November was a rough reading month for me. I found myself reading more articles, probably because I can read them in one sitting. I’ve also been listening to more podcasts, something I do when I can’t concentrate on books.
Nevertheless, I did manage to read a few and I enjoyed most of them. Here’s my November list:
1. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage–Hanna’s father loves his sweet angel and would do anything for her. Hanna’s mother sees the real Hanna, a diabolical, plotting, scheming, bad-seed of a kid. The underlying message here–that kids are sometimes just rotten–is troubling, but I always like a book that’s willing to complicate an archetype. I’ve read so many books about wealthy white families with troubled children who just need love and understanding. Hanna has no redeeming qualities at all. There’s nothing misunderstood about her. She’s a living nightmare that suggests no matter what you do as a parent, you might just be at the mercy of your kid’s biology. The fact that I find that a satisfying narrative might say more about me than the book itself!
Other books about rotten children that I liked: We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver and The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing.
2. An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena: A group of strangers converge at a remote mountain lodge in the midst of a snowstorm. Nobody is getting in or out as the storm rages around them. One of the guest dies the first night. Then another dies. Then another. Is one of them the killer or is there a maniac lurking in the shadows? The novel was quite obviously an homage to Agatha Christie, and while I didn’t love the ending, I appreciated the atmosphere.
3. The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher–What happens when you take a bunch of people with low self-esteem, undiagnosed personality disorders, delusions of grandeur, and underdeveloped social skills and put them to work in the same place with limited resources? You get Payne University, a pretty searing (and disturbingly accurate) satirical portrait of academia.
Other books about unhinged academics that I liked: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis and Kill Your Darlings by Terence Blacker.
4. The Secret Place by Tana French–Eight girls in a boarding school, one murder. Somebody knows something she isn’t telling. I’ve liked some of Tana French’s books, but I’m in the minority because I don’t love everything she does. I think sometimes her books are a little overwritten and then style gets in the way of substance. In this case, I think the balance between style and plot was good. The Likeness is still my favorite, though.
5. The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker–Two girls meet in college, make art together, and struggle to figure out who they are in a world that doesn’t make sense to either of them.
Here’s a longform article I admired this month: “Blood Cries Out” by Sean Patrick Cooper.
Here’s a bookish podcast that never fails to make me laugh and cringe (linge?): Double Love.
Happy reading in December!