We’re in the peak of summer, which usually begets easy reads of a somewhat ridiculous nature, but the heat has made my mind whir even more quickly to gravitate toward some serious book matter. I’ve been poring over essays, reading meta diatribes of art, and languidly feasting on biographies of adventurers.
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Friend and photographer extraordinaire, Stephanie, knows Kevin, and recommended the book to me. I listened to the audible production, and it was marvelous. It reads extremely smoothly, with beautiful gems of details buried in the text. Revolving around a family of artists, two parents who staged live performance art in malls, airplanes, and other public spaces, and their children, whom they refer to as Child A and Child B. It’s like watching a Wes Anderson film. The characters are extremely self-absorbed, believably ridiculous, and artsy in the fartsy way. It’s not light reading, but it’s not heavy either, a nicely balanced book.
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
I first heard about Beryl Markham, bad-ass African early aviatrix, on the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast. She was the first female race horse trainer in Kenya, and the first woman to fly the Atlantic East to West. The prose of her autobiography is ecstatic, the stories she tells are unique, especially considering her position as a white woman in a definite Colonial man’s world. There is debate about whether she actually wrote the book or if she had a ghostwriter, but it’s so delicious that I don’t care. If you still need convincing, here’s what Papa Hemingway said about Beryl and the book:
“Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, West With The Night? …She has written so well, and marvellously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But this girl, who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch, can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers … it really is a bloody wonderful book.”
Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
I’ve been really hesitant to get into this series because it feels like a series that you read young, and has an indelible impression that if you read it later in life, just doesn’t come off the same. And while I still sort of feel that way, the writing, imagery, and book stands up really well to the time and my non-teenage sensibilities.
An Empire of Ice by Edward J. Larson
Struck with wanderlust by West with the Night, I craved more adventure books, and impulsively picked up Empire of Ice during the last Audible sale. It chronicles antarctic expeditions before WWII, going into accounts of Scott and Shackleton’s journeys at length. I’m kind of disappointed. The reader sounds like a robot; his voice does nothing for the already dry text. While there are interesting tidbits, I feel like this book is better served as a research volume than a real read. There are also maps which obviously I cannot see in an audio book. The quotes of the time are great, as well as the attitudes toward Science (with a capital S), so maybe just pick up a printed copy and skip the audio.
As always, I keep my Goodreads up to date and love recommendations. What’s keeping you cool this month?