What I Read – April 2021

Read:

Salt Fat Acid Heat – Samin Nosrat (Simon & Schuster, 2017)

Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (Grove Press, 2020)

My Heart – Semezdin Mehmedinovic (Catapult, 2021) (translated from the Bosnian by Celia Hawkesworth)

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (Longman, 1992)

The Dogs Are Eating Them Now – Graeme Smith (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2013)

Utopia Avenue – David Mitchell (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2020)

The Quiet American – Graham Greene (The Viking Press, 1967)

How to Raise a Reader – Pamela Paul & Maria Russo (Workman Publishing, 2019)

Currently Reading:

A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz

Dead Souls – Sam Riviere

The Orange Tree – Carlos Fuentes

We Want What We Want: Stories – Alix Ohlin

2021 Goals:

Books Read: 25/100

Books Reviewed: 22/25

Asian-Canadian Literature Challenge: 2 (none in April)

A Virtuous Reading Challenge: 2/12

Current TBR: 220 (previously 215)

Thoughts:

April turned out to be my best reading month so far, with 8 books read, as well as being tied with February for the most book reviews so far in a month. I probably could have done better on both fronts if it weren’t for spring illness but so it goes. I don’t normally include cookbooks in my reading stats but Salt Fat Acid Heat was really more of a read than a recipe book so I feel justified in its inclusion. I had plans to review it but my drafts all turned into rambling posts about my philosophy around food and cooking so I’m putting that on the back burner (get it? cooking pun!)

Looking over the books I read in April, it’s hard to pick a standout. Several of them had very good elements but none really wowed me. Shuggie Bain probably comes closest but it was so bleak that it’s hard to say I loved it. Other books like Utopia Avenue, The Dogs Are Eating Them Now, or The Quiet American had great things to them but also some major flaws. My Heart stands out as a gentle, contemplative story that left me feeling thoughtful. What was your best read for April?

What’s Next:

I’ve just picked up Mark Sakomoto’s memoir Forgiveness from the library which will be my next read for The Asian-Canadian Literature Challenge. Looking at my holds and what’s likely to arrive soon, I may get a chance to read Obasan and Interior Chinatown in May. My next ARC once I finish Dead Souls will be Sufferance, a new novel from Thomas King out in May. For further non-fiction, I’m thinking of reading at least some of a Kierkegaard anthology that I thrifted years ago and have never really delved into. If I’m feeling ambitious, I might also start the next book for my Virtuous Reading Challenge which is A Tale of Two Cities. It’s my favourite by Dickens but I’m feeling a little intimidated at the thought of taking it on right now so I might wait until I’m more excited by the thought.

Other Reading:

This month we finished reading The Hobbit with the girls at bedtime and have begun A Little Princess.

My Bible Reading plan fell a little behind while I wasn’t feeling well but since it’s a 5-day plan, it wasn’t too hard to catch up and made me realize how much I appreciate having that leeway. In April I read Joshua, Luke, Judges, and Ruth. I’m currently reading 1 Samuel and the Book of Acts. I’ve always enjoyed this portion of the Old Testament, where it feels more like there’s a plot and continued characters to follow along with.

20 thoughts on “What I Read – April 2021”

  1. I’ve been on the fence about whether to pick up Shuggie Bain, so I’m glad to hear you found it worth enduring the upsetting subject matter.

    I hope you have another great reading month in May!

    1. The most upsetting (to me, at least) chapter comes pretty early in the novel so you get a good sense of what the book involves early on. And none of it feels gratuitous but builds into the world of the novel.

  2. I was just talking to a co-worker the other day about books like A Little Princess. The girl is British, who speaks fluent French, who grew up mostly in colonized India. I feel like that could be so hard to explain to a child today, but perhaps one just needs to just ahead and talk about it? I mean, colonization is still a thing today, so it’s not like it’s “olden days” stuff.

