Top 10 Tuesday | Books on my autumn 2021 TBR

I think by now I’ve come to accept that I don’t have the dedication to read all the books I optimistically put on a TBR. Shiny new books pop up on my radar and distract me; life gets in the way. But as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t resist a list, and it’s nice to have something to aspire to. If you’ve read and can recommend any of these, let me know!

An incandescent memoir from an astonishing new talent, Beautiful Country puts readers in the shoes of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world.
When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?’

Shuggie Bain
Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love.

(Yes, this is back on the TBR again and I’m determined to tackle it before the year is out!)

Wolf Hall meets The Favourite in this beguiling debut novel that brilliantly brings to life the residents of a small English town in the grip of the seventeenth-century witch trials and the young woman tasked with saving them all from themselves.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years – from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding – that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms.’

Jennifer Egan’s cool, transcendent prose meets Karen Thompson Walker’s speculative eye in this luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives.

An incisive and exhilarating debut novel of female friendship following three Anglo-Nigerian best friends and the lethally glamorous fourth woman who infiltrates their group—the most unforgettable girls since Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda.

‘Mia Eliot has travelled from London to LA for pilot season. This is her big chance to make it as an actor in Hollywood, and she is ready to do whatever it takes. At an audition she meets Emily, and what starts as a simple favour takes a dark turn when Emily goes missing and Mia is the last person to see her.’
‘Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.’

Days of Distraction
‘Equal parts tender and humorous, and told in spare but powerful prose, Days of Distraction is an offbeat coming-of-adulthood tale, a touching family story, and a razor-sharp appraisal of our times.’

(Another one back on the TBR, but I am still very interested in giving this a go).

An exciting blend of thriller, literary, memoir, and historical fiction – I feel good about this TBR pile! What’s coming up on your fall/autumn lists?

Descriptions taken from Goodreads. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

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Top 10 Tuesday | Books with numbers in the title

Welcome back to another Top Ten Tuesday! I love these creative themes and they always get me remembering books I’ve not thought about in forever. This one is pretty self-explanatory, so here we go…

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Since I recently read and adored The Kite Runner, this has just been bumped up my TBR.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

I so enjoyed this journalistic tour de force, a deep dive into the love and sex lives of three real women. Check out my full review here.

One Day by David Nicholls

One Day by David Nicholls

I know I’ve found a way to fit this into a top ten tuesday more than once, but I can’t help it. It’s so charming and moving and funny.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Back at the start of the pandemic, I was on a pandemic-book-themed reading sprint, and this was a very good addition to that oeuvre. Full review here.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 – famously the temperature at which books burn (cannot confirm). Not a book that I loved like I’d hoped I would, but a worthwhile read none the less. Full review here.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult’s books were the background to my mid-teen years, and while she doesn’t always get it right, she doesn’t shy away from heavy topics. And boy does that woman know how to write a page turner.

Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup

Is this pushing the boundaries of the theme? Quite possibly. But it’s close enough. I don’t remember all that much about this book, which I read over 10 years ago, but I enjoyed the film (if enjoy is the right word).

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I’ve not read this nor do I really want to watch the TV adaptation, but I know it’s hugely popular and it fits the tag so here we are.

Second Place by Rachel Cusk

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Rachel Cusk, and I think I would enjoy her writing, but I’ve not yet summoned up the strength to give it a go.

Thanks for reading!

9 Titles That Made Want to Buy the Book

This is another Top Ten Tuesday, but since I am at the mercy of these WordPress layouts I’m resigned to just go with 9. Have you read any of these? What books have you bought on the basis of their title alone?

Books I’ve read with brilliant titles

Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory

The title was 100% the reason why I picked this otherwise slightly obscure short-story collection off the shelf – and boy am I glad I did. Equal parts tragic and funny, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – perhaps the best short story collection I’ve ever read.

Full review here

The Heart’s Invisible Furies

A stunning story that begins in 1940s Ireland and takes us through the decades of the life of Cyril Avery, a young man desperate to discover his identity.

Full review here.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

I could have equally picked Vuong’s poetry collection – Night Sky with Exit Wounds. This is his first novel, suffused with poetic detail, pain, pleasure and heartbreak.

Full review here.

