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The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In Coates’ Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross I learned that in addition to his non-fiction work, he has authored Black Panther Marvel Comics, a series which began in 1966. A character with superpowers comes naturally to him and an action-filled story is to be expected. So for me the pace was exhausting, even with the reflections and introspection of Hiram, the narrator. The author...

Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis

The Shadow Giller Prize Jury is back in business now that the shortlist has been announced and I am happy to see David Bezmozgis is on the shortlist. I loved the two of his other books that I have read. His work reflects his background:  he is a Jewish Latvian who arrived in Canada in 1979 when he was a child. This collection of short stories is sometimes told by a narrator who seems to be the...

Reasons to Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe

I enjoyed the three previous Nina Stibbe books, and I was happy to listen to the foibles of Lizzie who is now 18 years old. Lizzie gets a job as a dental assistant, replacing the current assistant who has become the dentist’s girlfriend. The job includes an apartment above the dental office, so this job means Lizzie will live on her own for the first time. She becomes the almost-girlfriend...

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

As I read this short book, I was alarmed at how quickly it was flying by. And after it was finished, I remarked on the intensity with which I felt the presence of each character the author created. It opens with a chapter narrated by Melody, dressed to the nines for her 16th birthday party in 2001 in the dress her mother would have worn had she not been pregnant with Melody. Subsequent chapters...

Taboo by Kim Scott

I had been looking for this book to become available in the US for more than a year when I learned that Kim Scott was visiting my small city in Virginia. It was wonderful to hear him speak and to be able to buy the book. I should explain that he was here at the invitation of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, the only art museum in the US that is wholly devoted to Aboriginal art. One of...

All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw by Theodore Rosengarten

It was the list of the 50 best memoirs of the last 50 years according to a recent article in The New York Times that took me to this book. I expect it to be my own Book of the Year. How this exceptional book came to be is a story in itself. Theodore Rosengarten went with his friend Dale Rosen to interview Ned Cobb about his experience in the 1930s as a member of the Alabama Sharecropper’s...

Stories of Perth by Alice Grundy

This collection of 12 short pieces are connected by Perth, the most isolated city in the world. I came to read it thanks to Reading Matters who returned to Australia after 20 years in London. Having lived on the east coast she was new to the area, so she picked up this book. I’m mighty glad she did. Much as I want to remember and write about all of the selections, I will focus on just a few...

spill simmer falter wither by Sara Baume

Kim of Reading Matters made a list of eight great novels using the second person point of view. Who could resist that list? I was drawn to the title of this one when I realized these four seemingly random words capture the seasons. And I was ready for a low key book and this one seemed to be about a lonely man and his connection to a one-eyed dog. Ray does speak in the second person to his dog...

The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

This 1973 Booker Prize winner is the story of a siege in a fictional town during the actual Indian Rebellion of 1857 when the East India Company controlled the country. The British inhabitants find it difficult to give up their social structures in the face of the attacks of the sepoys and deaths by cholera and starvation. Their dedication to various irrational beliefs they are unwilling to...

Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena

This short book by a well-known Latvian writer is on Reading Matters’ list of favorite books by women in translation. It is told through two narrative voices, a mother born in 1944, and her daughter born in 1969, alternating in short sections. The mother’s lifespan is roughly the same as the Soviet Union’s domination of Latvia, 1944-45 ending in 1989-90 with the dissolution of...

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