April has been another pretty good reading month for me, I was away every weekend, which means traveling, which in turn means lots of reading time! I managed to read 5 books this month (one is missing because I immediately lent it to my sister) and it was pretty wide ranging. So here's what I got stuck into this month.
12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives, 12 Years a Slave is a harrowing memoir about one of the darkest periods in American history. It recounts how Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was lured to Washington, D.C., in 1841 with the promise of fast money, then drugged and beaten and sold into slavery. He spent the next twelve years of his life in captivity on a series of Louisiana plantations.After his rescue, Northup published this exceptionally vivid and detailed account of slave life. It became an immediate bestseller and today is recognized for its unusual insight and eloquence as one of the very few portraits of American slavery produced by someone with the dual perspective of having been both a free man and a slave.
This is one of the most incredible books I have ever read, simply because of the story. It's a side of history we so rarely hear about, that of a person who was not only a slave, but was born free and tricked into slavery. It is amazingly well written and the language barrier isn't affected by the passing of time, something I find unusual in these type of books. It is a shocking and horrifying story that I think everyone should read, and see how easy it is for humanity to turn on itself.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies. When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.
Simply one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, It's deep and meaningful, imaginative and full of emotion. The characters are wonderful, at times it made me actually feel sick with emotion. It is a story presented in a really unique way, using images as part of the narrative, I recommend it to everyone.
Complete Plays by Sarah Kane
When Sarah Kane's first play Blasted was staged at the Royal Court Theatre in 1995 it was hailed both as a "masterpiece" and as a "disgusting piece of filth" (Daily Mail). That play, and the others that followed, have been produced all over the world. This anthology includes Kane's never-before-published Channel 4 screenplay, Skin.Plays include: Blasted, Phaedra's Love, Cleansed, Crave, 4.48 Psychosis,and Skin.
I don't have much to say about this other then Sarah Kane is one of my favorite playwrights and as I hadn't read any of her plays since university I thought this was long overdue. Her unique style of writing is definitely 'in yer face' as the genre was called and they will never be a playwright like her again. For me personally Blasted is her best work but she is definitely a writer you either love or hate.
Seconds A Graphic Novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Katie’s got it pretty good. She’s a talented young chef, she runs a successful restaurant, and she has big plans to open an even better one. Then, all at once, progress on the new location bogs down, her charming ex-boyfriend pops up, her fling with another chef goes sour, and her best waitress gets badly hurt. And just like that, Katie’s life goes from pretty good to not so much. What she needs is a second chance. Everybody deserves one, after all—but they don’t come easy. Luckily for Katie, a mysterious girl appears in the middle of the night with simple instructions for a do-it-yourself do-over: 1. Write your mistake2. Ingest one mushroom3. Go to sleep4. Wake anew And just like that, all the bad stuff never happened, and Katie is given another chance to get things right. She’s also got a dresser drawer full of magical mushrooms—and an irresistible urge to make her life not just good, but perfect. Too bad it’s against the rules. But Katie doesn’t care about the rules—and she’s about to discover the unintended consequences of the best intentions. From the mind and pen behind the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim series comes a madcap new tale of existential angst, everyday obstacles, young love, and ancient spirits that’s sharp-witted and tenderhearted, whimsical and wise.
The first non-Scott-Pilgrim title of O'Mally's that I have read, and for me, it's not quite as good. That doesn't mean it's not great however, the imagery is beautiful and the story is interesting, but it just doesn't have the same level of in-jokes and quirky humour that Scott Pilgrim does. Definitely worth a read however, even if you don't usually read graphic novels (as I don't).
The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson
BS Johson's infamous book-in-a-box is, if remembered at all, notorious for its presentation rather than its content. The "book" consists of a first and last section plus 25 other chapters, each one coming as a self-contained "pamphlet", that can be read in any order the reader likes. The subject matter concerns a journalist's day covering a football match in Nottingham, remembering previous times spent in the city with a lover now gone and a friend now dead. The innovative format permits Johnson to echo the random thought processes of his protagonist--the associations and reminiscences bubbling up in no fixed order as he walks through the city, watches and reports on the match and returns home afterwards.
Now this book is something completely unusual. It is a book in a box! Inside the box all the chapters are loose and you can read them in any order you wish, apart from the first and the last. I have to admit I got this purely for the novelty factor. It is a book driven by emotions and characters rather than story so this method really does work. I can't say it is the most exciting book I have ever read but the writing is rather poetic at times.
That take me up to 18 books by the end of April, good going even if I say so myself! Don't forget if you want to see what I am reading, follow me on Goodreads.