And now on to the ones I’ve not read yet and what the critics have to say about them…

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

“A symphony of a novel. Sunil Yapa inhabits the skins of characters vastly different to himself: a riot cop in Seattle, a punk activist, a disillusioned world traveler and a high-level diplomat, among others. Through it all Yapa showcases a raw and rare talent. This is a protest novel which finds, at its core, a deep and abiding regard for the music of what happens. Yapa strives forward with a literary molotov cocktail to light up the dark.” — Colum McCann

An Artist of the Floating World

“In An Artist of the Floating World, Kazuo Ishiguro offers readers of the English language an authentic look at postwar Japan, “a floating world” of changing cultural behaviors, shifting societal patterns and troubling questions.” — Amazon

My Wild and Sleepless Nights

“The best evocation of the all-consuming, self-eroding reality of motherhood, while also being luminous with love.” — Sunday Times

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Okezi

“Ozeki weaves together Nao’s adolescent yearnings with Ruth’s contemplative digressions, adding bits of Zen wisdom, as well as questions about agency, creativity, life, death, and human connections along the way. A Tale for the Time Being is a dreamy, spiritual investigation of how to gracefully meet the waves of time, which, in the end, come for us all.”
—The Daily Beast

Cities I’ve Never Lived In

“Majka brings the reader to startling places. . . . From certain angles, it’s a kind of New England gothic, where the lost children and dead women and doppelgängers serve to add atmosphere and meaning to the narrator’s past peregrinations, her dalliances and uncertainties. It turns out in the end that this is in fact a book about an arty person with a complicated personal life. But it’s a lovely one, written in a moving and uncanny register.”―The New York Times Book Review

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World

“A story about the dogged survival of hope when all else is lost . . . Messina shows us that even in the face of a terrible tragedy, such as an earthquake or a loss of a child, the small things – a cup of tea, a proffered hand – can offer a way ahead. Its meditative minimalism makes it a striking haiku of the human heart.” ― The Times (London)

P.S. Try Book of the Month for $5!

I’ve recently joined Book of the Month, where you get one new hardback release (of your choice) to your door each month. This was my ‘new job treat’, and a way to read new releases without paying the sticker price or having to wait 6 months to get it from the library! If you’re interested in checking it out, this referral link means that you get your first book for a bargain $5. After that, it’s $14.99 +tax each month and you can skip or cancel whenever.

Books on my summer TBR

Top 10 Tuesday | Books on my Summer 2021 TBR

Summer TBR? It feels like I just wrote my Spring TBR (and let’s not talk about the fact that I only finished 4 of the 10 and DNF’d 2…) but I can’t resist a list, so here goes…

Crying in H Mart
‘An unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.
The Prophets
A novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.

Shuggie Bain
Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love.
Sparks Like Stars
An Afghan American woman returns to Kabul to learn the truth about her family and the tragedy that destroyed their lives in this brilliant and compelling novel.’

Mr Loverman
Mr Loverman is a groundbreaking exploration of Britain’s older Caribbean community, which … shows how deep and far-reaching the consequences of prejudice and fear can be. It is also a warm-hearted, funny and life-affirming story about a character as mischievous, cheeky and downright lovable as any you’ll ever meet.

Leaving Atlanta
‘An award-winning author makes her fiction debut with this coming-of-age story of three young black children set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders of 1979.’

Acts of Desperation
‘A bitingly honest, darkly funny debut novel about a toxic relationship and secret female desire, from an emerging star of Irish literature.

The Road Trip
Two exes reach a new level of awkward when forced to take a road trip together in this endearing and humorous novel.’
Detransition, Baby
A whipsmart debut about three women—transgender and cisgender—whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.

Days of Distraction
‘Equal parts tender and humorous, and told in spare but powerful prose, Days of Distraction is an offbeat coming-of-adulthood tale, a touching family story, and a razor-sharp appraisal of our times.’

I can’t even pick what I’m most looking forward to! But I adored Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, and Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage, so those should be solid choices. I don’t usually read contemporary romance but there’s something so irresitstible about Beth O’Leary (reviews for The Flat Share and The Switch). I’m not sure how some of these got on my radar, like the Alexandra Chang and Megan Nolan, both of whom are new-to-me authors & I’m very excited to read.

