The Week in Books #59

Another stack done! I noticed this week that I’ve been finishing a stack of 12 books around the 17th of each month, purely by coincidence, making each pile one months worth of reading. Interesting! Of this pile the standouts are An Orchestra of Minorities, Catch and Kill, and The Book of Night Women. My least favourite was This Mournable Body. I’m excited to start a new one this week, and right off the bat I’m tackling a huge 814 page book, A Little Life. Wish me luck!

1. Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow. Wow, this book. So much amazingly dedicated journalism, very deserving of the Pulitzer. VERY illuminating, Hollywood actually seems like a nightmare place to try to exist. I was pretty surprised/not surprised about NBC refusing to run the story, what a bunch of shitheads. And Harvey can rot in jail. And Matt Laurer! Ugh they are all just so disgusting. Thanks to Ronan for having the drive to break this story and being justice to these creeps.

In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move, and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family.

All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance they could not explain — until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood to Washington and beyond.

This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability, and silence victims of abuse. And it’s the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.

Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook our culture.

littlebrown.com
5/14 ✅

New stack! After I finished A Little Life I was super depressed and so I revised this pile a little because a lot of the books looked like downers haha. This stack looks a bit better and also includes some newer books I would like to tackle sooner rather than later. I also added a couple poetry collections that are pretty quick to get through, so I’m already done with five.

2. Swimming Lessons by Lili Reinhart. This collection read like a sad teenage girls diary, to be honest. The blurb about it claimed the poetry would “reveal the depths of female experience”… oh come on. I expected more pieces about anxiety and mental health as she is an outspoken supporter but the majority were written to a man/men about love and breakups. There’s definitely more to the female experience then pining over dudes. That said, the pieces were readable if a little same-y, not awful but also definitely not as advertised.

Swimming Lessons explores the euphoric beginnings of young love, battling anxiety and depression in the face of fame, and the inevitable heartbreak that stems from passion. Relatable yet deeply intimate, provocative yet comforting, bite-sized yet profound, Lili’s poems reflect her trademark honesty and unique perspective. Accompanied by striking and evocative illustrations, Swimming Lessons reveals the depths of female experience, and is the work of a storyteller who is coming into her own.

Amazon.ca

3. Dearly by Margaret Atwood. THIS is a lady that knows how to write poetry. Margaret covers many, many topics that include love but also cats going senile, aliens, global warming, birds, werewolves, violence against women, and more. She uses many different formats and styles; some pieces are long, some are short and quick, and many were memorable. Very strong.

By turns moving, playful and wise, the poems gathered in Dearly are about absences and endings, ageing and retrospection, but also about gifts and renewals. They explore bodies and minds in transition, as well as the everyday objects and rituals that embed us in the present. Werewolves, sirens and dreams make their appearance, as do various forms of animal life and fragments of our damaged environment.

Before she became one of the world’s most important and loved novelists, Atwood was a poet. Dearly is her first collection in over a decade. It brings together many of her most recognizable and celebrated themes, but distilled – from minutely perfect descriptions of the natural world to startlingly witty encounters with aliens, from pressing political issues to myth and legend. It is a pure Atwood delight, and long-term readers and new fans alike will treasure its insight, empathy and humour.

4. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. This is the most depressing book I’ve ever read. I cried multiple times throughout, especially in the last 1/4 or so. Totally devastating. Major trigger warnings for self harm, abuse, rape, pedophilia, anorexia, suicide… all the things. It was beautifully written though, Yanagihara revealed Jude’s past bite by bite and I almost couldn’t put the book down (now that it’s done though I feel like I need a detox of sad books). The language was lovely, the characters well developed, and the story very detailed and thorough. Almost too much so, it was too long in my humble opinion. There were probably some places they could have trimmed the fat (details about their various jobs, scenes of Jude cooking, etc), also everyone’s constant apologizing to each other was a bit excessive. Overall a very powerful story but so, so sad. I have many thoughts but they can’t be discussed without spoilers, thankfully a friend and I read it at the same time and I was able to vent my frustrations haha.

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

Amazon

5. Five Little Indians by Michelle Good. This is a well crafted and powerful story about the experiences of First Nations children who attended residential schools in British Columbia. It is unbelievably disappointing that this is the history of Canada and my home province. It is also very shameful that we weren’t taught any of this history of genocide and child abuse in our schools when I was growing up. Instead I learned about residential schools during my time working in the DTES, where this book is set, and made many connections with individuals with similar experiences to the characters in this book. One conversation will always stand out in my mind; a coworker of mine was standing with a peer worker, a lovely Indigenous man I’ll call W, when W asked conversationally if his parents knew he was down here (meaning working the DTES), and without thinking my coworker shot back “Do your parents know you’re down here?” and W calmly responded “I grew up in a residential school so I don’t know my parents.” It was just so devastating to be reminded that these schools literally stole the children out of Indigenous communities and denied them contact with their families. This book is a great fictional account of the very real traumas that were inflicted on those children.

Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.

Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn’t want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.

Fuelled by rage and furious with God, Clara finds her way into the dangerous, highly charged world of the American Indian Movement. Maisie internalizes her pain and continually places herself in dangerous situations. Famous for his daring escapes from the school, Kenny can’t stop running and moves restlessly from job to job—through fishing grounds, orchards and logging camps—trying to outrun his memories and his addiction. Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures a secret compulsive disorder as she waits for Kenny to return to the life they once hoped to share together. After almost beating one of his tormentors to death, Howie serves time in prison, then tries once again to re-enter society and begin life anew.

Harper Collins

6. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I really enjoy Murakami’s writing and Norwegian Wood is no exception. His protagonist is always the same, and I imagine based on himself in some way, an intelligent and well spoken, calm sort of guy that cruises through the ups and downs of life as weird things happen around him. This story had no magical elements but still held my attention right to the end.

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

A poignant story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love.

Harukimurakami.com

A small stack I ordered from Indigo way back in December that took almost a month to get here for some reason. I got Swimming Lessons and Dearly, along with White Ivy by Susie Yang and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Also this past week I did a giant book purge! I feel like I deserve a pat on the back, haha. I removed all of these books from my shelves because I either hadn’t read them yet and didn’t intend to anytime soon, or had read them and felt ok with passing them on. I didn’t think there would be many I was able to part with but once I got going it was easy. I ended up putting them in boxes out by the little library and posting on the community page that there were books free for the taking, and many people came and took some. It’s a great feeling to declutter regularly.

3 comments

  1. I have that same edition of ‘Norwegian Wood’ 🙂 Murakami is one of my favorite writers 🙂 enjoy your readings and cheers from Lisbon 🙂 PedroL

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