Another month has passed and I can’t believe that we’re already halfway through with 2020. And what an eventful year it has been so far. Somehow, many of us are expecting some more surprises lurking in the year’s second half. Not that I blame them. Living through the first six months of the year makes one feel suspicious or give a slight sense of paranoia. I just hope that it all pans out in the end and that this pandemic will end.
If there is one thing that the prolonged quarantine has given me aplenty is time, time to peruse my burgeoning TBR pile and start ticking them off one-by-one. It held true from late March to May and still held true in June. I managed to complete six books from this list, and more importantly, these books are part of my 2020 reading challenges – four from my Beat the Backlist 2020 Reading challenge and two from my 2020 Top 20 Reading List.
All these books also share a common denominator – they were written by acclaimed American authors, hence, this post’s title. Quite a progression over the past few months really. I had African literature in February, European in March, Asian in April, and Japanese in May. This is the first time that I dedicated a month to reading purely American works.
Without more ado, here are the magnificent reads I had in June.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I kicked off my June reading month with Kathrin Stockett’s The Help. I know most has heard of it because of the movie adaptation which was a darling of that year’s Academy Awards. It also earned Viola Davis a Best Supporting Actress plum, further elevating her acting career. Equally sensational is the book from which the movie was adapted. After hearing and reading several, positive feedback (and after years of letting it gather dust in my bookshelf), I finally got around to reading it. And I must say, “what was I thinking” letting the book sit for years. It is the heartbreaking and witty story of black maids, built around Minnie and Aibilene, in 1960s Mississippi. In a time when the interest for the #BlackLivesMatter movement is making the rounds, this is a relevant read. It will remain relevant for years until racism and discrimination is fully extinguished. I have a lot of good things to say about this book so do please tune in for my review which I will publish within the coming weeks.
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
From one novel set in the Deep South to another novel set in the Deep South. Nobel Prize for Literature winner William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! is my second attempt into his literary repertoire. I was hoping that Absalom, Absalom! would wash away the bitter aftertaste of The Sound and the Fury, a novel that I found really tedious. Thankfully Absalom, Absalom! wasn’t was tedious. First off, it wasn’t written in the colloquial which made reading The Sound and the Fury a challenge. The novel relates the story of Thomas Sutpen, who rose from rags to riches. It touches on a lot of several dark and heavy subjects, such as the history of Southern plantation culture, discrimination, racism, and slavery. This novel introduced me to the verbose side of Faulkner. His power of description was vivid.
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
For the third consecutive book, I read a novel set in the Deep South, now in North Carolina. Charles Frazier’s National Book Award winning book, Cold Mountain, was set during the American Civil War. Being a historical fiction, this is just right up my alley, really. It tells the story of a Confederate army deserter, W.P. Inman, who was wounded near the end of the war. Taking some inspirations from Homer’s timeless work, Odyssey, Inman set on a journey going back to Cold Mountain, the place of his birth. Waiting for him there is Ada Monroe, the love of his love. However, his journey was not one of comfort. Walking for months, he encountered several stumbling blocks. It was a long and arduous journey to be sure and so was reading the book. It was written with such heaviness that in order for the reader to appreciate it, he must deliberately slow down and drink it in in trickles.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the fourth consecutive book from my 2020 Beat the Backlist challenge. Yay, I am making a great progress! Anyway, this is a book that I’ve been looking forward to for years, ever since I first encountered it in must-read lists. There was just something so mystical about the title. It invites curiosity and a certain level of anticipation for wit and fun. And I wasn’t entirely wrong about that. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a pseudo-autobiographical work. It is narrated by the book’s primary character, Arnold Spirit Jr. who chose to move to a school out of the reservation he belonged in. It is a coming-of-age story that I read in a day. I just wish Alexie dived more into Indian culture. Nevertheless, it was a well-written and interesting read which lived up to my expectations.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck is another Nobel Prize in Literature winner who, by now, has become a familiar territory. I’ve already read three of his works but there was something The Grapes of Wrath that sets it apart from the first three Steinbecks I’ve read so far. For starters, it is uncharacteristically longer than the first three. Not that I am complaining though because it means I’ll get more chance to understand and appreciate the body of work of Steinbeck’s brand of literature. Although the story commences in Oklahoma, it concludes in California, the setting of most Steinbeck works. It, unsurprisingly, relates the struggles of the ordinary Americans during the Great Depression, one that Steinbeck has become known about just like F. Scott Fitzgerald being the master of the American Jazz era. As I’ve mentioned, this book did offer more insights into Steinbeck’s literature and although it was very American, the different voices and textures distinguished it from the rest.
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
I’ve never heard of Thomas Pynchon until a few years aback. In the process of completing a profile for an author whose work I’ve written a review of (I failed to remember what book and which author haha), I came across his name. Apparently, he was revered in the world of literature for his complex and critical works but he also renowned for living a largely reclusive life. There was so much, yet so little, about Pynchon that I was reeled in. I purchased three of his works and Gravity’s Rainbow became my first venture as it also forms part of my 2020 Top 20 Reading List. After reading, I questioned myself. I probably shouldn’t have started with this lengthy and complex work. It was a baptism on fire, bringing back memories of 1Q84 and Haruki Murakami. I was overwhelmed by the complexity, and although I was up to the challenge, I was exasperated in the end. It was an interesting experience though.
Current Read: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Finally, after months of waiting, I finally got to purchase a book from my 2020 Books I Look Forward To List. It is even more special as it was a title I have been looking forward to since the turn of the year, when I researched for books to include in the said list. Kate Elizabeth Russell’s debut work, My Dark Vanessa, has invited so much interest from all literary pundits. It also invited quite the controversy for its highly sensitive and upsetting subject. However, it is a subject that is relevant in today’s context, hence, my interest in the book as well. I am nearly halfway done and it is more than I expected it to be.
Reading Challenge Recaps:
- My 2020 Top 20 Reading List: 13/20
- Beat The Backlist: 8/12
- My 2020 10 Books I Look Forward To List: 0/10
- Gooodreads 2019 Reading Challenge: 41/75
- Year of the Asian Reading Challenge: 16/20
- 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die: 9/20
Book Reviews Published in June:
- Book Review # 177: An Orchestra of Minorities
- Book Review # 178: The Automobile Club of Egypt
- Book Review # 179: Homegoing
- Book Review # 180: Freshwater
- Book Review # 181: Washington Black
- Book Review # 182: Kim
I am so glad I managed to complete all my pending February 2020 book reviews. Do look forward to my March 2020 European Literature book reviews I’ll be publishing in the coming days.
How about you readers? How was your June reading journey? I hope you had a great journey. You can also share your experiences in the comment box.
Happy reading everyone!