Harley Loco by Rayya Elias
I adore the eighties—the colors, the androgyny, the everything. This is mostly due to watching I Love the 80s ad nauseum at a formative age, which also means that my vision of the eighties is a particularly sanitized one. And I didn’t realize that until I was watching Paris is Burning, the documentary about queer New York’s ball culture in the late ‘80s, and saw, briefly, the old Times Square. As much as I love the eighties, there’s still much to learn, and that’s when Harley Loco popped up on NetGalley for me. A memoir by a queer woman of color cutting hair and struggling with drug addiction in New York in the eighties? Sometimes, the universe is kind.
The Maid and the Queen by Nancy Goldstone
I don’t know much about Joan of Arc, which is a bit odd—usually, give me a historic Frenchwoman who can handle a sword and I’m weak at the knees. (Julie D’Aubigny, anyone?) My biggest memory concerning Joan of Arc is a mock trial from my European history class in high school, where I was the head of the defense. Needless to say, given my hideous debating skills, she burned at the stake a second time. But when I saw Laura Miller’s review of The Maid and the Queen, I was intrigued enough to put it on my list, and it turned out to be one of the rare new books just lying on the shelves at the library. Go figure.
A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel
There are some recommendations on my reading list that are fairly obscure; A History of Reading is one of them. I didn’t find much about it online when I featured it on The Literary Horizon, and don’t even get me started about trying to find the cover image. Yeesh. So I had little to no expectations when I took the elevator to the third floor of the local library here and picked it up when Freakonomics proved to be out, despite me checking thirty minutes prior to see if it was in. Oh, the trials and tribulations of a library patron. But I was pleasantly surprised by A History of Reading, even if I wasn’t blown away by it.
Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent
While I distinctly remember picking up this recommendation from Feministing, a quick Google search shows only community posts about this book. In any case, it was in such a space that I was introduced to Norah Vincent’s account of a year and a half spent passing as a man and exploring masculine society from a feminine viewpoint. While I usually don’t care for memoirs focused on a year-long experiment, Vincent’s forays into male-only spaces interested me. When I saw it while shelving at the library, I decided to give it a whirl.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
For some reason, I was really excited about A Discovery of Witches. You see, The Historian is one of my literary nemesises—a bloated, poorly structured, and cripplingly slow piece of work that barely deigns to interact with the vampires that are its main selling point. So, in A Discovery of Witches, another long novel that focuses on its heroine discovering a book and a world she never knew (well, in this case, wanted to face), I hoped to find some sort of redemption or at least revenge for The Historian. I even quieted my concerns when I saw a blurb from Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology (while not as bad as The Historian, it’s not exactly worth a read), on the back cover. Surely, I thought, her own writing has nothing to do with the fact that she apparently found it gripping from page one, right?.
…guys, now I’m really worried The Book of Fires is going to suck because Jane Borodale wrote a blurb for this.
Marriage, a History by Stephanie Coontz
I’ll be honest with you—marriage freaks me out a little. At weddings, where others might see bittersweet moments as the father walks the bride down the aisle and later dances with her, all I see is the patriarchal history of the institution bearing down on what should be a private moment between a couple. Naturally, being asexual (even panromantically so) plays into this—considering what it would take to get me to the point of marriage, odds are slim, so I don’t ponder it all that much. Marriage, then, holds little interest for me save historically and sociologically, hence my interest in Marriage, a History.
Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
Eva of A Striped Armchair recently put up a post where she discussed Angelology and aptly described it as “if Dan Brown had written The Historian with angels instead of vampires”. I went back through my reviews to see what I had thought of Angelology (this useful ability is one of the reasons I started a book blog), and discovered that I had never posted the review I’d written at the beginning of July! I now correct that oversight, and present you with my review of Angelology… and you know I despised The Historian, right?
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
It’s taken me a few days to put together my thoughts on The Magicians, between midterms and Martian Death Flu. I think it’s because The Magicians is marketed improperly, as a fantasy to be read after Harry Potter, or The Chronicles of Narnia. Instead, it’s a remarkably clever and a remarkably vicious deconstruction of those series. It can be brutal if you’ve gone into it thinking it was the former, but it’s very worthwhile.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
I remember liking the film Chocolat–it’s charming, funny, and simple as a fable. It’s also set in France, which always endears a work to me (except, strangely, Beauty and the Beast). I haven’t seen it recently, so my memories are a little vague, but I quite enjoyed it. Imagine my surprise when I found out Chocolat was based on a novel, which promptly went on the List. This means that my reading of the novel was flavored by the film–Armande was always Judi Dench in my mind’s eye, although Vianne was rarely Juliette Binoche.