Friday, November 10, 2023

Catching Up, Part 2: Best Books I Read In September

Yes, I know it's not September. But here we are, still catching up on some great books I read during my late-summer hiatus. This week, we're knocking out September reads. Here are the three best books I read two months ago. 🤣

The Bee Sting, by Paul Murray -- This is an epic, absolutely heart-wrenching dysfunctional family saga. Murray gives us nearly 650 pages of story here that goes by in a flash -- I wish there'd been even more.

It may be true that all unhappy families are unhappy in different ways, but most unhappy families have at least one commonality: They keep secrets from each other. And the Barnes family sure does here. Some of these secrets are mundane, some are massive with the potential to crumble the foundation of a family that isn't exactly on solid ground in the first place.

The joy in reading this novel is how carefully Murray peels back the layers, revealing each new piece of information, each secret, each secret's effect on the others, at exactly the perfect time. This novel is a stand-out, also, because each of member of this family of four is interesting in their own way, and Murray gives each their proper place in propping up the narrative and the family -- and also potentially destroying the the narrative and the family.

This was an absolute wheelhouse book for me -- no chance I wasn't going to love it. And I did. Murray's best book since the spectacular Skippy Dies. 

They Can't Kills Us Until They Kill Us, by Hanif Abdurraqib -- I'd read a few of these essays in their original homes, but you don't get the full effect of Abdurraqib's MASSIVE talent until you read all of these pieces together. They're just a joy to read and he does the one thing that separates GREAT writers from good writers: He gets you to care about things you had no idea you could care about.

What I loved about this collection is the range -- mostly about music, but he talks authoritatively about everyone from The Wonder Years, to Fall Out Boy, to Nina Simone. He never takes the easy road or makes the easy joke or resorts to cliche. He treats each of his subjects as if it's the most important topic of all time. That's a gift -- and again, it makes him a joy to read. I loved this and can't wait to read more by him.

Swimming For Sunlight, by Allie Larkin -- I read Larkin's novel The People We Keep during the summer and absolutely loved it, and I found this in a used bookstore on a trip recently, and it's about (in part) a difficult rescue dog named Barkimedes. So, yeah. 

An absolute hall of fame first line "My husband brought a date to our divorce" leads into a funny, touching read about starting again, overcoming trauma and anxiety, and rebuilding a life. And why dogs are the best. Though sometimes people are okay too, if you let them be okay to you.

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