A trio of prize winners and one unforgettable essay collection
Plus Austen adaptations through the ages and satirical novels for your TBR
What a week. We have been wanting to get out of the heat and into the mountains for quite some time and finally booked a last minute cabin getaway in Grand Lake, CO for a few nights this week. On Monday we packed up all our things (a lot of things considering we had a baby and dog in tow), made the two hour drive, and got to our AirBnB with just enough time to grill hotdogs and take a quick walk around the town. Unfortunately, our labradoodle Bingley did not handle this little jaunt well. He’s always had mild anxiety about being in new places, but between the pandemic and life with a new baby, that mild anxiety has escalated. I’ll spare you the details, but the poor guy got incredibly sick and woke up whining every half hour throughout the night…it was terrible and we felt so bad for him! We decided no one was going to enjoy this trip with him in a full blown panic and sick to his stomach, so the next morning we packed back up and drove home. It was definitely a bummer, but we got Bingley in to see his vet and he’s feeling much better now that we’re all safely home where we belong.
It’s never fun when much anticipated plans go haywire, but I tried to take advantage of a previously cleared out week by getting ahead on some projects, making initial preparations to put our house on the market, and—of course—read some good books.
This week in books.
This week I read…
The Crane Wife by CJ Hauser. Oh how I loved this book. So much so, I’m contemplating picking it back up again even though I just finished it this week. This is Hauser’s memoir in essays that explores her search for love, her growth as a writer and teacher, her considerations around parenthood, and so much more. I loved how Hauser put this book together. Each essay is distinct and you could pull almost any of them out to read as a standalone, but she also uses the collection to circle around big themes and fine tune her understanding about life. Because of that distinct style and structure, the ending feels uniquely satisfying for an essay collection. I listened to much of it on audio, and Hauser’s own narration is a wonderful edition to this book, making the whole thing feel gentler and more intimate. Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. I can’t wait to discuss this book with the FictionMatters Patreon crew. It is a wild ride! It’s incredibly literary (Smiley won the Pulitzer for it after all) with an atmospheric sense of place, stunning prose, and—of course—frequent allusions to Shakespeare’s King Lear. But it’s also a messy, almost soapy, family story that almost teeters into the outlandish. I’m going to save the rest of my thoughts for book club, but I will say there are tons of triggers for this one so sensitive readers be sure to do your research before picking it up. Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm
Now I’m reading…
The Promise by Damon Galgut. I decided to pick up last year’s Booker Prize winner since the 2022 longlist will be announced this week. Galgut’s writing is impressive, and I’m marveling at the way he manages to skewer his characters without tipping totally into satire. In some ways, the novel feels like a Greek tragedy, and I have a feeling there’s a lot more in store for the Swart family even though I’m already two thirds of the way through the book. Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm
A few more titles that I’m keeping under wraps for now in anticipation of an exciting upcoming project!
Links I love.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my June Ranked Reading Recap where I discuss every book I read last month include a buzzy upcoming release, a 2021 prize contender, and a couple backlist gems.
I disagree with some of the finer points in this article, but I enjoyed looking back at Austen adaptations across time.
All three of these translated books about French colonialism sound fascinating.
If you’re reading this newsletter, you probably don’t need advice for how to get back into reading, but if you ever do find yourself in that position, this is a great article.
Three upcoming novels are using satire to explore race and racism. I’ve read and loved one and added the other two to my list.
It’s still hard to watch much of anything, but last night we sat down and watched the new House of the Dragon trailer on the big screen, and I’m very excited for the August release.
This Daily episode about miscarriage care in Texas is absolutely devastating.
Lots of banana pancakes for Louise to eat/throw/smash.
Having childcare help! A wonderful former student of mine has been watching Louise a few hours here and there and it’s been a game changer.
The Marine Layer sale! Sadly I don’t have affiliate links, but now is the time to shop if you’ve been eying anything there. I got myself this tank and this cropped tee. I find their pieces to run a tad small so size up if you’re between sizes.
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