literature

Thumbs up for The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Horror.

Even I, who like long sentences, will admit that Henry James sometimes goes overboard. Nevertheless, his style perfectly fits the narrator’s state of mind. And there’s just nothing creepier than perfect children. Genuinely eerie and highly recommended.

But it was a comfort that there could be no uneasiness in a connection with anything so beatific as the radiant image of my little girl, the vision of whose angelic beauty had probably more than anything else to do with the restlessness that, before morning, made me several times rise and wander about my room to take in the whole picture and prospect; to watch, from my open window, the faint summer dawn, to look at such portions of the rest of the house as I could catch, and to listen, while, in the fading dusk, the first birds began to twitter, for the possible recurrence of a sound or two, less natural and not without, but within, that I had fancied I heard.

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Thumbs up for A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Literature.

A Russian Count is placed under house arrest in a Moscow hotel in the early 20’s. My two coworkers and I (I work in a bookstore) all have different taste in books, with areas of overlap. A Gentleman in Moscow is the first book we’ve all adored. Very few things are as purely charming.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Romance.

My very last unread Austen! This is the funniest, I think: the others are full of satire, to be sure, but this one satirizes the entire idea of Gothic romances, while still being one (sort of): a meta-mockery, if you will. Delightful. I recommend the Penguin edition with the excellent introduction by Marilyn Butler, which provides a useful and thorough explanation about the books Austen is referring to.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Translator by Leila Aboulela. Literature.

I was traveling to Edinburgh and wasn’t able to find any book set there that wasn’t either too cutesy or too bleak for my taste, so I had to accept Aberdeen as a close-enough setting. The Translator is about a Muslim Sudanese-Scottish widow who works as an Arabic translator at a Scottish university.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell. Literature. Thumbs up for Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell. Literature.

Mrs. Bridge was one of the first works of Literature-with-a-capital-L I ever read, and it quietly blew my mind. I’ve read perhaps a thousand books since then—and it still does. The two books follow the marriage, in vignette form, of a deeply conventional upper-middle-class couple in Kansas City in the 1930’s and 1940’s.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. Literature.

An internal tale of first love–that sounds tedious, doesn’t it? Kudos to Aciman that he gets you into Elio’s head so quickly and absolutely that you can’t even protest: No, I don’t care about your cliched troubles, kid. Every emotion and turn of the heart is so precisely observed that the book makes its own complete, mesmerizing reality, essentially immune to criticism. … >> Read more

Thumbs up for Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. Literature.

By all rights I should have hated this book: modern American family dramas being #2 on my “nope” list. So I suppose it’s testament to Anne Tyler’s skills that I picked it up and stayed with it. The structure–discovery of events via the points of view of different characters, who focus on different things–was pleasingly handled.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. Literature.

A young man–worldly and introspective relative to the society in which he lives, but that’s not saying much–is engaged to be married to just the right girl. Then her cousin, who is actually worldly, shows up from Europe…. Sometimes I think reading classic literature is hardly different from reading fantasy or science fiction.… >> Read more