Fiction Read in October and November:
Acts of God by Ellen Gilchrist (short stories)
Selected Short Stories by William Faulkner
For someone who supposedly doesn’t like short stories very much, I’ve been reading a lot of them this year. My book club decided we wanted to read a classic and Faulkner came up as someone who most of us had always wanted to read but just hadn’t (or hadn’t read much). Serendipitously, Ellen Gilchrist’s new collection, Acts of God, arrived for me at the library. There are a lot of similarities between the two. Both are Southern writers (both from Mississippi) who write primarily about a particular place and time. Both write about ordinary people, sometimes dealing with ordinary circumstances and sometimes with extraordinary ones out their control. Of the two, I related more to Gilchrist’s world but both are beautiful wordsmiths who write finely crafted, dense, complex stories.
Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Robert Galbraith is J. K. Rowling’s pseudonym for this series of mystery/detective stories starring Cormoron Strike, a retired military intelligence officer and amputee now working as a London private investigator. I liked this addition to the series even more than the first one. The plot involves a weird and gory murder (if you have a squeamish stomach this one isn’t for you) but like all good detective stories the real joy comes in getting to know Strike and his world, especially his assistant Robin. A very fun read.
A Question of Honor by Charles Todd
An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd
Two more additions to another mystery series I’ve enjoyed. This one, about Bess Crawford, a WWI era British nurse, is much more quiet and cerebral than Silkworm but also quite enjoyable.
Nonfiction Read in October and November:
Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of my Appetites by Kate Christensen
I’ve also read a lot of memoirs this year. Writer Kate Christensen’s memoir promises to be a story of her life told through food that has been important to her. The food angle felt somewhat contrived to me, with mentions of favorite dishes sprinkled in here and there and some random recipes included at the end of each chapter. Christensen has lived a full life, full of hardships (and abusive father, parent’s divorce, poverty, drug abuse) and some amazing opportunities (a stint as an au pair in France, working as a short order cook at a school in New England, graduate school at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop). However, I came away not all that interested or impressed. I think it was the overly self-conscious tone that turned me off. In the end, I didn’t have much desire to learn more about the writer or to read other things she has written.