What We’re Reading: August 2012

On the first Friday of each month, we share what we’re reading, which may include everything from magazines and blogs to novels and books for work or pleasure.

I finished Misfit, the new historical novel by Adam Braver, this week. It imagines the life of Marilyn Monroe through snippets at various times. The novel’s publication is timely, as next week marks the fiftieth anniversary of her death. I’m a huge fan of novels featuring real people, and Braver provides some fascinating possibilities into the inner workings of a personality that still haunts pop culture. The Booker Prize longlist was announced last week, and I’ve just started to make my way through the twelve titles (The six-title shortlist will be announced on September 11 and the winner will be crowned on October 16.) Only three titles are currently available in the United States, so while I’m waiting on the other nine to come across the ocean to me, I’m enjoying Jeet Thayil’s debut novel, Narcopolis. Thayil is a poet, and his prose is simply luminous. The story takes place in a 1970’s Bombay opium den and brothel. The novel itself opens with a seven-page period-free narration. It’s intense, but so far I’m absolutely fascinated. —Carrie

My reading this month has been eclectic! I was caught up in the excitement and court intrigue of Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue, a novel that revisits the world of Graceling and follows the reign of young queen Bitterblue as she tried to heal her kingdom after the monstrous tyranny of her father. Drama by Raina Telgemeier was a delightfully funny graphic novel, chronicling the trials and tribulations of a middle-school drama club. May B. by Caroline Starr Rose was a haunting novel-in-verse about a young pioneer girl stranded alone in a sod house in the middle of nowhere during a horrible Kanas snowstorm and her fight for survival.  Lastly, the supernatural thrills of Legacy by Molly Cochran held me spellbound as it wove a tale of modern day witchcraft in a small Massachusetts town.— Heather

I’m trying to read Kevin Wilson’s novel, The Family Fang, because I was quite fond of the characters he created in his story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth. The novel tells the tale of two talented performance artists and their poorly-adjusted adult children, a mature family thrown together under one roof because of the recession. Wilson writes each sentence with an energy and style that make me wish that I cared about these quirky people and their situation, but I don’t. It’s like being made to watch The Royal Tenenbaums, again, though it annoyed you the first three times. Okay, maybe it’s not as bad as that. –Amy

I’ve been busy with moving to Philadelphia and starting a new job, but lately I’ve been enjoying Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus while waiting in line at the DMV and commuting on the train. Marcus’ book is a really fun look at the Riot Grrl movement and music scenes across the US during the late 80s-early 90s. Although the book is cheesy at times, I appreciate that Marcus balances telling interesting stories about the bands with asking bigger questions about feminism and politics. –Sarah

I finished Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves last night. Page one begins with a jarring murder scene. The rest of the book is the slow and meditative story of the intertwined lives of the people in a town on the edge of a Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota where the murders took place. The book’s multiple narrators are all connected by and haunted by the murders, decades later. It’s a story of deep injustices, and for my favorite narrator, Evelina, a coming of age story. –Emily

Now tell us: what are you reading this week?

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