Happy Wednesday! I hope you’re all surviving these first few days of August. Based on your comments from my post on Monday, August is a tough month for a lot of us. And I think most of us are thankful for the air conditioner and good books to help us through! I’ve gotten a good start with reading in August and I hope that mojo hangs around for a while longer. Today I’m talking about the books I’ve finished since last Wednesday and what I’m planning to read for the rest of the month, so let’s get caught up!
FINISHED THIS WEEK
My Year of Meats was Ruth Ozeki’s debut and published in 1999. I wasn’t a big fan when the book began, but got hooked about halfway. I adore how Ozeki manages to blend Japanese and American culture so beautifully. This book has parallel storylines: Jane, a Japanese-American producing a television show that teaches Japanese families about traditional American families and our love of meat, which is sponsored by a beef company; and Akiko, a Japanese woman married to another producer for the same show. While filming, Jane finds ways to challenge the way the world thinks about the All-American family and inspires Akiko to examine her own life and happiness.
Jane also filmed horrifying tidbits about how meat is produced in the US, especially at the big feedlots. I learned that throughout the history of feedlots, the ranchers were quite creative about the things they fed their cattle including cement dust and plastic hay, which genuinely surprised me despite believing that I’d done a lot of reading about meat production in the US. And of course, we see the effect of the dangerous hormones that harm some people who eat the meat and those who work in the meat industry. I read Fast Food Nation about 20 years ago and My Year of Meats felt like a thoughtful, fictionalized version of it. This was a reminder to support my local farmers and ranchers who operate on smaller scales, which leaves them very little margin of error. Farming and ranching has only become more difficult, especially for those who want to do it the right way. There was so much (literal) food for thought in this book.
Booth is on this year’s Booker Longlist and man — I’m so glad it is! This is such an interesting telling of the life of John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin. We don’t hear directly from Booth; instead, we learn about his childhood and life from his siblings. This book is worth slowing down for and is brilliantly researched. The author’s acknowledgments said that she was inspired to write this book after one of the many mass shootings here in the states. She wondered about the family of the shooter – how do they go on after such a thing? How much do they blame themselves? Could they have stopped it? In this novel, Fowler put the puzzle together based on books, journals, and letters written by the Booth children. John Wilkes Booth’s home life was fascinating, full of Shakespeare’s tragedies and life on the stage. He was larger than life and in the end, it makes perfect sense that he would reach for this level of drama. Interspersed in the lives of the Booth children, we hear from Lincoln via speeches and letters. He foretold so much of today’s politics in America that it’s startling. 5 stars and I hope this makes the short list! (Also, I couldn’t help but compare this to Hamnet as I was reading, despite it being set in a totally different time period and about a different family. They had such a similar vibe to me.)
A Thousand Acres, the 1992 Pulitzer winner, was the Fiction Matters Group Read in July. I have learned that this is a retelling of King Lear, of which I have zero familiarity, so I’ll have to take everyone’s word for it. I found the beginning to be slow, but it really picked up in the second half. This is about a family farm in Iowa and what happens when it begins to change hands. Family secrets, ambitions, and long-kept resentments couldn’t help but seep out at every turn. Is King Lear a tragedy? Because this most certainly was, but told in such a straight-forward and matter-of-fact sort of way that I wasn’t weeping into a hankie, but shaking my head in disbelief. The story was dark and sad and made me happy that my family doesn’t have any property or money to fight over; we can find enough to disagree about without it. I gave this book 4 stars because I couldn’t put it down once I got to the second half. I needed to know what was going to happen to this family!
(Bookish coincidences: I love it when my books accidentally overlap in some way and that happened twice with this week’s list. A Thousand Acres and My Year of Meats both included bits about the chemical dangers of big farming/ranching. This reinforced my thoughts about supporting local farmers and being careful about what we eat. A Thousand Acres was a retelling of a Shakespeare play while Booth was full of Shakespeare, which made me a bit embarrassed that I know next to nothing about Shakespeare!)
August Reading Plans
As always, I’ve been overly ambitious with my list this month. I doubt that I’ll get to them all and I’m sure I’ll throw in a few cozy things here and there. And of course, there’s a few books that have been on my TBR for months and are still patiently waiting for me. Here’s my August queue:
- The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
- The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich – Erdrich-Along catch up
- Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich – Erdrich-Along
- Civil to Strangers by Barbara Pym – buddy read with Laila catch up
- Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree – buddy read on Fiction Matters
- Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin
- The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier
- Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen – MMD Austen in August pick
- Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward
- Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda – Fiction Matters Group Read
- The Maid by Nita Prose
- Trust by Hernan Diaz – Booker Longlist
- After Sappho by Selby Lyn Schwartz – Booker Longlist / ordered from Blackwell’s
- Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo – Booker Longlist / this month’s Audible credit
- Treacle Walker by Alan Ganner – Booker Longlist / ordered from Blackwell’s
Will you join me in reading any of them? What’s waiting for you this month? I started The Shell Seekers last night and the opening pages are so cozy and perfect that I can’t even stand it. I’m looking forward to more of this story!
