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
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
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
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
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
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 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 October, September 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?