What I’m Reading

Of the books I read, I review very few on my blog, so since it’s a Friday and I’m procrastinating, I thought I’d post a little bit about what I’ve read lately.

I just finished Nedjma’s The Almond, which I thought was bloody awful. It had almost no character development, and the plot was fairly uninspired. The erotic part was well-written, though, if you’re into that sort of thing, but even that sank into problems of its own.

I did, however, enjoy War by Candlelight, Daniel Alarcon’s debut collection, which is set mostly in and around Lima. In his writing, the city is treated as a character and I thought that was beautifully done.

I’m nearly finished with Alaa Al-Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building. It’s set during the Gulf war, and it features a wide range of characters who all inhabit the same art-deco building in Cairo. It’s a light, fun read, with occasional eyebrow-raising comments (about women, sex, and gays) that are left to the reader to interpret. I’ll probably have more to say about it in a couple of weeks.

I just started Kevin Smokler’s anthology Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, which features essays by Adam Johnson, Meghan Daum, Tom Bissell, and Nell Freudenberger, among others. Smokler was in Portland yesterday for a reading, and he shared some thought-provoking observations about books and the state of reading today.

I know I’ve mentioned this book before several times, and I will mention it again: I loved Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Desertion, which is set in 1899 in Zanzibar, and tracks the consequences of a forbidden love affair across three generations. I found it beautifully written, incredibly compelling, and profoundly relevant. It comes out this month, and I really urge you to read it.