So midway through the year and I've read 53 books... On track for 100 in a year for the first time since I started counting. Probably ever. Not all of them have been stellar. Some have been mercifully short. Others I'm not sure how I finished. While others have been such a joy. I am richer for having entered their worlds. So... reading.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (non-fiction, audiobook)
Right book, right time. One test of a book is how often you bring it up in conversation and I've been able to refer to, and evangelise about, Braiding Sweetgrass often in the weeks since reading it.
It ranges widely - and does drift in parts, being rather long - but the topic is so broad (see that subtitle) and the process of decolonising the thinking of a reader such as me when it comes to plants takes time.
Embodies the gift economy. Kia ora, RWK!
No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (novel, audiobook)
Gonna call it now: this is the funniest book I will read all year.
Is it a novel? Is it another autobiography, veiled this time by the third person pronouns? Is it longform poetry?
Answer: it is the natural end result when language and attention and logic come out the other side of being "extremely online".
Buy a ticket, buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood (poetry, ebook)
Okay, so this actually is poetry :)
Notes from an Apocalypse by Mark O'Connell (non-fiction, audiobook)
This is the book I thought I was going to read when I picked up End Times by Bryan Walsh in May. I wasn't sure if I was ready for more apocalypsia so soon, but O'Connell's book lived up to my (deferred) expectations. Maybe it's homerism, but I enjoyed the section set in NZ the most. Often, that would be the part where the hollowness of the European correspondent rang through, but not here.
Kia ora MO'C!
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary (novel, audiobook)
Okay, so, hear me out. I enjoy reading romance, at least this kind (blame Emma Lord). It would be stretching things to call this a rom-com as it's not super funny. It's tone is breezy, but then the main female character is recovering from a toxic relationship (and gets stalked by the gaslighting ex) and the male lead's brother is in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
The set-up (a male hospice nurse who works nights rents out his flat 7pm to 7am to a junior book editor so he can pay legal fees for his brother, and the two flatmates only converse through post-it notes...) is super hooky.
Sometimes the beats felt like they came with signposts: THIS IS A BEAT.
But I devoured it. I like romance. It only took me 38 years.
Their Lost Daughters by Joy Ellis (novel, audiobook)
Speaking of genres, one I've not had as many hangups about is crime. No doubt because it's coded as more masculine. But this one was only meh.
My Year Abroad by Change-Rae Lee (novel, audiobook)
Speaking of genres, this was NORTH AMERICAN LITERARY FICTION. How can you tell? It's at least twice as long as it needs to be. Fixates on a particular bucket of imagery (food & gustation). Is told over two time periods (with one being more interesting that the other). It became a game of diagnosing its cliches and flaws - and that got me through to the ridiculous climax.
This review from the NYT does a pretty good job of capturing how I felt: "this long and draggy book is a 'controlled fllight into terrain'."
Real Life by Brandon Taylor (novel, audiobook)
Speaking of NORTH AMERICAN LIT FIC. This was so: I spent time at the Iowa Writers Workshop. Yawn.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (v. short novel, audiobook)
Nope. I am still to find the fantasy that converts me to the genre.
The Garden Jungle by Dave Goulson (non-fiction, audiobook)
The bumblbee guy tries to branch out, but doesn't bring anything new to the conversation.
FILM & TV
Line of Duty - Seasons 4-6
Mare of Easttown - finished season 1
We are the Champions - Season 1
The Masked Singer NZ - Season 1 - the kids really got into it, for some reason
Feel Good - Seasons 1 & 2
Sweet Tooth - Season 1
Long Time Running
Breaking Boundaries: the science of our planet
Framing John DeLorean