Booksellers' Book Club: August

Chloe

Welcome back to our monthly feature - The Booksellers' Book Club. Here you will find out what Avid staff members are currently reading, have just read, and plan on reading next.  

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SARAH

Just Read:

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

There are some people who live among us that have Anagaria, a medical condition that causes not immortality, but instead very slow aging. To survive they cannot form lasting attachments to regular folk, and they need to keep their condition a secret. No vampires, I promise, but it's told through the very long life of Tom Hazard with a particular quirky humour and sadness that comes from old age, How To Stop Time is an optimistic reflection on humanity, the isolation of always being on the outside, and the search for a purpose in life to truly live. [Fiction]

City of Crows by Chris Womersley

It's 17th Century France, and after loosing her husband, Charlotte flees her tiny village with her young son to avoid the omnipresent plague before being attacked on the road by slavers with young Nicolas abducted, and Charlotte left for dead. To save her only family, Charlotte would make a deal with the devil himself but instead encounters Lesage, who was by chance miraculously released from prison years before his term. The story is dark and pungent, and together with the 'is it real or just coincindence' magic, it evokes Hannah Kent's The Good People but with a good dash of fast paced action and a touch of comedy of errors. [Fiction]

Inagural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

Set during the late 1970s and early 1980s in the outback of outback Australia; when telephones are still shared party lines, visiting the neighbours can involve a 4 hour drive, and the wet season can cut a property off from mail and the outside world for months. Through this isolation, five completely different women come together to find friendship and comfort through their bookclub. I enjoyed the setting and the premise, but it fell a little short for me with the writing. It's still a nice, easy summer read about the power of female friendship, despite it's sentimentality and predictability. [Fiction]

Currently Reading:

The Choke by Sofie Laguna

The Choke is a brilliant, haunting novel about a child navigating an often dark and uncaring world of male power and violence, in which grown-ups can't be trusted and comfort can only be found in nature. This compassionate and claustrophobic vision of a child in danger and a society in trouble celebrates above all the indomitable nature of the human spirit. [Fiction]

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KRISSY

Just Read:

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington by Leonora Carrington 

I think this is going to be the best book I read this year. Nothing could ever be as good at The Debutante about a girl who sends her hyena friend to her debutante ball because she hates balls and the hyena's face doesn't look like her so the hyena kills the maid and tears off her face to wear to the ball. THE BEST. [Short Stories]

The Milk of Dreams by Leonora Carrington

I really want to give this book to a kid but I think I would possibly be confusing and causing them emotional damage. These illustrated surrealist stories feel like they were written for kids but in them a vulture falls into a jelly and sets there only to be eaten; A boy eats bits of his wall and then is given wall pills and eventually his head turns into a house.  You get the picture! I love it. Lucky I am not a parent I suppose. [Poetry]

The One Inside by Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard just died. I realised I had bought his latest book and hadn't had a chance to read it yet. I started it and oh my goodness. This is a book for those who love the poetry of language and ideas. It is a wonderful insightful read about ageing, youth, death, loneliness, and isolation.  I am loving it and so did Patti Smith who wrote the forward. [Fiction]

The Answers by Catherine Lacey

I started reading this because I am on a panel with her at the upcoming writer's festival, and I am staying because it is such a good yarn. I am reminded of the work of Miranda July, it is that weird and that interesting. Mary has a mysterious illness, nothing works, then she discovered a weird healing method called PAKing. PAKing, bizarrely seems to work. Only thing is it is super expensive and Mary is already in debt from all her medical tests. She answers one of those vague adverts in the paper that don't really tell you what you are signing up for. Weirdly she discovers she has signed up for The Girlfriend Experiment which has been started by a celebrity who wants a number of different women to fulfil different roles in his live. [Fiction]

Wild Surmise by Dorothy Porter

This is a verse novel about science and sensuality. It is about a woman who has an obsession with the moon Europa and her fellow astrologist, Phoebe. Her husband feels jilted for these heavenly bodies. Verse novels are quick to read but can be very rich in the right hands. [Poetry]

To Read Next:

Life on the Edge by Jim Al-khalili and Johnjoe McFadden

The coming age of quantum biology: quantum biology! Just think about it. Every tiny piece of body is just a probability. Maybe that is how consciousness works! Mind blown! [Science]

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TRENT

Just Read:

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

It’s a fabulous beginning to a Space Opera series that feels a little like Asimov’s Foundation books, and Frank Herbert’s early Dune novels. There’s an Empire on the verge of collapsing, warring mercantile families, massive space ships, and a cast of memorable characters - and some really shocking assassination attempts. It’s at once old fashioned and very fresh, think Star Trek mixed with Game of Thrones, but with a lot to say about current politics. Oh, and Scalzi knows how to make you laugh. [Science Fiction]

Currently Reading:

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

It’s just such a wonderful series of essays, the sort of thinking and writing that you can luxuriate in. It’s a beautiful book, and one of the many books of essays I’ve enjoyed this year. [Essays]

It's Alive!: Artificial Intelligence from the Logic Piano to Killer Robots by Toby Walsh

My reading on the loo book is It’s Alive! By Toby Walsh - so don’t borrow my copy. Toby is Toby Walsh is an Australian researcher in Artificial Intelligence, and this is a no-nonsense survey of machine intelligence and where it is like to go (and go wrong) in the next few decades. He unpicks the realities from the Science Fiction in a way that is anything but dry. It’s a fascinating read. [Science]

The Obelisk Gate by N.K Jemisin

I’ve just started on the second book of the Broken Earth Trilogy - The Obelisk Gate by N.K Jemisin. This is such an impressive series by a very important voice in Fantasy. It’s intimate and epic all at once, exploring race and power, and the terrible consequences of subjugating a people. It’s also a vividly rendered world, and, in places quite breathtaking. The previous book The Fifth Season was a favourite of mine from a few years ago, this is looking to be just as powerful a read. 

