Friday, June 30, 2023

Best 3 Books of June

As is my usual MO, I was all over the place in June reading. From a 600-page boarding school novel (Foster Dade Explores The Cosmos) to a novel set in 1990 Dubai (Hope You Are Satisfied) to Lorrie Moore's new and very strange novella (I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home). 

My best three are just as eclectic. Here are my favorite three books I read in June.

1. Charm City Rocks, by Matthew Norman: From following Norman on IG, I know he's a huge fan of Richard Russo. In this novel, he's borrowed a page from Russo's book: An exceptional devotion and care for his characters. Any writer that does this well is one I'll read no matter what -- and Norman does it well here, and then some. Yes, of course, at its root, this novel is a just-on-the-safe-side-of-saccharine romcom. One of the blurbs compares it to if Emily Henry and Daisy Jones and the Six had a book baby, and that's right on the nose. But it's sweet and it's funny and the characters are those things too, and I loved it.

2. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer: I feel like I'm the last person to read this book, and I'm glad I finally did. This book makes the crucial point in new and really creative ways: We are made for the Earth, not the Earth for us. We have no more right to plants and animals than any other plant or animal. And we've gotten so far from that idea with our consumerism and consumption, that it'll be nearly impossible to get back to this piece of Indigenous wisdom. Humans are only exceptional in that they have more ability to destroy and not replace than other species. And boy have we showed our exceptionalism in that respect. We must return to reciprocity in all things. We must treat the Earth as a gift, not a resource. And we must restore what we've already destroyed.

3. Maddalena and the Dark, by Julia Fine: If Mean Girls were a fairy tale, and even darker, and set in 18th century Venice at a music school for girls, and was just as vicious, you'd have this marvelously original story. Jealousy and its close cousin envy are the stars of this show of two girls, one an orphan, one from an upper class family, and their "friendship." This burns slowly for a bit as you find your footing and get acclimated, but then it picks up quickly and explodes to the finish. A truly original novel and a really satisfying read.

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