2016 bookshelf update: september

Honesty time: I lowered my reading goal from 60 to 50 for the year. Over-ambition wasn’t working for me this year.

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles


[Book of the Month Club pick]

So this was another slow reading month numbers-wise, and this book is the reason why. It’s a highly atmospheric novel, set in Moscow and spanning a large portion of the 20th century.

The Bolsheviks didn’t execute Count Alexander Rostov in the summer of 1922. Instead, they sentenced him to a life confined to Hotel Metropol. If he ever took a step outside, he would be shot. He is removed from his luxurious suite and installed in a tiny attic room, hardly big enough to do his morning stretches.

As the years pass and the country undergoes dramatic change, Count Rostov attempts to establish a life within the hotel walls. A cast of characters cycles through the lobby, including an actress, a chef, and an inquisitive young girl, all influencing Rostov’s life as they come and go.

This isn’t a book you devour. There’s too many years involved for that, too much change. Sometimes the pacing fits the story, other times it drags. Overall, a satisfactory read, if a little prolonged.

[4/5 stars]

Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue


[Book of the Month Club pick]

A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.

That blurb hooked me before I had finished reading it, and the book hooked me almost as quickly.

Jende and Neni Jonga and their son have moved to America for a better life. After years of bit jobs, Jende finds his way into a cushy driver position for Lehman Brothers executive Clark Edwards and his family. His hours are normal, and there is enough money to keep Neni in college so she can eventually become a pharmacist.

As the lives of the Jongas and the Edwardses become more intricately entwined, the world is about to learn that Lehman Brothers and other companies have led the American economy to the brink. The effects of this upheaval ripples through both families, reaching into cracks they didn’t even know existed (or refused to acknowledge).

Part of me is surprised that this is the first book I’ve read set among the Great Recession, part of me isn’t. All of me is happy I chose this as a BOTMC pick. It was fascinating and human and I recommend it.

[4.25/5 stars]

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling


Fun fact: I own this book in Spanish. I didn’t read it in that version, but that’s beside the point.

Second fun fact: I have no idea how many times I’ve read this book, but it’s a lot.

Am I the only one who really loves CoS? Like, as a book and not just as part of the Harry Potter series? It’s a great narrative that also sets up the massive, magical world we’re all still desperate to occupy a decade later. I will defend this book until I die (and the movie, too, y’all, don’t start with me).

[5/5 stars, obviously]

Favorite book this month: Behold the Dreamers and Chamber of Secrets

Most likely to re-read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Most likely to recommend: Behold the Dreamers and Chamber of Secrets

Hoping for a bit more speed in my October reading. Also hoping for actual fall weather. I got boots and sweaters to wear, y’all.

Keep reading and support your local libraries!


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