Why trawl the web for updates on just how little has changed in the US election process or how many more people have caught COVID-19, when you could spell the month in books?
This idea has apparently been bouncing around the world of books recently—I got it from Lisa at ANZ LitLovers. You just spell out the name of the month using the titles of books you’ve reviewed or ones you have on your shelves.
So here’s my bookish November, which I’ve put together by choosing my favourites among the books I’ve reviewed on this site for each letter. The titles link to my original reviews, which span the last decade or so:
N: Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
I reviewed this collection of five stories way back in 2009, and although it wasn’t my favourite Ishiguro, I did find that the stories “dealt with themes of disappointment, desperation, lost love and the yearning for fame in a convincing and thought-provoking way.”
O: On Writing by Stephen King
This is one of those books that I keep returning to. I’m not a big Stephen King fan in general, but I loved this mix of memoir and writing advice. I wrote this review ten years ago and remarked on how much my rereading differed from my original encounter ten years earlier. Maybe it’s time for a re-rereading…
V: Violent Borders by Reece Jones
We keep hearing about the tragedies of refugees and migrants dying, but not so much about why these tragedies occur. Reece Jones shows that borders create violence by the way they are set up. Strengthening border controls increases the danger and violence to which migrants are subjected. It was a thoroughly researched and well-told story.
Wow. I loved this book so much that it surprised me to see in my review: “At first I found the amount of detail overwhelming, and thought the pace was too slow.” But this book really grew on me, so much that I ended up calling the author.
M: The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke
I loved this short, claustrophobic tale of a dysfunctional family, with clear political symbolism. Can the oppressed wife and children overthrow the tyrannical father? And meanwhile, that huge pot of mussels keeps simmering in the background…
B: Birchwood by John Banville
This was my first encounter with the Irish writer John Banville, and it wouldn’t be my last. I just love the way this man writes—which reminds me, I must check out his latest book, just published recently.
E: Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
Ah, “E” was the hardest choice. Even with two slots, there were still so many great contenders, like Vasily Grossman’s Everything Flows, Petina Gappah’s An Elegy for Easterly, and others. But I went for Electric Arches, a gloriously creative mashup of poetry, prose, visual art, and black revolutionaries dropping from the moon. The fact that the author’s first and last names also begin with “E” is satisfying but purely coincidental.
R: The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
Let’s finish the month off with a classic, Joseph Roth’s sweeping historical novel charting the decline and fall of the Trotta family and, in a broader sense, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I read it for German Literature Month, which is back again this November too.
So here’s my version of November, spelt out in book titles:
How would you spell the month in books? Leave your compilations in the comments below—or write your own post and feel free to drop a link to it in the comments as well. Here’s to a good reading month in November!