about books instead of just reading them, and it’s even more fun when people can reel off anecdotes about the time they met the author or speculate knowingly about the people and places that have their last (or entire) names tactfully omitted.

Our next venture will be Peanuts, the sublime comics by St Paul native Charles M. Schulz. That meeting, when it takes place, will deserve its own post.

Meanwhile, the month of November has three books eager for my attention: The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, Little Brother by Corey Doctorow, and most importantly, the second volume in M. T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing… I think the first is the best YA novel of the decade, and hope to read all 500+ pages of the sequel this weekend.

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