Like a lot of bookworms I usually have more than one (or two or three…) books on the go at any given time. Usually this means a novel, a non-fiction title, and an audiobook or two. Take a metaphorical peek over my shoulder and read further to learn what books I’m enjoying now.
As I’m writing this column, I am smack dab in the middle of Family Trust by Kathy Wang and it is fantastic. Family Trust is Crazy Rich Asians except more literary, down to earth and set in the Bay area. That’s not to say it isn’t funny; it’s just funny in a subtle, dry kind of way that doesn’t take away from its poignancy. It is a very character-driven story, diving into the perspectives of the son, daughter and ex-wife of the well-to-do Huang family patriarch who is dying of pancreatic cancer. What does each of them stand to inherit? These are complex, well-drawn characters and some of the things they think and say are completely outrageous and cringe-worthy, but they are real and surprisingly lovable. The book also offers plenty of interesting insights into the lives of first and second generation Chinese and East-Asian Americans who have achieved the American Dream and yet are still burdened by family expectations, subtle racism, and the relentless race to the top of the business/tech world. I’d suggest this for readers of The Nest, The Wangs vs. The World and, of course, Crazy Rich Asians.
I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel is a short and sweet collection of anecdotal essays about the author’s reading life. Diehard bookworms will appreciate and identify with Bogel’s musings, from her chapter on “bookworm problems” (ie. all of your library holds coming in at the same time) to “a reader’s coming-of-age” (ie. books that define you at certain times of your life). It is nothing earth shattering and in all likelihood she is just preaching to the choir, but it was a pleasant read to enjoy in an afternoon. This would be a great choice for fans of Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence. I read I’d Rather Be Reading in print, but you can also borrow it in e-book and e-audiobook format on-demand from Hoopla using your library card.
Currently, I’m listening to All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung using my Hoopla account. It’s a memoir about transracial adoption and the impact of growing up untethered from your cultural roots. The Korean author was adopted as a premature baby by loving white parents and grew up in small-town Oregon where she was almost always the only non-white face in the room. As she grew up, she longed for a sense of cultural belonging and finally, while pregnant with her own baby, she decides to seek out her birth family. What she discovers doesn’t make her life or search for identity any less complicated. While I’m not quite finished, it is safe to say that this is a thoughtful, candid and compelling read. I think it would be a great choice for book clubs.
I usually have a mystery/thriller on the go and the most recently one I’ve finished up was Find Me Gone by Sarah Meuleman. This novel, translated and slightly reworked from its 2015 Dutch original, follows Hannah, a woman who has recently quit her job as columnist for a glamorous NYC fashion magazine in order to pen a book about Agatha Christie, Barbara Follett and Virginia Woolf. Diving into the lives of these troubled, talented women brings up memories of Hannah’s coming-of-age in a small Belgium town circa 1996. Plenty of secrets have followed Hannah into adulthood and it’s clear she is as emotionally haunted as her subjects. This novel has an unusual construction, jumping back and forth through time and even into the content of the book being written by Hannah. This makes for an oddly compelling book in my opinion. It’s dark and strange and quite memorable!
Talk to a library staff member about borrowing any of the books mentioned above, or check them out online at www.CountyLibrary.ca.
This article was originally published in the November 1st edition of the Napanee Beaver.