    About your comment to include a cookbook in your stats: I looked up the title in my library to see where we have it shelved, because I didn’t remember it being in with the cookbooks where I think of them (641.555 and up in the Dewey Decimal System). It’s shelved in 641.5, which means yes, it’s a cookbook. But then I found this cool chart that shows you the breakdown of how things get more specific in the DDS: https://www.librarything.com/mds/641.5

    See how 641.7 and 641.8 are more about cooking specific dishes? I believe that means 641.5 could be both cooking and discussions of cooking, which makes sense since Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat has a lot of text and is not just recipes. Okay, I went down the nerdy rabbit hole on this one. 🤓

    1. We haven’t delved into the colonization topic much yet with the girls. We’ve talked a little with them about how there were Indigenous people who lived in Canada first and then other people came and also lived here but that’s about as deep as it’s gotten. They haven’t seemed to question that Sara lived in a different country. I talk with them a lot about the fact that I lived in a different country when I was a kid and we talk a bit about how Canada is a country full of people who have come from other places so I think the concept isn’t super strange for them.

      That chart is so interesting! I was categorizing Salt Fat based on its reading to recipe ratio and since the recipes don’t start until the last third or so of the book, it felt more like a book on food than a traditional cookbook. I didn’t realize the Dewey Decemical System had a way of categorizing that.

    1. For a second I wondered if that was a pregnancy/parenting book! Is that by Jen Sookfong Lee? I’ve read one other by her.

  3. I should probably read Shuggie Bain for patriotism’s sake, but it doesn’t appeal so I’ll just have to be a bad Scot! My standout was probably The Silence – the book we discussed about the forced removal of Aboriginal children in Australia. Overall it was quite an “abandoned” month for me though! 😉

    1. I’ll be honest, Shuggie Bain does not make Glasgow sound very appealing. I think it’s the kind of book that if it doesn’t at least interest you a little, it’s probably too heavy a book to end up enjoying.

    2. There is a kind of Scottish sub-genre of fiction, which I call misery-porn, showing Scotland in the worst possible light and totally exaggerating the problems – or perhaps it would be fairer to say, not giving a balanced picture of society. I imagine the writers write them for the international market, since I can’t imagine too many Scots reading them without harrumphing! Irvine Welsh is another who falls into this category, and I’m never tempted to read him either. We do have problems with drink and drugs as a society, but not all of us! Not even the majority… 😉

    3. Interesting! I feel like most people want to show their home in the best light possible! I feel like John Knox must be to blame for this somehow! The setting of Shuggie Bain and the shutting down of industry that led to such unemployment felt unique to Scotland of that time as I read it but the actual issues the characters face are certainly not unique to Scotland.

    4. Hahaha, you’re singing my song – you know I blame John Knox for everything! 😉 Yes, the ’80s under Thatcher were a very bad time for Scotland economically, but also for the industrial parts of England and Wales. She was pretty brutal…

    5. It’s not a main feature of the book but I thought it did a good job of showing just how devastating Thatcher’s policies were. It really shows what it meant to have mass unemployment and how it broke down communities.

  4. I marvel at how much you read in one month! I hope you revisit the review of Salt Fat Acid Heat, we’re seriously missing our family pastime of rambling about food 🙂 Curious about your insights!

    1. Have you read it? Or seen the show? I’d love to hear what you think of it. Hopefully an in person conversation about food (while eating food) is not too terribly far away!

  5. Ooh, I’d love to see a rambly post about your philosophy on cooking and food! Also excited that you may be reading Interior Chinatown soonish, I had such a good time with that one. And I really enjoyed A Little Princess as a kid, so it’s nice to see your family reading that one- I hope Pearl and Rose are enjoying it. 🙂 Best of reading to you in May!

    1. Haha, maybe I will have to revisit the post. A Little Princess is way sadder and darker than I remembered! The girls keep asking if it has a happy ending but they are enjoying it!

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