For various reasons my reading pace has somewhat slowed since last year (alas), which means I may have to reduce my Currently Reading list from five top books to three. (For comparison, in December 2015 I read fourteen books; this month I read…okay, twelve. So maybe I just haven’t been reading as many good books lately.)
But! I am still reading, and I’m still reading good stuff, and cutting the list down lets me only recommend things I really liked, rather than stuff I sort of did.
Without further ado, then, this month’s best books.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This book is actually forthcoming in June, but working in the book industry means you get previews of such things, and boy am I happy I did. This book has been generating a lot of buzz, and having read it I can sincerely say it deserves it. Beginning with two half sisters, Effia and Esi, born into different villages in eighteenth century Ghana, one marries a British colonial officer and one is sold across the Atlantic into slavery. From there, the novel follows their separate but parallel families, generation by generation, showing the history of the African diaspora through intimate portraits of distinct individuals. Truly a lovely, exceptional book.
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney. A friend recommended this comic to me years ago, but for some reason I only just read it now, and I’m a little sad I didn’t get to it beforehand. Ellen Forney’s memoir of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her long and difficult journey to reaching equilibrium is woven throughout with questions of creativity and mental illness, and whether being creative means having to sacrifice your health. Questions of diagnosis, creativity, and medication are addressed with a sensitive touch and playful, engaging artwork that made this work a joy to read – and for me, personally, highly relatable. I wish I’d come across this book as a teenager: I think it would have done me a world of good.
Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag. A thought-provoking, relatively brief analysis of the photographs of atrocities and the role of photography in mediating tragedies. Sontag addresses questions about whether exposure to photographs of violence desensitizes the viewer, and where the line between sympathy and voyeurism might lie. While it isn’t very long, Regarding the Pain of Others made me think about how I view photography, particularly as someone with a tendency toward the morbid.
Honorable Mention to Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter by Tim Hanley. I have read a great deal of comics scholarship, almost all of it very disappointing. This is the best piece I’ve read so far, examining the role Lois Lane plays in Superman comics from the beginning through to the modern day, interspersed with discussion of her portrayal onscreen and on the radio. While the analysis remains fairly shallow, Hanley does a decent job of discussing how the way Lois is written compares to gender attitudes and norms of the day, and maintains the sense of her complicated and contradictory history without flattening it into “feminist” and “not-feminist” moments.
June is starting promisingly with Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls. Other books I expect to be picking up next month include The Devourers, Age of Myth, So Sad Today and Helter Skelter.