I hope to be back on Friday with a quick update. Until then – take good care!
Just used your link to purchase Booth. Anything that touches Lincoln has me all in — and I loved your description. Beyond that, your lists have me breathless…wow!
I thought about you and your interest in Lincoln while I was reading this book. Thank you for using my link to buy it!!
I’m looking forward to reading Booth! It’s a long wait from the library, but I’m guessing it’ll move quickly and more copies will be ordered.
Yes, King Lear is a tragedy. To give you a very brief synopsis, there’s an old king approaching the end of his life and is trying to decide how to divide his kingdom among his three daughters based upon which of them loves him the most. That goes about as well as you’d imagine, and he ends up going mad.
I’m not committing to reading all of the Booker long list, but there are several I do want to read! I’ve got Trust and Nightcrawling on hold as well, and I just discovered The Colony on Hoopla (but only on audio, so I’m waiting until I’m ready for my next audiobook).
Sense and Sensibility is one of my all time favorites. Have you read it before?
Sense & Sensibility will be totally new to me! I’m so happy to hear that it’s one of your favorites – that will get me excited about getting started!
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I started The Shell Seekers last night as well and totally agree about the cozy feel. Years ago, I watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on this book and am remembering bits and bobs from it as I read.
I thought I might try to read Sense and Sensibility this month as well but I don’t know if I’ll get to it. It is my pick for my Jane Austen read this year. I have been trying to read one Jane Austen book a year until I get all her books read (or at least the more popular ones anyway….).
Thank you for reminding that they made a movie about it.. I’ll try to look for it once I finish it! I’m planning to read S&S on audio because there’s a free version on Audible for members. I’ve followed along with MMD’s Austen in August for the last several years by listening on audio and it’s worked perfectly!
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I am going to join you in reading The Shell Seekers! And, like Sarah, I have not committed to reading all of the Booker long list. Trust will be available soon for me!!
Yay for The Shell Seekers! I’m going slowly, just 60 pages in, but I am loving all of Pilcher’s descriptions and settings. I also have a hold on Trust and am anxious to get to it!
I have The Shell Seekers waiting for me to start it. Reading Lessons in Chemistry currently, as it is borrowed from the library. The Shell Seekers is my book to take along to the fair.
Also, thank you for your support of small farmers!
That is one ambitious list! “The Shell Seekers” is waiting for me at the library. We stopped eating meat several years ago, and one of the reasons was our concern about animal suffering.
I am in awe of vegetarians and vegans. I’ve tried so many times but am too darn lazy and end up reaching for whatever is available. My husband and I have decided to try pescatarian for a while… which is a big deal because he is a major meat eater and I’ve never been able to get him on board with curbing our meat consumption. It was his idea this time!
My son is vegan and I totally get it. We do still eat meat, but not all the time and not huge amounts. (I still do love a good steak though…) I think you will really enjoy The Shell Seekers. Your TBR lists are all ambitious, but it’s nice to have choices!
I plan on re-reading The Shell Seekers this month. I read it when it was first published and passed it on to my mother and grandmother, we all loved it so much! They have both passed away since then, but I will think of them when I re-read it a little later this month. I also plan on reading Where the Wild Ladies Are, Sense & Sensibility, &Trust. I’m on a wait list at the library for The Colony & Booth. I loved Fresh Water for Flowers and I don’t know anyone who has read it, so I’d like to hear your thoughts on that one!
Wow! What a reading list! I have a few of those titles on my For Later list at the library. I am still working on being realistic about my stacks of books and projects.
Being realistic is not one of my strengths. Most of these titles will probably be pushed out for later too 🙂 But it’s fun to imagine myself reading all of them!! Enjoy your weekend, Juliann!
Fascinating what you say about meat production. I always buy British meat so as to avoid the nasties. When you read what goes into things like chicken nuggets it makes me feel ill.
Yes — the ingredients in chicken nuggets are pretty icky. Yikes!
I finished Booth a few days ago and loved reading your thoughts. One of my favorite things about the book was the narrative voice – I loved the present tense with a few sly “looks to the future” to keep me turning the pages. And the Lincoln bits were so interesting and such a clever way to ground the Booth story in real time and place. I haven’t thought about this in a long time … how different our world would be if Booth hadn’t happened like it did. (and I was planning to become an Ozeki completist, but now I’m not sure I have the stomach for her debut!)
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Booth! I also liked the voice it was written in and found that it forced me to slow down and pay attention to the details – and that’s not a bad thing! I LOVED the Lincoln bits and read so much of those aloud to Matthew – how much he predicted!!
I say go for the Ozeki. You can always skim the gross stuff 🙂