A Burning by Megha Majumdar was hyped by almost every publication on the planet as one of the best books of June 2020. So I bought it.
It made me feel things…mostly sadness and anger. I guess that means it was good?
offers her hand to be kissed,
& can form it into a fist
while smiling the whole damn time.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo piqued my interest because it was written by a National Book Award winner, and it was on Amazon’s monthly list of best YA fiction.
Oh, and it was written in verse. That sounded kinda bonkers to me, and I wanted to check it out.
So far, it’s my favorite book that has been released in 2020.
Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles is set in Texas, just after the end of the Civil War. I am a big fan of Jiles’ previous novel News of the World, which was also set in Texas during that time period. I was excited about this release! Unfortunately….
Simon the Fiddler is not very good.
There’s something in it, he decides later, standing in line for dinner. It’s possible to know you’re a criminal, a liar, a man of weak moral character, and yet not know it, in the sense of feeling that your punishment is somehow undeserved, that despite the cold facts you’re deserving of warmth and some kind of special treatment.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel was one of the books I was most-looking forward to reading this year because I loved the author’s previous novel, Station Eleven.
The Glass Hotel is good. Not as good as Station Eleven. But good.
This was the body of a beautiful young woman, conventionally an object of desire, and yet it was a body from which all desire had been eliminated.
I really liked Parasite, the Korean film that won Academy Award for Best Picture. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It made me want to explore more Korean art, including Korean literature. I read a few lists (provided by google searches) of “great Korean literature.” One book was consistently (and prominently) featured in every list: The Vegetarian by Han Kang. So I bought it.
The Vegetarian was one of the strangest, powerfully thought-provoking novels I’ve read in a long, long time.
He is not making much headway, and Leeuwenhoek passes him by like a meteor, cutting a swathe through the milling necks. He looks back to see Vermeer standing, doffing his cap, whether to a goose or a person he cannot see, a dark blot in the midst of a rippling, cacophonous, white canvas.
Sarah Tolmie’s The Little Animals is billed as a scifi historical fiction about a dude who discovers tiny animals and has to deal with that knowledge. Tiny animals? I’m in!
What was apparent to everyone but me (I have since gathered) is that the “tiny animals” he’s discovered are microscopic organisms. It’s cool, but I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t a little disappointed not to be reading about, like, really small elephants and stuff.
Once I accepted my loss, I had to admit that the story I was reading was actually very cool in its own right.
Anytime I think I am a semidecent person, I remember this story someone told me once about her ex-husband. He was always late getting home. He never came home when he said he would, and I thought I knew this story before she told it, but I was wrong. It was just that he had a rule that if anyone asked him for help he would pause to see what that person needed. And then he would try to get them that thing if he could. Sometimes it was money, sometimes food; once a man needed a belt and he gave him his. The reason he was always late was that his office was next door to Penn Station. They broke up because he was a mean drunk, but still.
A couple of months ago, I read Dept. of Speculation, a fantastic novel by Jenny Offill. When I discovered that the author was releasing a new book this year, I immediately preordered it. That new book is Weather.
It’s pretty good.
Each year the Philip K. Dick award is given to “the best science fiction paperback novel published in the United States in the previous calendar year” at Norwescon. This year, the award ceremony will take place in Seattle, WA, on April 10th.
Between now and then, I will be working to read and review all of the nominees. Hopefully, I’ll have time to circle back before the ceremony and update this list with my bet (and my vote), but if the past is any indication I’ll be reading down to the wire.
For now, read on for a little about each book as a nominee. One by one I’ll add review links to this page, so if you’re following along (or reading along), be sure to bookmark this page and check back for the latest updates.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins has a lot of buzz. It’s a selection of Oprah’s Book Club. It was the Amazon January 2020 Spotlight Pick. My local Barnes and Noble made it a monthly book club selection. I included it on our list of intriguing January-released books.
I read it. It turned out to be … not very good. How did this book get so much hype?
“Are you ok?” … “How’s the pain?” … “How’re you doing?”
Edward is unable to answer any of these questions. He can’t consider how he’s feeling; that door is far too dangerous to open. He tries to stay away from thoughts and emotions, as if they’re furniture he can skirt past in a room.
Going into a book bracing for overwhelming tragedy is always hard. Contemporary, realistic grave tragedy must be difficult to write, and is certainly difficult to read.
That is exactly what you have to do when you crack the spine on Dear Edward, which follows a young boy after he becomes the sole survivor of a terrible plane crash.