Good reads 2021

I love reading, I mostly read fiction, I love stories and hearing different voices in my head. List with friends’ participation

Just a silly read or rather listen as I listened to the audio version of it during the first couple of days of 2021. Diary of a righteous teenager in Tatcher Britain - very funny at times, I think this is one of the books that influenced ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’, so can only recommend if you liked Bridget’s adventures.
Another strong female voice - this is a story of a young women struggling to finish her novel she has been working on over the last six years while living with the grief of her mother passing away recently, working as a waiter in one of the upscale Boston restaurants and trying to figure out which one of the two boyfriends she loves. Essentially a Bildungsroman - a novel about becoming an adult and fighting for what you believe in. If you like it read ‘Euphoria’ by Lily King - the love story loosely based on the life and death of the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead.
I love Paul Auster! This is how this one starts: ‘I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I traveled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain.’ This is a story of how life always gives you another chance to create a family for yourself that might include your neighbors, distant relatives and just people that you accidentally run into in Brooklyn. I really loved this one for the great story and the feel of nineties in Brooklyn. Caveat: you might be a little bit annoyed by the narrator’s voice (somewhat Woody Allenesque - it belongs to the retired Jewish life insurance salesman) but it is still worth it I think. Read ‘4321’ by Paul Auster next!
Beautiful novel about love, female friendship and the roots of samba set in the thirties in Rio and in Hollywood. It is a story of two girls that met at the sugar plantation in North of Brazil and had a dream to perform - one of them became the first Brazilian movie star and singer in Hollywood and the other her producer and patron saint, she is the one who is telling this story, fiercely and honestly. It made me miss Rio and Brazil, I have been playing a lot of samba at home.
Ishiguro is one of my favorite authors and this is his fourth book that I read. I won’t go into the story - but this one of the best fictional explorations into why our memory betrays us and misleads us. I love Ishiguro’s writing but it is less emotional than most of the other works on this list.
The writing is superb but Tolstoy driving the point of ‘woman’s calling is to be a mother and a wife whatever it takes’ is annoying and the fact that he is a genius and really persuasive sometimes doesn’t help! 😐
Detective stories have calming effect on me - you know they will find the murderer in the end, so I read it during a somewhat stressful week and I loved it, it is a replay on Holmes/Watson with the interesting twist of Watson in this case being the writer himself.
Loving this book - George Saunders analyzing a bunch of Russian short stories - Chekhov, Tolstoy etc, it sounds boring but it is really one of the best reads on writing, creativity and craft, highly recommend!
Def one of the best nonfiction books I read in a long while - short but fierce account of why the inevitability of capitalism is an illusion carefully maintained by ourselves as we are controlling ourselves more than society or institutions ever could.
Love letters interspersed with diary entries from both sides - Virginia is somewhat prim and snobbish and then in love and jealous but still guarding her space, Vita always knows what she wants and keeps having affairs on the side. Also both kept families (in Vita’s case with three kids and dogs and cats and two estate homes and a husband who was also gay and both husbands were aware of what was going on). My book is basically my kind of gossip column.
I read her ‘Glass hotel’ and loved it, so this is my second book by her. Highly recommend - but only if you don’t worry about the pandemic too much as the story is about how our world got back to the dark ages without electricity and penicillin after the pandemic - flu! - that killed 98% of the population. This is the backdrop - and the story is about why survival is just never enough. I am glad I have antibiotics though.
New book by Kazuo Ishiguro, highly recommend it!
A lot of interesting bits about his life and art. Quick quote to get you started - ‘I saw such incredible things – so African. It made me realize that this amazing and stable civilization – which persisted for 3,000 years with only the most minute stylistic changes – was really a great flowering of African – that’s to say, non-European – culture. I don’t think it’s been taken seriously enough – archaeologists think it’s interesting, but they look to the Greeks and Romans (nice white guys)
When I try to imagine a sane social network it is a space of appearance: a hybrid of mediated and in-person encounters, of hours-long walks with a friend, of phone conversations, of closed group chats, of town halls. It would allow true conviviality—the dinners and gatherings and celebrations that give us the emotional sustenance we need, and where we show up for each other in person and say, “I am here fighting for this with you.”
“You know, baby, people think life is all about the big battles, but it’s really not about that. Sometimes it’s about finding enough self-love just to get the day’s chores done. If you can do that much every day, life gets a little easier every day.
When a woman sings a nonpersonal narrative, listeners and watchers must acknowledge that she’s not performing as herself, and if she’s not performing as herself, then it’s not her who is wooing us, loving us. We don’t get to have her because we don’t know exactly who she is. An audience doesn’t want female distance, they want female openness and accessibility, familiarity that validates femaleness. Persona for a man is equated with power; persona for a woman makes her less of a woman