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The LT Year in Reading: 2017 Edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Fun Read
Kate: Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. I think this is technically YA, and it’s such an amazing example of how complex, character-driven and just plain fun literature for that age group can be.
Corey: Hmm, I’ll have to go with Helen Simonson’s The Summer Before the War (her follow-up to Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand). It was a light and enjoyably quick read that brightened an otherwise gray autumn.

 

Best Reread
Corey: It’s a tie — I reread two books this year and they were both perfect for the moments in which I read them. First up, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus came along at a incredibly hectic summer moment and it was, as always, an immersive, imaginative, distracting, perfect read. At the end of the year, I reread Lucy Knisley’s Something New and it also perfectly scratched that moment’s itch.
Kate: I honestly don’t remember rereading anything this year, which must mean there wasn’t anything fantastic.

 

The Peter Mendelsund Award for Best Cover
Kate: The Goddesses by Swan Huntley. I felt relaxed and tranquil every time I looked at it. Simple and lovely.
Corey: Jessie Burton’s The Muse! So detailed and beautiful!

 

Best Premise, Worst Execution
Corey: Ugh, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry. I was all excited to read a bookish book about the lives and doings of an eccentric bookshop owner on a small island and…well, instead I got something pretty maudlin and not terribly bookish. Disappointing!
Kate: What the heck was going on in Invasion of the Tearling? I was looking for fun AU fantasy, and instead got a post-apocalyptic dystopia somewhere along the way, with a smattering of time travel that, honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to read The Fate of the Tearling and understand. New York 2140 also dragged and dragged and dragged, when I expected an enlightening look at climate change and the impact on a major world hub. Instead, I got descriptions of fancy boats.

 

Worst Premise, Best Execution
Kate: Fledgling by Octavia Butler. I picked it up out of an academic curiosity–oh, let’s see what Octavia Butler has to say about vampires–and it turned out to be one of my favorite reads of the year.
Corey: I don’t think anyone was begging for another reimagining of Pride & Prejudice, so Curtis Sittenfled’s Eligible was particularly delightful as a modern-day Jane Austen fable set in Cincinnati.

 

The Shock and Awe Award for Most Surprising Read 
Kate: Holy. Shit. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I’m not sure what I expected, but this book lived up to the hype. Nuanced and mind-opening. This book broke my heart. (more…)

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December 27, 2017 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

The Pros and Cons of Commute Audiobooks

In preparation for a short roadtrip, I recently went to the library and got Amy Poehler’s Yes Please on CD. The day before the roadtrip was a bad news day and I didn’t want to be bombarded with it on NPR, so I popped the CD in and started the first of many days’ commutes with Amy Poehler.

For some reason, listening to audiobooks on my car ride to work has become addictive. It’s a nice way to start the day — a chapter here, a section there — and it is the closest I’ve come to replicating my former (and much-missed) practice of reading on the subway to work when I lived in New York.

But I’ve already realized there are pros and cons to this habit. The biggest and most obvious con is that I’m significantly less well-informed about the news of the day.

Unlike in New York, I pass no newsstands or AMNY hawkers on my drive or bike ride to work. Unlike in New York, I don’t see any news tickers wrapped around buildings and I am not faced with my fellow citizens reading a newspaper two inches from my face in a crowded subway car.

Without these reminders and without my morning NPR fix, I can spend an entire day oblivious to what’s happened anywhere outside of my office. And after only a few days of audiobooks on my commute, I already feel weirdly disconnected from the world around me. (more…)

April 25, 2017 at 12:17 pm Leave a comment

Companion Reads: ‘The Monuments Men’ and ‘Agent Zigzag’


I’m not entirely sure why, but I often find myself reading about World War II when I travel. It isn’t a topic I usually find myself gravitating to, but for some reason when you put me on a plane destined for far-off shores, I turn to WWII.

For my most recent holiday, I ended up reading The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History (by Bret Witter and Robert M. Edsel) and Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal (by Ben Macintyre) within a few days of each other. Unsurprisingly for two books about various intrepid “good guys” triumphing over various forms of Nazi horribleness, they pair together quite well.

