May reading round-up

It doesn’t feel like it’s been my best reading month, but on the plus side I made it back to book club for the first time in ages and, particularly this week, I’ve had a lot of bookish conversations at work. With holiday season beginning there’s been much discussion of books to read on holiday – trashy or classic? Engrossing and involving or light and fluffy? I think we largely agreed that we avoid anything depressing but other than that tastes were pretty varied.

There was also this crazy news story today about the A-level English class who found out two weeks before their exam that they have been studying the wrong book – they’ve been studying Dracula but the exam will be on Frankenstein. This led to a fascinating conversation with an American colleague about the different texts we read for school at that age and I am completely jealous of the special project she got to do at the end of high school – choose any author and write a special report on them, based on as much biographical material (letters, diaries etc as well as memoir or biography) as can be found. I would have loved to do that; in fact I quite fancy doing it now!

But back to that news story, I do feel for those schoolkids. While two weeks may be long enough to read Frankenstein, I really found when I did my A-levels that spending a month or so studying it in detail really helped me to understand and even love the story. I still have my copy of the book from back then, full of all my study notes, some of which are more insightful than others! But I love it as a book that’s truly personal to me and whenever I pick it up I resolve to start annotating some of the books I read, but somehow I never do. Do you annotate books at all? Even just underline favourite quotes?

Click to enlarge if you want to read the annotations 17-year-old me made!

Anyway, back to the business at hand, what I have read this month…

Books read

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale (review here)

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (review here)

The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson (review here)

The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion (review here)

Beside the Sea by Véronique Olmi (review here)

A Stainless Steel Rat is Born by Harry Harrison

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Short stories read

“Disguised” by Isaac Bashevis Singer (New Yorker Fiction podcast)

“The colonel says I love you” by Sergei Dovlatov (New Yorker Fiction podcast)

“Chef’s house” by Raymond Carver (New Yorker Fiction podcast)

“The jockey” by Carson McCullers (New Yorker Fiction podcast)

“The reverse bug” by Lore Segal (New Yorker Fiction podcast)

“How to talk to girls at parties” by Neil Gaiman (free ebook as promo for his new novel)

“The swimmer” by John Cheever (New Yorker Fiction podcast)

“Gomez Palacio” by Roberto Bolano (New Yorker Fiction podcast)