Tag: genre fiction

2018: The reading year in numbers

For the last few years I’ve maintained a file of spreadsheets that track my reading challenges and overall reading for the year, categorizing books by obvious and maybe not so obvious characteristics.

Total books read: 120. This is the most I’ve read since … well, at least since I was mainlining Betty Neels, Mary Burchell, and other Harlequins quite a while ago.

Total books written by women: 60/120. Reading half women pleased me because I was afraid that reading more lit fic would mean reading far fewer women. Obviously it’s fewer than when I read primarily romance, but it’s still a good number. My non-romance TBR is probably skewed toward men, but my romance TBR is overwhelmingly by women, so this proportion shouldn’t change much in 2019.

Total books written by new-to-me authors: 74/120. This is more than I expected. It’s probably a consequence of reading awards longlists and also “it” books, since they’re often by authors I’ve heard of but not read. I’m glad to have found a lot of new authors, and my TBR has grown as a result (of course!).

Own voices authors: 30/120. This is OK but not great. I struggled with this category in terms of how to define it. Last year I used AOC, but I wanted to capture how many authors I read who were writing about their own cultures and experiences. I only had a handful of non-white authors writing about non-white cultures that were not their own, and I didn’t include those; it would have raised the number by a few but not significantly. I also had a handful (more than a handful, maybe?) of white authors writing POC, and breaking out own voices allowed me to get a better handle on that distinction.

(more…)
Advertisements

Recent Reading: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

I still have three Booker novels to finish and review, but in the meantime I thought I’d post about other books I’ve been reading (yes, I do read books that are not on awards longlists!). I read this one because it was in my TBR from last year and it seemed helpful to read it before going on to Normal People. I liked it better than the latter, although I think Normal People is probably the better book in terms of execution.

Rooney’s debut novel has been wildly praised and hyped. She has been called the voice of her generation, and her agent’s coining of the phrase “Salinger of the Snapchat generation” has been repeated approvingly. With the praise and hype has come the inevitable backlash. When I sat down with the novel I tried to shut out the noise and concentrate on the pages in front of me. And mostly it worked. It’s very much a debut novel, but it’s quite assured, and Rooney definitely has a distinctive voice.

The plot/storyline is very basic: Undergraduates Frances (our narrator) and her best friend (and ex-girlfriend) Bobbi fall in with a rich, glamorous married couple in their 30s. Nick is an actor, Melissa is a journalist and writer. Bobbi is drawn to Melissa, Frances to Nick. They socialize , run into each other at professional and art events, and spend time in France together. Nick and Melissa’s marriage is complicated, and so are the four characters’ relationships with each other (in pairs and multiples).

The novel is made up of extremely familiar themes and characters:

  1. The older man-younger woman relationship, with the older man being married. Points for Nick not being a professor, even though this is set at college.
  2. The intense female friendship (IFF), which has become a thematic cottage industry for women writers in the last couple of decades.
  3. The coming-of-age novel, set at university. This never ever gets old, apparently, because every cohort comes of age and many of them either do it at college or find college interesting. And enough older cohorts want to read about it across the ages.
(more…)