Happy Wednesday everyone! How are you enjoying 2022 so far? I hope that you are all doing well and are all healthy despite the risks that surround us. I hope that the pandemic will end soon. I am also praying that 2022 will be a year of hope, healing, and recovery for everyone. I hope that it will be a great year.

As it is a Wednesday, it is time for another WWW Wednesday update. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday is quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What have you finished reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What are you currently reading?

It was towards the end of 2021 that I came across Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book. It was just awarded the winner of the 2021 National Book Award, besting Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land. Coincidentally, the book I completed before reading Hell of a Book was Cloud Cuckoo Land. Prior to 2021, I have never heard of Mott nor have I read any of his works; it was the same case with Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown, the 2020 winner. Like in the case of the 2020 winner, I obtained a copy of the book, just recently actually, and started reading it as part of my 2021 reading catch-up. The book follows two storylines. One followed Soot, a young boy being taught by his parents to be “unseen”. The second storyline follows an unnamed author who reached the pinnacle of success after his book, Hell of a Book, became a bestseller. What stands out in the story are the discourses on being Black in contemporary America. I am nearly done with the book and I can’t wait to see how the two storylines converge.

What have you finished reading?

It has been half a decade since I read my first Ruth Ozeki novel, A Tale for the Time Being. It was a story involving the 2011 Japanese tsunami and the ensuing Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. It had a promising premise but I found it an underwhelming experience. Because of this, I was a little apprehensive about reading her latest novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness. When news of its 2021 release filled my timeline, I dismissed it until I encountered a couple of positive reviews on the book. These have convinced me to give the story a try, something I was glad I did. I guess 2022 is a year of redemption? Anyway, Ozeki’s fourth novel was an intricate novel that grappled with several seminal subjects, with literature and its place in our lives, and mental health and mental health awareness being the most prevalent subjects. These were explored through the story of mother and son tandem, Annabelle and Benjamin “Benny” Oh. The book also tackled loss, hoarding, environmental awareness, consumerism, and even racism and discrimination. It also underscored the relationship we build with our material possessions. Overall, it was a lush story that was further complemented by its interesting primary narrator, the titular Book of Form and Emptiness.

Literature and its place in our lives also played a seminal role in the next novel that I read, Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land. My first encounter with Doerr was back in 2017, when his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All The Light We Cannot See made it to my Top 20 reading list. It was an interesting story about two children during the Second World War. However, I was not as impressed as I wanted to be for I was burdened by the abrupt transitions. Nevertheless, I wanted to find out what Doerr has to offer in his first novel in seven years. In a way, Cloud Cuckoo Land was similar to its predecessor. Rather than two storylines, the book had five storylines, six if you include the ancient Greek codex from which the novel derived its title. The main characters in Cloud Cuckoo Land were also children or at least they were children for the most part of the novel. What makes the novel unique was its ambitiousness. Beyond the book’s heft, it had grappled with several themes and subjects. Apart from the palpable connections to reading and ancient texts, the story of the five children, all misfits, was about overcoming life’s challenges. Through the main characters, a myriad of subjects was covered, ranging from environmental awareness to sexuality to mental health to love. While I appreciated the grandeur and the ambition, I found the connections between the stories ephemeral. It was too fragmented.

The theme for the coming weeks will still be 2021 titles. I wasn’t intending to purchase Elif Shafak’s latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees. I was a little underwhelmed by my last Shafak novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, but then I changed my mind, as a Cancer baby normally does. I have read nothing but positive reviews on the book. One review even concluded that it was the best of Shafak’s entire repertoire. After all, I am fascinated by Shafak’s examination of the tenuous relationships her native country has established with its neighbors. It was in late 2021 that I have encountered Chibundu Onuzo’s Sankofa. I have never heard of Onuzo before nor have I read any of his works. However, there was something mysterious about Sankofa that piqued my curiosity.

I have also lined up Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising in my reading journey. Like in the case of Ozeki and Shafak, I wasn’t planning on reading Franzen’s latest offering for I was hardly impressed by Freedom. But this year has developed into a year of reading redemptions so why not give Crossroads a chance. Honestly, I feel like the book resonates with the same themes as T.C. Boyle’s Drop City. It gives off that similar vibe. I have never read any of Jenkins Reid’s works before although I keep encountering her name. It was my erroneous perception of her works that kept me off of them. I thought that Jenkins Reid’s works were works of young adult fiction. But, of course, I would soon learn I was wrong.

That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!