Both books are what might be categorized as “popular history,” i.e. lighter historical fare intended for the general public. In addition to presenting big stories in a more digestible form, these books are liberally sprinkled with factoids and usually insert dialogue throughout to make the overall book feel a lot like an adventure novel. Accordingly, they’re easy, interesting, comulsively readable books. I devoured two in three days! (more…)

March 17, 2017 at 6:41 am Leave a comment

‘The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry’ by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry has been sitting on my shelf for almost three years. It was given to me when I lived on Nantucket largely, I believe, because it’s about a bookshop on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. In addition, Fikry is billed as a book for book-lovers, an ode to the delights of a good independent bookstore.

This all sounded very much up my alley and so an astute coworker got it for me for my birthday years ago.

And indeed, the fictional bookshop of Fikry, called Island Books, will seem very familiar to anyone who has ever shopped at Mitchell’s Book Corner in Nantucket. With its small children’s section, the smaller upstairs area, and apartment above, Island Books must have been inspired in part by a visit to Nantucket.

And indeed, the book does dwell on the kind of curmugeonly book-love that borders on snobbery with which many bibliophiles will be intimately familiar. Our hero, A.J. Fikry, owner of Island Books, disdains anything with vampires, young adult books as a rule, and sappy novels about widowers.

Fikry also dutifully resurrects the old e-book vs. physical book debate that used to feel like such a civil war in the reading community. (A.J. is, unsurprisingly, one of those “I’ll be damned if I use one of those contraptions!” / “E-books are killing bookstores!” people.) I like to think we’ve moved beyond this sort of reductiveness; one can like multiple formats and each has its own benefits.

But, for all that Fikry is about an island bookstore and however much the characters love books, I was stunned and disappointed to discover that it is, at its mushy heart, actually that which A.J. himself disdains: a sappy novel about a widower. (more…)

March 9, 2017 at 6:19 am 2 comments

‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton

Jessie Burton’s back, people!

Some of Literary Transgression’s more loyal readers may recall my, ahem, lukewarm reaction to her, shall we say, disappointing The Miniaturist back in 2014. There was a lot of hype surrounding that book and, in the end, a lot of misplaced expectations. After reading it, I was actively irritated and very nearly swore never to read Jessie Burton again.

Despite that fiasco, however, I decided to give her a second try when this beautiful piece of Library Loot came my way. (more…)

March 6, 2017 at 4:18 pm 2 comments

‘The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle’ by Russell Miller

adventures-conan-doyle
I’m ringing in the new year with biographies, which are proving an excellent ladder out of my non-reading pit of the last few months. Russell Miller’s The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle is the first on my list and it proved to be an appropriately entertaining biography to end 2016 and ring in 2017.

Miller, the first biographer given access to papers held by the Doyle family, divides Conan Doyle’s life into three, roughly equal parts: the Doctor, the Writer, and the Spiritualist. The first is the most satisfying as Miller’s unexcitable style fits best in retelling the childhood and early career of a country doctor. The latter two sections are slightly more dissatisfying as Miller continues to present the facts with little embellishment or noticeable excitement despite the increasingly noteworthy happenings in his subject’s life. (more…)

January 2, 2017 at 1:27 pm Leave a comment

The LT Year in Reading: 2016 Edition

darkershade 9780141199795

It’s that time of year again: what topped our list in 2016? And what did we absolutely despise? Check out Kate and Corey’s picks for their best (and worst!) reads of 2016:

Best Library Loot
Corey: Definitely A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé. It was one of those serendipitous library reads that you magically happen upon and turn out to be incredible. I was so lucky to find this one in the stacks this year!

Kate: Hmm. Probably A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was not a book of short stories by a recovered alcoholic that hopscotched all across the Southwest. Just wonderful.

“Hey, I didn’t know that!” Award for Best Nonfiction Read
Kate: Can I take a second to brag about the fact that I really tried to branch out into nonfiction this year? And still, somehow, only read a few. But Cooked by Michael Pollan was the best of them, probably, filled with compelling stories and facts about the food we cook and how we eat it.

all-the-single-ladies

Corey: Rebecca Trainster’s All the Single Ladies was so chock-a-block full of “hey, I didn’t know that!” moments, I think I irritated pretty much everyone I ever happened to be reading this book next to; I couldn’t stop myself from shouting out tidbits and marveling at Trainster’s research.

Best Reread
Kate: The Likeness by Tana French. Shades of Donna Tartt and Kate Atkinson. Plus, it takes place at Trinity and just outside Dublin, so I got to feel all nostalgic.

Corey: I only reread one book this year — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — and it was, as usual, a total delight. (more…)

December 29, 2016 at 6:37 am Leave a comment

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