Last week was my birthday, and I had an exceptionally bookish week that resulted in a nice haul of new books and a stack of Jane Austen BBC adaptations – none of which I’d actually seen before.
The first in the haul—and the only book I’ve started to read already—is Charles Dantzig’s Pourquoi Lire? (Why read?) I’d never heard of Dantzig until this lovely little book found its way into my mailbox. A gift from my mother-in-law, who is very good at selecting books I wouldn’t otherwise have come across. Dantzig’s homage to reading is so far really lovely. Funny and clever and sweet. Each chapter begins with another reason to read, like “We read because of love,” about falling in love with characters and stories, or “Read to get past the halfway point of the book” about those interminable books of 1000 pages and how we love them and hate them at the same time. This book promises many little gems.
The rest of my new book stack contains:
- Chris Bohjalian – The Double Bind
- Damon Galgut – The Quarry
- Téa Obreht – The Tiger’s Wife
- Julia Otsuka – Buddha in the Attic
- Siri Hustvedt – The Summer Without Men
- Colm Toibin – The Empty Family
- Jeannette Winterson – Written on the Body
- José Saramago – The Elephant’s Journey
- Michael Cunningham – By Nightfall
- Orhan Pamuk – The Museum of Innocence
- Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending
I am really looking forward to reading the Otsuka, as I’ve already sampled two chapters in recent issues of Granta. The book is about mail order brides coming to America from Japan, and written in the first person plural. The samples I read simply blew me away, like this passage from “The Children” (Granta 115):
Sometimes we tried cutting off all our hair and offering it to the goddess of fertility if only she wold make us conceive, but still, every month, we continued to bleed. And even though our husband had told us it made no difference to him whether he became a father or not – the only thing that mattered, he had said to us, was that we grew old by his side – we could not stop thinking of the children we’d never had. Every night I can hear them playing in the fields outside my window.