I recently got a haul of books from a friend who is moving into a new smaller apartment and now my floor is filled with stacks of amazing stories. How am I going to decide what to read first?
Some of them are ones that I've read before but am excited to browse through again, like A Thousand Splendid Suns, and the travel anthology A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe. Others are ones I’ve had on my mental to-be read list, but I have never had a chance to get my hands on a copy. For example, Interpreter of Maladies and The Effect of Living Backwards. One of the things I frequently miss about living in an English-speaking country is access to a big public library. Because I live away from an English-speaking market, it’s often hard to find books that I want when I want to read them, even in the bookstore. Of course, that means I do a lot of reading on my Kindle! And if I have to have something in dead-tree version, I can often order it from Book Depository. Otherwise, though, I read whatever materializes on my book shelf.
This means that my reading list has been shaped a lot by which books people lend to me or that I find second-hand. Trips home often include a trip to a thrift store’s book aisles and subsequently heavy suitcases. As a result, I’m pretty omnivorous with the books I like to read—as you can probably tell from the titles on my GoodReads shelves!
I know a lot of people who read down genre lines, or who have several authors, kinds of authors, or even a publishing imprint that they stick to because they know that's what they like. But me, I like to sink into books that I didn't know I would like.
One such book came to me recently because I met the author: The Less You Know the Sounder You Sleep by Juliet Butler.
This is a fictionalized account of two conjoined twins in Russia, Masha and Dasha, who lived in the (dubious) care of Soviet institutions their whole lives. Juliet, who befriended them when she was living in Moscow, observed that the twins had amazingly different personalities.
The book is in the voice of Dasha, the gentler twin, and is a study about what it must be like to live your whole life attached to someone—to be unable to escape someone—who has a radically different personality than your own. It’s a fascinating read that’s really well done. It’s out already in the UK in hardback and paperback and Juliet says it should be available in the States soon too. I got my copy on Book Depository, so that’s also an option if you can’t find the book near you.
Another book that I came across recently that I wouldn't have normally read, but which was passed along to me (Did I pick it up at a book swap? Did my husband get it at a used book store? Does it matter?) is the short story collection The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets, by Sophie Hannah. I had no idea going in what the author was like or what kind of stories it would even be, I just selected it from a pile because I have been trying to read more short stories lately since I enjoy the bite-sized courses in between longer books. I like being able to sit down and read one or two complete stories in a sitting. However, since I tend to read through too fast, I try to only read them when I know that I have just a few minutes.
For the next couple of days though, I’ll only be reading one book. Elizabeth George’s new Inspector Lynley book (The Punishment She Deserves) drops today, and it’s one of the books I’m most looking forward to this year. George is one of the few authors I immediately preorder when I learn something is coming out—her stories are long, richly detailed and always stay with me even after I’ve finished the final chapter. I've already warned my husband not to expect too much conversation from me when he gets home because I’m going to be immersed in 700 pages of British crime fiction.
What are you reading?
P.S. Did you know I’m starting a Patreon to release some of my short crime fiction and travel stories? See my intro video below, or check it my page at the link and pass it on! https://www.patreon.com/BethGreen