February was a bit of a *Kanye shrug* month for reading really, I think perhaps I’ve been feeling a bit slumpy and just not engaged with the books I read this past month. Maybe this is the downside to trying to read books that I’ve had for a while, rather than books I’m necessarily really excited to be reading.
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (2011, Scribner)
I’ve probably said this here before, but I find Jon Ronson to be a hugely compelling writer and he has pretty much become an author who I want to read more of. The Psychopath Test generally deals with the idea that maybe everyone is just a little bit mad, and the ways in which we can define ‘madness’ or mental illness. Ronson tells numerous stories of different really interesting people; including a man who has apparently faked madness to get out of a jail term and has now found himself in Broadmoor alongside serial killers, a businessman who views psychopathy as key to business and even Ronson himself as he becomes obsessed with defining those around him. