What I Read in August
I had a great reading month in August: a new favourite book arose, I chose good novels, and we had a great book club pick which provided over an hour of intense discussion.
Want to know which books I’m talking about? Read on for my August Reads.
My Summer Recommendations
Since I didn’t do monthly reading wrap-ups on my YouTube channel this summer, I posted recommendations from my June, July, and August reads instead. Watch for more.
As always, I’ve also written up capsule reviews of all the books I read in August – those I’d recommend and the others I read and will offer my opinions on.
40. A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated by Daniel Hahn
★★★★★ – When the Angolan Civil War breaks out, an older woman named Ludo bricks herself into her apartment and fends for herself for 30 years, writing poetry on the walls until a young boy finds her and they strike up an unlikely friendship. That’s the synopsis you’re given – and there’s plenty going on besides, but it’s here where this novel’s heart lies. I’ve not much to say beyond that; it was just fine.
41. The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss
★★★★★ – I’m a sucker for a well-written interior monologue, and this book really did it for me. It follows Adam, a part-time academic and stay-at-home dad whose daughter collapses at school one day. It rocks his life, bringing worries and helicopter parenting tendencies to the fore. Moss’s voices are utterly credible and she successfully brews up a potent blend of thoughts, actions, worries, and a personal intellectual life within Adam’s mind.
42. Stranger on a Train by Jenny Diski
★★★★★ – This has to sit on the top shelf as one of my favourite books. Diski brings together travel and memoir with these stories of stranger’s lives and her own in a mode that’s circular but also gives a sense of forward momentum. Moments from her journeys across the US by train harken back to her teen years being treated for mental illness, making unlikely friendships, and reading on London’s Circle Line for as many hours as the days allowed. She confers her own story with the benefit of hindsight and of empathy and acceptance, and the shared tales of her fellow passengers with warmth, humour, and understanding. Just a gem.
43. Play it As it Lays by Joan Didion
★★★★★ – I’ve been describing this one as a great book that I didn’t enjoy reading. Didion captures the bleak aridity of the American West, the veneer of glitz that barely coneals the misery and shallowness beneath. Her characters are spiteful, self-serving, careless people, chipping the glamorous sheen away where your F Scott Fitzgeralds would lay it on thick. It reads like a movie, but kicks like a book. I hated it, but it’s excellent.
44. The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick
★★★★★ – Arranged around celestial events, this novel follows comet seekers and romantics Roisin and Francois. It’s structurally sound but often focuses its details in the wrong places. Who are these people, beyond believers in ghosts and watchers of celestial events? They’re full of interests but lack clear motivation, and fall frustratingly often into immature habits of failed decision-making and simple interpersonal understanding. The implication appears to be that conversation doesn’t drive relationships, and it takes a little too long for its subtle complexities to take hold. I was more often impressed by its mechanics than involved in its story though, overall, it is good for a debut.
What was the best book you read in August?