After a busy few months of travel, we slowed down a bit in November and spent more time just staying in comfortable rural hotels in Bulgaria and northern Greece. That meant more time for work and writing, but also for reading, so I had a good reading month overall. Here’s how it went…

Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald

Austerlitz by WG Sebald

I started off the month with an excellent read for German Literature Month. I found a beautiful meditation on memory and loss, as we follow Jacques Austerlitz piecing together the fragments of his former life. Read my full review here.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

I hardly ever read science fiction, but that may change after reading The Dispossessed. With so much dystopian fiction around, I was looking for a novel that dared to present a utopia, and this one did not disappoint. It presented a compelling contrast between an Earth-like planet of injustice and the egalitarian, anarcho-syndicalist community living on its moon, but more importantly, it presented these worlds via a good story, with minimal speechifying.

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

This non-fiction book about Latin American children who try to move to the United States is both very structured and quite free. It’s based around the 40 questions that the children are asked as part of the immigration (and/or deportation) process, but within this structure, Luiselli riffs quite freely across a range of topics. One thing that comes through it all is the humanity of the kids involved—and it really saddens me to write that, because their humanity should be obvious and taken for granted, but so often in immigration debates, it’s completely ignored.

Border Vigils by Jeremy Harding

Border Vigils by Jeremy Harding

This exploration of migration and borders in Europe and North America is heavier on the policies and statistics than Luiselli’s, but still has a good dose of first-hand stories. It’s an update and re-release of an earlier book, with some sections written in the 1990s and others written more recently. The sad thing is that so little progress has been made in the intervening two decades that it’s hard to tell them apart.

Sultry Days by Eduard Graf von Keyserling

Something a little different now. This novella was written in German in the early 20th century and never translated into English—until book blogger Tony Malone of Tony’s Reading List decided to take on the task of doing it himself! He published it on his blog in 13 installments—you can start with Part 1 and click through to read the others using the links at the bottom of each post. I found it a moving Bildungsroman with quite compelling characters, and Tony did a great job with the translation.

Historical Capitalism by Immanuel Wallerstein

Historical Capitalism by Immanuel Wallerstein

As you may have guessed from the cover image of a giant dead-eyed fish gobbling up lots of smaller fish, this isn’t a very positive take on capitalism. The book is stitched together from various pieces of writing, some of which are quite old now, but I enjoyed Wallerstein’s clear analysis of the system we all live under.

The Verdict

The month got off to a flying start with Sebald’s Austerlitz, which I loved, and that’s my pick for my favourite read in November. But I enjoyed all of the books I read this month.

To discover more good books, you can see my previous roundups for OctoberSeptember and August, or check a list of all the books I’ve reviewed on this site since 2007. And be sure to check out other people’s roundups over at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

How about you? What did you read in November, and what was the best (or worst!) book for you?

10 Comments

  1. Brian Joseph 29 November 2018 at 5:28 pm

    This is a fascinating group of books that you read Andrew. I have only read The Dispossessed. I also loved it. I do not know if you have read other books by Ursula Le Guin, but she tends to write thoughtful books where she explores things like culture and gender. I highly recamend her The Left Hand of Darkness.

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 30 November 2018 at 4:40 pm

      Hi Brian, No, this was my first Ursula Guin book, but I’d like to read others now, so thanks very much for the recommendation!

      Reply
  2. BuriedInPrint 29 November 2018 at 7:23 pm

    I second the rec of Le Guin, with the collection of novellas (Four Ways of Forgiveness being remarkable too). The Dispossed is the only I usually name as a favourite but Left Hand is amazing too (but maybe best appreciated in an environment that encourages close study rather than a casual read?). I’m pedantic about waiting for the end-of-the-month to name favourites, convinced that the best read might be yet to come, but I have enjoyed a slim fable-like volume by Vita Sackville-West called The Heir, a single-sitting read about inheritance and its responsibilities and related pleasures. Hope December holds something lovely for you!

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 30 November 2018 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks! Four Ways of Forgiveness looks excellent. Yes, I published a little early – I have a busy day today and knew I wouldn’t be able to finish another book before month end. Hope that you squeeze in another great read, though! And yes, here’s to more good books in December 🙂

      Reply
  3. Stefanie 29 November 2018 at 11:49 pm

    Great reading month! The Dispossessed is an awesome book! I read it a very long time ago and I am sure I missed a lot of the nuances, but I still liked it very much. One of these days I might get around to reading it again. The Luiselli book is good too. I very much enjoyed it, though enjoy is not the right word. I like Sebald very much but haven’t gotten to Austerlitz yet. You remind me that I really need to.

    I haven’t been by in a while. Love the new look!

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 30 November 2018 at 4:45 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Stefanie, and for your kind words about the new look. Which other Sebald books have you read? I’m looking for recommendations after enjoying Austerlitz so much.

      Reply
  4. Donna 1 December 2018 at 8:43 pm

    Interesting group of books. They look like they give you a lot to think about. Check out what I read in November at Girl Who Reads

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 3 December 2018 at 6:21 pm

      Hi Donna, Yes, they were very thought-provoking! I’ll head over to your list now 🙂

      Reply
  5. Danielle Hammelef 1 December 2018 at 10:39 pm

    These are books I’ve never heard of before, so this was a great post for me. I’m happy that you picked books to read that you really enjoyed.

    Reply
  6. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 3 December 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the post, Danielle! Yes, it was a great month for me. How was your November reading?

    Reply

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