The Buddha in the Attic (Julie Otsuka). This was a beautifully written short book written as the collective experiences of Japanese picture brides from the 19th century to the present. It’s one of those books you have to read all at once or in a short period of time in concentrated bursts. Each chapter is a different era and a different set of experiences. It might make you want to read more.
Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age (Bohumil Hrabal). Another stream of consciousness, Hrabal’s novella is from the perspective of an old man, a “palaverer” in the language of the introductory essay, addressing a group of young “beauties.” The narrator is unreliable, he tells stories that are shocking and backtracks to make himself seem better, he digresses into rants and waxes poetic about the “beauties” he has seen in his life. The introductory essay does a good job of situating the text and explaining Hrabal, about whom I knew nothing.
Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie). This is the first in a trilogy which I swear I will take my time reading so I can enjoy them more. It’s impossible not to compare the world-building here to a point of reference like Banks’s Culture novels, but there’s quite a bit that’s different here. The main conceit is that ship-level AIs can spin of “ancillaries” into other bodies to act as surrogates. Beckie’s insistence on the default “she” for a genderless society angers whiny MRA-type sad puppies, but I didn’t find that it played a central role in the story, although it made me aware of my default assumptions and “desire to know” characters’ genders. I’m looking forward to the next two!
Between The World And Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates). Written as a letter to his son, Coates tries to work out the meaning of his college friend Prince Jones’s murder at the hands of police. The book stakes out a strong critical position on America as an enterprise, but, as Michelle Alexander’s review puts it, feels unfinished. It is, however, necessary reading.
Cannery Row (John Steinbeck). A classic that I never read until now! Steinbeck’s prose feels dated and his way of describing people like Lee Chong, made my skin crawl at times, but that man could write a sentence. The book surprised me.