This post is the first in a new weekly series.
Book 1: Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson (Paperback)
Book 2: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, by Meg Elison (eBook– Kindle Unlimited)
Book 3: In the Woods, by Tana French (Audio)
Book 1: Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
One of the best aspects of Litsy (a social media app for booklovers, like Goodreads + Instagram) is the simplicity of the feed. While everyone on Instagram is freaking out over the new, inscrutable algorithm for what shows up when, I’m on Litsy going through posts in chronological order like the founding fathers intended.
Critics of social media talk about the “echo chamber” effect, where users tune out different viewpoints until their feed only supports their own opinions– especially political ones. Most of the conversations on Litsy are about prose, not politics (s/o to DC’s Politics and Prose), but I’m proud of how open-minded and congenial this community is. Two weeks ago, I saw someone (@sprainedbrain) mention a book she loves, Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. I’d tried that novel last year and thrown it aside after falling asleep by page 20, but when I asked her why she enjoyed it, her response made me want to try again: “I enjoyed all the different characters, but my favorite thing about the book is how it combines science and philosophy. Watching humankind deal with the end of life on Earth as we know it was fascinating to me. I seriously can’t look at the moon now without thinking of this book.” Combining science and philosophy? End of the world? Why didn’t I love this book?
I’m 200 pages in this week, and I can say I must have been in a pretty dark place to not have loved this one the first time I picked it up. Without Litsy (or any solid community of readers who aren’t afraid to say what they like and why), who knows if I ever would have tried it again. Seveneves, which begins just as the moon explodes (an event that scientists quickly realize will destroy life on Earth within 2 years), is definitely dark– Stephenson seems to be striving for realism, and I’ve found myself lying awake at night wondering what I would do in these characters’ positions.
Book 2: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, by Meg Elison
I always try to have one long non-fiction book on my Kindle for nights when I need to fall asleep quickly (right now, that book is Battle Cry of Freedom, the Civil War book in the Oxford History of the United States series)– I try to avoid novels on Kindle, because I can stay up half the night reading. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday night with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, by Meg Elison, which is available on Kindle Unlimited (with a companion audiobook!). It’s a great counterpoint to Seveneves, even though it’s also apocalyptic: it isn’t nearly as realistically rendered. Although the premise is terrifying (98% of men and an even higher percentage of women are killed by a fever that also renders all pregnancies stillborn; once society collapses, the few remaining women are essentially enslaved by roving bands of men) and this book has all the triggers for sexual violence, it isn’t as haunting to me as Seveneves. Maybe because it’s told primarily from one woman’s perspective, while Seveneves jumps between several plotlines (and so is more about world-building), but The Book of the Unnamed Midwife lives very comfortably in a fantasy world for me. Nothing wrong with that (in fact, I might prefer it)!
Book Three: In the Woods, by Tana French
The last book I’m making my way through (much more slowly, since it’s an audiobook) is Tana French’s In the Woods. I’m a thriller newbie, but readers I trust like Modern Mrs. Darcy keep saying it’s one of the best examples of the genre. It’s pretty long– 20 hours!– so I anticipate this one taking a while. But it is the holiday season, and holidays mean long hours with earbuds in, whether I’m waiting in line to pick up the turkey or doing a kitchen deep-clean, so we’ll see how much progress I make over this long weekend! Plus, it’s part of a series (“Dublin Murder Squad”), so if I enjoy it, it makes choosing my next read easier (phew).
That’s it for me! Have you read any of the books I’m reading now? Do you have recommendations for what I should pick up next? Let me know!
Happy reading this week, friends.