Every Book I’ve Read So Far This Year (And Whether Or Not You Should Read Them, Too), Part Two

I feel like I say the same thing every time I post one of these things: I am way behind on reading. But so far this year, I’ve been in an actual reading slump. Very few books have been able to hold my attention. I was only able to finish reading three books that I’ve started in the past three months. Yikes! Realizing that makes me feel more than a little disappointed in myself. Now I’m really going to try to get some serious “beach reading” done this summer, even though I highly doubt I will actually go to the beach.



HHhH by Laurent Binet

What’s it about?

This book is supposedly about the two men – one Czech, one Slovak – who killed Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi official who organized much of the Holocaust. (“HHhH” stands for “Himmler’s Hirn heisst Heydrich” or “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”.) After several chapters, the book becomes not only about the history, but also about the narrator (or the author himself) trying to write this fictional account of how Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis killed Heydrich.

Did I like this book?

Not as much as I thought I would. I’d wanted to read HHhH when it was published here in 2012 and finally got around to picking it up this winter. I think any reader of this blog knows, at this point, that I read a ton of fiction set during the World Wars. It was hard for me to get into this book because of its unusual structure. However, I appreciated reading something that was as much about the process of writing historical fiction as it was about the actual history.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

I think yes, if you’re a fan of historical fiction, like reading about this particular period, or (I guess) post-modern fiction. If you’re interested in reading a book about someone trying to write a book, I would suggest a non-fiction book instead – Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage.



A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

What’s it about?

A woman named Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox that has washed up on the shore of a remote island off of the Pacific coast of Canada. The lunchbox contains several items, including the diary of a sixteen-year-old Japanese girl called Nao who, before she commits suicide, has decided to write down the story of her 104-year-old grandmother, a Buddhist nun. The reader is taken back and forth between Nao’s past in 2001 and Ruth’s present, where she is trying to unravel the mysteries of Nao’s family.

Did I like this book?

Yes. It’s sort of hard to summarize but I guess I liked the way the book blended past and present and played with philosophy, especially Buddhist thought. I also was very compelled by all of Nao’s chapters. Even if I was bored with Ruth’s story from time to time, I remained committed to reading because I wanted to catch up with Nao.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

I have been recommending this book to tons of people, so yes. I think there’s something for everyone in here? I didn’t like everything about A Tale for the Time Being, but had a generally positive and thought-provoking reading experience.



Broken Harbor by Tana French

What’s it about?

In Tana French’s fourth “Dublin Murder Squad” novel, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and his partner are assigned to solve the murder of a young family of four who live in a half-empty housing development outside of Dublin. Mystery abounds.

Did I like this book?

Well, yes. I mean, I’ve never not been amused by a Tana French novel. I read The Likeness last year, followed by In the Woods. This is now the third book of hers I’ve read. I was left a little unsatisfied at the end of the book but was generally very entertained the whole time I was reading it. (I still liked The Likeness the best, even if it’s basically The Secret History, but in Ireland and with undercover cops.)

Should you read it? Why or why not?

I think this much-better-than-your-average murder mystery makes for a great summer read. A “beach read,” even!


Five Things I Liked This Week

1. “Trial by Fire” by David Grann (The New Yorker)

This piece is from 2009, but I just read it this week after Grann tweeted it. Grann explores whether or not Texas executed an innocent man.


2. Thee Oh Sees, Drop

This album got me through more than one workday this week.


3. HHhH by Laurent Binet

I’m in the middle of reading this right now and it has me thinking a lot about experimenting more in my writing.


4. Rediscovering some stuff about myself via The Golden Notebook

I don’t necessarily like what I wrote here, but I’m interested in how weird this experience was.


5. Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea, “Problem”

I mean, not her best – I’m not that into goofy rap verses – but I listened to this more than a few times this week.