What @halfdesertedstreets is reading this summer
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
This behemoth needs no introduction, but what it does need is a significant amount of time during which to tackle it. I’m determined that the next few months will be that time for me. Don Quixote has contributed so much to the novel as we know it now but, except for a snippet which I read in high school, I’ve never actually experienced it. This is a gap in my reading education that I’d love to fill. (The Vintage Books edition that I have is translated by Edith Grossman which, I have on good authority, is a high-quality translation.)
Tru and Nelle by G. Neri
On National Love Your Bookshop Day (which so conveniently fell the day after my birthday), the ladies of my book club did a crawl through the loveliest indie bookstores in Brisbane. When a friend pointed out this adorable title, it was insta-love for me. To Kill A Mockingbirdhas long been a favorite of mine, and our book club had just finished a compelling journey through In Cold Blood. So this children’s novel – a fictional mystery based on Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee’s real childhood friendship – was like a dream melding of everything we had been treasuring and discussing.
Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown by Lauren Hilgers
Lauren Hilgers is a reporter who spent several years in China, and she brings her journalist’s eye to this non-fiction narrative about a Chinese revolutionary fleeing for safety and making a new life in Flushing, Queens. This year, I’ve been immersed in immigrant memoirs and stories, and I’m loving them. They lead me to celebrate the determination and drive of those who would build a better life for their children, and rejoice in the rich diversity of our multicultural society. Patriot Number One is receiving wonderful reviews, and I can’t wait to dive in.
Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian
At any given moment, I’m usually halfway through or about to begin some Australian YA fiction. Australia has a wonderful tradition of children’s and young adult literature, and I honestly have to scramble to keep up with all the good stuff that’s being published locally. Beautiful Mess won the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing in 2016, and was longlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards this year. It deals with grief, love and mental illness, and promises to be a raw and heartfelt read.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
I tried to tackle Kafka’s absurdist genius when I was 11 or 12, and just couldn’t get into it. I’ve since read snippets and loved the language, enough that I’m able to shrug off baby Danielle’s judgment of “boring” and try again. I relish the short story form and like to have some short fiction on the go in between other reads, so this will be perfect as my next short story collection.
Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr
My six-year-old niece, Abby, is in that magical stage of having just discovered she really can read on her own. It makes my heart happy to watch her sounding out the words she doesn’t know, using context to make sense of their meanings, and developing a deep relationship with books. She came to me last week with her copy of Adventures with Waffles for me to borrow, and I almost melted. “I’m halfway through reading it again, but I’m stopping so you can read it,” she said. And when your niece starts recommending books to you, you sit up and take notice. Apparently, it’s a “crying book” about friendship – and waffles. (It’s translated from the Norwegian, too, so a great addition to the TBR for those wishing to read more translated work).
An interview with @halfdesertedstreets
What’s currently on top of your TBR pile?
At the moment, I’m desperately waiting for the postie to bring me a copy of Neverland, by Margot McGovern. Margot is a bookstagram friend who is brilliant and warm and incredibly talented, so I’ve been watching her debut journey to publication with much joy and anticipation. Neverland is a fresh take on the YA boarding school narrative, and grapples with mental illness and complex characters. I can’t wait to read it.
What’s the one book you always go back to?
Little Women is a constant favorite, a comfort read that I return to when I need warmth and familiarity. Little Women was one of the first big novels I read when I was a kid, and I immediately connected to Jo – her awkwardness, her desperation for literary greatness, her fierce love for her family, and her sense of never quite belonging.
What’s the last book you couldn’t put down?
My local book club recently read Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and it was exquisite. It’s a part-memoir, part-fiction verse novel about growing up as an African American in the ’60s and ’70s. It was impeccable in every respect, an instant favorite.
Corner-turner or bookmark babe?
A bit of both! I’m infamous in my family for liking to keep shiny new books as pristine as possible, but pre-loved books have a beauty of their own and if I happen to have a beaten and worn copy of something, I’m more than happy to annotate, fold or add a few more cracks to the spine.
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