What’s coming up on your summer TBR? Have you read any of these?

Descriptions taken from Goodreads. Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday | My Ten Most Recent Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book tag hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is ten most recent reads, with a one-line review for each. I think writing a one-line review will be more of a challenge for me than writing the usual ~500 word reviews, but here we go!

Book Review The Plot
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Psychological drama exploring the torturous nature of writing and elusive pursuit of success, through a failing writer who steals a killer plot from a dead student.

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

A nuanced portrait of a woman, Martha, whose life is shaped by psychological anguish – and yet her story is told in a caustically funny, smart way.

Book Review | The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng
The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng

Compelling sci-fi/thriller where a woman walks through a door and into an alternate reality – an interesting concept with uneven execution.

Han Kang - Human Acts Book Review
Human Acts by Han Kang

Told in brutal, sparing prose, this striking piece of literary fiction examines what happens when a country turns against its people, set against the brutal crackdown in 1980’s Gwangju, South Korea.

Book Review | Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

In equal parts surreal, devastating and hilarious, this short-story collection is brilliant, heart-wrenching and heart-warming.

The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell - Book Review
The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell

A validating, refreshing and candid exploration of the period of tumult that hits women at the end of their twenties as they make life-changing decisions about having – or not having – babies.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Astonishing memoir about a troubling childhood that is told with levity and compassion from the woman who lived it.

The Divines by Ellie Eaton

Beautifully written and totally absorbing, this is a slow-burn piece of literary fiction set at an all-girls boarding school in the 90s.

The Dinner Guest B P Walter
The Dinner Guest by B. P. Walter

Engrossing domestic noir with deftly-handled twists and turns that explores the lives of the British upper echelons.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Smart, incisive social commentary on race in contemporary America and how this plays out across the world of publishing.

Thanks for reading this week’s top ten tuesday!

Top Ten Tuesday - Mardi Gras

Top Ten Tuesday | Yellow/Green/Purple covers in honour of Mardi Gras

Finally, a tangible pay-off for colour-coding my bookshelves! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a showcase of yellow/green/purple book covers in celebration of Mardi Gras, a festival I knew nothing about before moving to the US (we call it Shrove Tuesday in the UK, and it just involves eating as many pancakes as possible in one sitting). In normal times, thousands of people flock to New Orleans each year to celebrate the festival, with much merriment, elaborate costumes, and alcohol consumption.

Yellow

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

A 2020 Christmas gift and one I’m very much looking forward to.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

One of the most powerful books I read in 2020, spanning generations of African-American and Ghanaian history. Click here for my full review.

Olive by Emma Gannon

A refreshing exploration of the decision not to to have children, written with levity, humour and self-awareness. More thoughts in my review here.

Green

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Ava is an Irish millennial adrift in Hong Kong, and beyond that exposition, this is a hard one to describe in a sentence. Click here to see my full review.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is full of her trademark charm and wit, chronicling Nina’s experience dating in her 30s and maintaining friendships admist huge life changes. Full review here.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Gripping and immersive, I enjoyed this thriller-like exploration of Gilead and the fall of the monstrous regime made famous in The Handmaid’s Tale. Read my full review.

Purple

Saltwater to Jessica Andrews

A coming-of-age story told in a lyrical and fragmentary style, I’ve not yet picked up Saltwater but I’ve had my eye on it for a while now. Plus, that cover is my kind of thing.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

I’ve still not read this classic piece of American literature, heralded as one of Toni Morrison’s most affecting and powerful novels, but it’s on my list.

The Divines by Ellie Eaton

Published a few weeks ago, this novel is described as having the ’emotional power of Normal People and the reflective haze of The Girls’ – and that’s enough to pique my interest.

Top Ten Tuesday | Books with summer vibes

Out of respect for yesterday’s #BlackoutTuesday, I am posting this a day late. I will be reading, donating, and continuously learning about how I can give my support, and I encourage everyone to do the same: https://blacklivesmatter.com/ 


On a roll from participating in Top 10 Tuesday last week, I’m back at it again with ‘books with summer vibes.’ Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

1. The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls is set during the restless Californian summer of 1969, when our painfully awkward protagonist, Evie, is drawn into a cult living on the breadline in the Californian hills and led the charismatic egomaniac, Russell.

2. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

It’s the hot, languid days of a mid-1980s June on the Italian Riviera – and for Elio, a restless, precocious seventeen-year-old, it’s a summer that he’ll never forget, when Italian-American university professor Oliver comes to stay.

3. Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant

In Lie With Me, an escape to Pyros, Greece soon becomes a claustrophobic nightmare for Paul Morris, a place haunted by the ghosts of the past.

4. Atonement by Ian McEwan

The catalyst for this story happens on a hot summer’s day in 1935, where thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses an exchange between her sister and a young gentleman. The way she acts subsequently changes all their lives forever.

5. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

‘Little Dog’ is the son of a Vietnamese refugee, and one summer, when he is fourteen, Little Dog begins working in the tobacco fields. There he meets Trevor, and the two begin an intense relationship. Poetic, elegiac and a window into the immigrant experience.

6. One Day by David Nicholls

St Swithin’s Day, on July 15th, is the anchor in this wildly popular story of Emma and Dexter, who meet at university and who we revisit on July 15th over the course of the years to come. Charming and nostalgic, this is a perfect summer read.

7. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

The sweltering heat of New Orleans is the stage for Tennessee’s William’s phenomenal play that examines madness, sexuality, class, the layers of the past, and – of course – desire.

8. The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley

Our young protagonist Leo has his life changed during a summer stay at an estate in the English countryside in the year 1900. The writing is beautifully evocative of a very different time.

9. Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

The only one on the list I’ve not yet read, Heat Stroke looks set to be a dark and gripping literary thriller when a young girl goes missing in the middle of summer.

10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare

Finally, for some light relief, one of my favourite of all Shakespeare’s plays – fairies, donkeys, a play within a play – what’s not to love?

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What kind of books are quintessentially ‘summer’ for you?

Top Ten Tuesday | Best Opening Lines

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It’s been a looong time since I took part in this tag, but what better time to start again than during an extended period of isolation! Hyperlinks direct to my reviews where available.

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I find that this opening line captures the mood of The Bell Jar so well, evoking the fear, malaise and intensity of Esther’s inner and outer worlds.

‘Before my wife turned vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.’ – The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Deliciously dark and subversive, this Korean novel chronicles the breakdown of a marriage with the wife’s decision to stop eating meat, which is seen as a deeply transgressive act.

“The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we understood the gravity of our situation.” – The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I love that this novel hinges on the why, not the what, and this opening line pulls the reader in to the mystery headfirst.

“Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoloeague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.” – The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

This beginning firmly routes this stunning novel in its social and historical context, the vice-like grip of the Catholic church and the hypocrisy of its moral superiority.

‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ – The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley 

I only just read this one, but I couldn’t not include this opening line. I’d heard this quote long, long before I ever read the book, and it is what initially drew me to it.

‘Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.’ – Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This first line sets up not only the tragedy of Lydia’s death but also the silence surrounding it – we, the reader, are the first ones to know.

‘It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.’ – Goodbye to all That by Joan Didion

From an essay rather than a book, but a beautifully written, clear-eyed and poetic reflection on Didion living in New York City as a young woman.

‘Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body.’ – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Poignant, timely and essential reading, this opening line interrogates what it means to exist as an African American in a country built on their exploitation.

‘Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky’ – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

I named my blog after this poem, so it’s no secret it’s one of my all-time favourites. I love the imagery of the evening being ‘spread out,’ and the perfection of the rhyme.

‘After the End came the Beginning.’ – Severance by Ling Ma

I’ve been waxing lyrical about this book all of quarantine. A searing and smart look at a fictional pandemic and what might come after.

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Let me know your favourite opening lines!

Top Ten Tuesday | Books I Could Re-read Forever

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly featured hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I am the kind of person who, if I find something I love, will want to read it/watch it/eat it again and again. This might explain why I have devoured the whole first season of HBO’s Girls (for the third time since it came out) within the past few days – (re)experiencing something you know you will enjoy is like slipping into a comfortable warm bath, with the added reassurance that it’ll be a worthy investment of your time.

 

  1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  3. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  7. Collected Poems by Philip Larkin
  8. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  9. Matilda by Roald Dahl

(I’m only doing nine so as not to mess up the symmetry I’ve got going on with the circles!)