May was quite busy, but I managed to read five books (and DNFed one), and there were some really great reads among the ones I finished. I seemed this month to pick up a lot of novels with that have humour as a core part of them while also dealing with serious themes.
I also left my usual haunts and visited some bookshops outside of my norm – like the wonderful Shakespeare and Co in Vienna (an offshoot of the Paris one)…
Kicking off then, my May books in order of reading:
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
This was such a light yet profound story. It follows a set of people caught up in a botched back robbery turned hostage situation, which the bank robber/hostage taker never truly intended to take place. All the characters involved are beautifully and humorously drawn, and I loved the central theme about human imperfection. Hugely recommend for when you need some affirmation about the worthwhileness of life and of yourself. My review is here.
Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller by Nadia Wassef
A fascinating treatise on modern Egypt told through the shelves of its most groundbreaking bookstore – Diwan. Lots of dry humour in this book, alongside book name-drops galore… What’s not to like? My review is here.
The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox
This is the one I DNFed. There is a lot crammed into this book – a murder mystery, a Dan Brown-esque special artefact, book burnings, fantastical elements – and I just found it difficult to latch onto any one thing and start really caring about it. Though I found some of the prose beautiful, other bits felt quite confusing, and I couldn’t really get attached to any of the characters. I do think there would probably be a lot to this book for a reader it chimed with, since there was a huge amount of detail in there – particularly about book burnings – but in the end it wasn’t for me.
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
My favourite book of the month, and one of the Women’s Prize 2022 shortlist. It’s at turns funny and heartbreaking, and I rooted for the main character so much that it hurt. My review is here.
Companion Piece by Ali Smith
The fifth in Ali Smith’s ‘seasonal quartet’, a collection of novels written and published fast, so as to capture events and issues of recent years (eg. Brexit, the pandemic) almost in real time, this was a really unique reading experience. There is so much in this short book in terms of imagery and wordplay that it was probably a slightly harder read for me than the others I enjoyed this month, but honestly I was surprised by how much I loved it. It’s humorous and wise, and there are some quotes from it I want on my wall. My review is here.
Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey
This summer I’m working my way through books 7-9 of The Expanse series. I enjoyed the TV series which takes the story up to the end of Book 6, and I want to find out what happens next. I read Book 7: Persepolis Rising in May, and liked it a lot. There were twists and turns in the plot that I did not see coming, and some really interesting themes around leadership.
…walking the line between the man he had always thought he was and the ruthless authoritarian ruler the job required of him wasn’t something he could do and remain whole. …the man who could order civilian deaths as a reprisal could not share the same space with the man who loved his wife and played with his daughter and couldn’t wait for her to get old enough so he could buy her a kitten.Persepolis Rising, James S. A. Corey
I’m looking forward to reading the others, and may write a fuller review of all of them together later.