I recently returned to writing more about the books I read in my weekly email newsletter, but, since it’s never a comprehensive list, I’m going to keep up posting full lists and thoughts here. After a time of distraction and little reading, I have three months worth of books to recap.
- Affinity, Sarah Waters: When I find a book I like by an author I’ve never read before, the completist in me typically drives me to read every single other book by that author until I’ve exhausted the list. Earlier this year, I read and loved Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger; therefore, I am now reading the rest of her books. I liked Affinity quite a lot. Set in Victorian London, it follows the growing obsession of a young society woman with an imprisoned spiritualist. It’s gloomy and spooky and unfolds slowly in Waters’s delicate, deliberate prose.
- The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, Mallory O’Meara: A modern, breezy biography of Milicent Patrick, an early animator at Disney and the woman who designed the Creature (of Black Lagoon fame), who was then pressed out of the industry and her rightful place in history. It’s also part memoir of the author’s own experience as a woman working horror film production and her journey to uncover Milicent’s story. I tend to prefer my nonfiction less personal, but this book is earnest and enthusiastic and successfully makes the case for giving Patrick her due.
- Wishful Drinking and The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher: I read Carrie Fisher’s first memoir, Wishful Drinking, many years ago, but I didn’t get this one right when it came out and, shortly after that, Carrie died, and then it was too painful to consider reading. A few weeks ago, I picked up copies of both Wishful Drinking and The Princess Diarist and, as it turns out, I’m now emotionally prepared to read them. The latter focuses more specifically on her time filming Star Wars and includes several diary entries she wrote then. I wasn’t as interested in the diary entries as I was the framing she gave them. This memoir was written many years after her first, and her tone seems more sincere, less glib. Still sharp and funny, but weighted with perspective. She seemed more accepting of herself, in all her facets. I hope that was the reality.
- Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, Daniel Okrent: I’d been chipping away at this one for a while: I love history, and I’m particularly interested in the Prohibition era, but there’s so much information in this I needed to take it slowly. As far as I perceive, this book is considered the modern authority on Prohibiton, and for good reason. It’s thoroughly researched and neatly presented, useful for understanding a crucial part of American history. Pair with Ken Burn’s documentary, Prohibition, which took much of its structure from this book and includes commentary from Okrent.
- Magic for Liars, Sarah Gailey: In my newsletter, I described this book as “Jessica Jones meets Harry Potter,” which hopefully doesn’t sound too flippant, but finding ways to adequately describe a modern fantasy set at a school for magicians that is at its core a hardboiled detective story is challenging. An inventive, compelling read.
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