And the Obelisk Gate just won the Hugo for best novel, which is the second year running that NK Jemisin has won the Hugo with this series - she won last year for the Fifth Season - so I guess that makes her the Hilary Mantel of Fantasy. [Fantasy]

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CHLOË

Just Read:

The Monk by Matthew Lewis

I read this book for a uni course and I was skeptical at first. The concept sounded great - a devout catholic monk who gets tempted by the devil and sexual deviance and murder ensues. I was wary because the book was written in 1796. I expected all scandalous events to be properly censured and only hinted at through fits of fainting and heaving bosoms. But, damn, this book doesn't hold back. It is excellent and super juicy in the details. This book has something for everyone - rape, murder, incest, demons, witchcraft, shrieking ghouls, secret passages, crypt sex, and all sorts of other great Gothic stuff. Highly recommended for all twisted freaks (like myself). [Classic/ Gothic Fiction]

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Can you tell I'm studying Gothic literature this semester? I'm glad that I finally get to read some of these fantastic classics. But I'm here to set the record straight. So where in this book does Dr. Frankenstein yell "It's alive!". It's all a lie. [Classic/ Gothic Fiction]

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot's leaves behind her isolated life on the Orkney Islands for the bright lights of London. Her life soon takes a downward spiral as she struggles with alcoholism. This is the story of her recovery back home in Scotland. Fragmented memories of drunken episodes are weaved in with descriptions of the natural environment, as well as tales from Scottish mythology. I loved this book. It's stunningly beautiful and filled with a deep ache that resonated with me. [Memoir/ Nature Writing]

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Another uni book (sorry!). This is the story of a 15-year-old young girl in Indochina (1929) who who has an intense affair with a Chinese millionaire. The story touches lightly on topics such as race, colonialism, and tense family relationships, and is written in a non-linear stream-of-consciousness style. Duras mixes elements from her own life with fiction to create this interesting novella. [Autofiction] 

Currently Reading:

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power is an apocalyptic novel or a different kind. All over the world, teenage girls are developing the power to channel electricity through their bodies. Some girls can only send a tiny shock, while others can kill. The story follows several characters from all over the world as the girls begin to develop and use their powers - not necessarily for good!

This is my next book club book (Thursday 7th at Avid Reader - come along!).  [Fiction]

City of Crows by Chris Womersley

I've only just started reading this book and I'm already halfway through - it's wonderfully readable and exciting and magical and I just want to finish it right now! The story is set in plague time in France, and follows Charlotte as she searches for her only living child who has been stolen by slave traders. Wounded and desperate, she enlists the help of the Forest Witch. Charlotte will do anything to save her son, including conjuring devils. Magical realism meets historical fiction in this addictive book.

Chris Womersley will be at Avid Reader on Tuesday 12th September signing and chatting about this excellent book. Do come along! [Fiction]

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HELEN

Just Read:

The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky

[Classic/ Fiction]

Currently Reading:

Animal Farm by George Orwell

[Classic/ Fiction]

To Read Next:

Blitzed by Norman Ohler

[History]

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MADDY

Just Read:

The Nix by Nathan Hill

I recently finished Nathan Hill's The Nix - this book is the reason I didn't have anything for last month's book club because it too me almost a month to read. it's long, dense with story, wit and melancholy. There's a lot of biting political and social commentary in there too, though the story is at times absurd it still feels very grounded, in a kind of off-kilter John Irving way. [Fiction] 

Lucky Peach Magazine

I've also enjoy the latest issue of food magazine Luck Peach - sadly their last ever. They've gone out on a high note with an issue celebrating the weird and wonderful eating habits of the American suburbs, melting pots of culinary experimentation that often get passed over in favour of flashy big-city restaurants. [Magazine]

Hunger by Roxanne Gay

I also read Hunger by Roxanne Gay, which absolutely lived up to all the praise. I read it all on a flight home from Melbourne and couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks. Gay's expression of her own pain, trauma, strength, disappointment, conflicted hope and confusion is so clear and piercing it sometimes hurts to look at but you never want to stop. [Essays]

Currently Reading:

This House of Grief by Helen Garner

At the moment I'm reading This House of Grief by Helen Garner - one of those books you have to be mentally prepared to read, but she's such a master even while reading the horrific subject matter you feel you're in safe hands. Reading her is both inspiring and demoralizing for any non-fiction writer. [Biography]

To Read Next:

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

I'm heading to Japan for a couple of weeks soon so I need another big novel so it feels like a holiday - I think I'll read The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay on Chris's strong recommendation!