August Reading

halloween is just around the corner

warning: flashing gif at the end

Happy September! I did not do a newsletter last week, both due to vacation reasons and Unexpected Technical Mishap reasons, but hey: I warned ya. Now I’m back with an abbreviated August Reading. I was going to try and do something more but we got hurricaned earlier in the week and also *gestures at Texas.*

By way of pre-housekeeping, if you read this August Reading post and like it, please let me know - I’m happy to do longer monthly breakdowns, but I also don’t want this to get boring for everyone. Leave a comment or reply and let me know what you think!

Books I Read In August

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win by Maria Konnikova
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live—& How Their Wealth Harms Us All by Michael Mechanic

Eleven books, and nine of them read on my last vacation of the year. There’s something about a deck/patio/beach situation that takes my already generally-fast reading speed and supercharges it: with nothing much else to do, it’s like there is space to stretch and run, and by the time vacation is over I’m headed to the post office to mail the books I’ve read home so as not to take up valuable suitcase space.

This was another great reading month, but I have to highlight three books in particular. First, The Chosen And The Beautiful has already garnered a ton of well-deserved praise. It’s a retelling of The Great Gatsby from the point of view of Jordan Baker, only in Chosen she’s a Vietnamese-American adoptee, and did I mention there’s magic? (Also, click through and peep that cover: GORGEOUS.)

It may seem hyperbolic, but Chosen feels like Gatsby as it was meant to be: a true fantasia of race and class and insecurity with a lush, dreamy feel accentuated by the paper-folding magic Jordan deploys with devastating effect and the ‘demoniac’ liqueur everyone is drinking. There is a scene with a shovel that will haunt you. And the ending? The fateful car ride has nothing on Jordan and Nick’s final conversation. I highly recommend Chosen and look forward to her next book, Siren Queen, which is about the golden age of Hollywood. And magic.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor is solid litfic, which I don’t read too much, but a friend of mine is friends with the author and a funny thing happened while we were enjoying Publishing Vacation. One by one we each picked up Real Life and read it, getting more and more wrapped up in the lives of fictional grad students as we went along. By the end of the trip at least four of us had very firm opinions on which characters we loved, which we hated and which was the novel’s most painful white nonsense dinner party conversation.

I’m not making Real Life sound fun, and it’s not a fun novel per se but it is: witty, cutting, emotional, precise, and clear-sighted about the world of academic science research. The protagonist, a gay Black man at a midwestern land grant university, is depressed and considering dropping out of his program, and over the course of a weekend encounters the various members of his cohort and endures a truly mind-boggling number of microagressions and racially charged scenarios. If you don’t end the book absolutely furious on his behalf there might be something wrong with you. And wait till you find out that Simone is based on a real-life person!

The last novel I want to talk about at length is another one that we passed around like contraband: Freya Marske’s debut A Marvellous Light. In full disclosure: I offered rep to Freya back in the day for a different project but lost the beauty contest. In some ways I’m glad I lost that beauty contest, because it means I got to enjoy this novel in one orgiastic afternoon of reading qua reader and not as an industry professional: in other words an entertaining and compelling delight.

In this Edwardian fantasy, Sir Robin Blyth is both newly minted as a Sir and also dreadfully poor, and when his new Civil Service post he thinks he’s been given a crap posting because the Minister hates him. Instead, he’s been named a special envoy—to the world of magic he didn’t know existed. Unfortunately for Sir Robert, he gets cursed on his first day in the office. Enter Edwin, the least-magical member of a very magical family, who is the envoy from Magical Britain to mundane. Together, they must undo the curse, find a lost artifact, and find out just what happened to Robin’s predecessor. And along the way, a beautiful love story emerges.

A Marvellous Light is tremendous fun. The relationship between them unfolds from distrust to grudging respect to — arg I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice to say that when I finished reading, I was so overcome with emotion that I had to lie down on the ground. (There were witnesses, though alas, there were no photos taken.) It comes out November 2- preorder it now, for goodness’ sake.

So that’s all for this month! In the next month you can look forward to: more lessons from Maggie Stiefvater’s writing seminar, thoughts on sequels by way of the Jurassic Park franchise, and more!

HOUSEKEEPING

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, books? Is there something you want covered in this newsletter? Do you yearn to hear my thoughts on learning to use a power drill as a 35 year old woman? Leave it in the comments or in a reply to the newsletter!

THIS WEEK IN HOCKEY

Who the hell knows. We’re hurtling towards the preseason and in-person games, and the Delta Variant is walloping us from left to right. I have no idea what’s going on! Henrik Lundqvist retired, the NHL finalized their agreement to actually participate in the 2022 Olympic Games, and in a monumentally funny act of pettiness the Carolina Hurricanes extended an offer sheet for Habs forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi after the Habs tried the same thing with Sebastian Aho last year. Go low, jerks!

LINKS

Margaritaville and the Myth of American Leisure by Jaya Saxena (Eater)
The 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar does not open until 5 o’ Clock, which puts a crimp in trying to live out the metaphor of its name. The whole point of the phrase is a justification to start drinking early, before the workday is done, because somebody, somewhere is off work. But no, for the 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar, one of four restaurants and bars at Manhattan’s new Margaritaville Resort Times Square, you must wait until the workday is over. I am furious about this. Sure, the License to Chill Bar opens at 2, but it’s the principle of the thing. Jimmy Buffett would not wait until the boss says you can go home.

Opinion: The Epic of Gilgamesh at Hobby Lobby by (Washington Post)
I found the following engraved in ancient Sumerian on a tablet recently seized from Hobby Lobby by the Justice Department. A translation follows!

Behold the wall of Hobby Lobby which gleams like copper!
Take hold of the threshold-stone, which dates to 1972!
Hear the tale of United States of America v. Approximately Four Hundred Fifty Ancient Cuneiform Tablets and Approximately Three Thousand Ancient Clay Bullae.
This was the Hobby Lobby, the gathering place of many crafts
And briefly high-end cookwares but only briefly
Where men might come from many leagues distance and say in wonder, “This is a Hobby Lobby!”
And obtain many cubits of fabric for crafts projects ordained by Ea or by Ishtar
Where the CEO’s heart was hardened against the health-care needs of its employees
He sat in his place of honor and uttered a curse

READING: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
LISTENING: “Number One Fan” by MUNA
WATCHING: Ted Lasso

This has been A Faster No, a dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. Is there something you’d like me to talk about? Leave it in the comments or reply to the email! You can support the newsletter here. If you purchase a book from any of the links to Bookshop.org I get a small commission at no cost to you. I am available for developmental editing and editorial assessment services via Reedsy.