May 2024 Reads

Books I read in May 2024.

A reading month dominated by sci-fi and literary fiction — and five Japanese authors.

1. The Road

— Cormac McCarthy
A masterclass in fiction. Beautiful writing, compelling characters. No Country for Old Men is next on my Cormac McCarthy list.

Book cover: I Who Have never Known Men

2. Leviathan Wakes

— James S.A. Corey
Space opera at its very best. Unputdownable, thoroughly entertaining and great fun. Can’t wait to read the other eight books in the series.

3. Eggs and Breasts

— Mieko Kawakami
I enjoyed this. An intimate tale told in simple and sometimes hypnotic prose, with a compelling main character. I especially enjoyed ‘Book One’ (the first 150 pages) and the dynamic between Natsuko, Makiko and Midoriko. Will read All the Lovers in the Night and Heaven next.

4. Butter

— Asako Yuzuki
‘Food, patriarchy, and murder … a fascinating look at contemporary Japanese society told by one of its everywomen’. — Malavika Praseed

5. Nothing but the Rain

— Naomi Salman
Unnerving. Could easily have been a full-length novel.

6. Mild Vertigo

— Mieko Kanai
La vie quotidienne of a middle class Tokyo housewife. Claire Oshetsky’s NY Times review better expresses my thoughts. Also, love these Fitzcarraldo editions — well, made, and typographically terrific.

7. The Old Capital

— Yasunari Kawabata
I’ve long been a fan of Kawabata, but this translation feels downright clunky — unfortunately, it’s the only English translation of this work.

8. The Glass Bees

— Ernst Jünger
Loved the intro and the last 50 pages — the rest, not so much.

9. Cold Enough for Snow

— Jessica Au
A little too quiet for me.

10. The Hammer of God

— Arthur C. Clarke
My least favorite Clarke book. Terribly dull, thankfully short.

11. Seveneves

— Neal Stephenson
Was impressed that the author managed to keep me turning pages despite so many of them devoted to technical exposition about orbital mechanics and the like. However, around the 400-page mark, my interest waned. Can’t help but think that this epic tale might have been better conceived of as a two- or three-part series.

12. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

— Becky Chambers
Loved her novella To Be Taught, if Fortunate, and was excited for this, especially as it’s the first in a four-part series (Wayfarers). But, after a promising start, there’s too little tension and no real drama, so I doubt I’ll read the rest of the series.

13. Flowers of Buffoonery

— Osamu Dazai
In 1948, Osamu Dazai and his mistress, Tomie Yamazaki, drowned themselves. This is a portentous version of that story. I like Dazai, but, at least for me, he’s not quite in the same league as Mishima, Kawabata, Tanizaki, Soseke, and Endo.

14. Play It as It Lays

— Joan Didion
Love Didion’s essays. This, her first novel, not so much. Sparse, brilliant prose, though.

15. Parable of the Talents

— Octavia E. Butler
Powerful, heartrending, violent, shocking, and still timely — what with its tale of a dystopian US governed by Christian nationalists. It got me thinking about how easily Christianity and Christian doctrine have been appropriated, over the past 2,000 years, by some pretty awful people to perpetrate some truly heinous crimes. (On this topic, I recommend The Misery of Christianity by Joachim Kahl.)

May 2024 reading stats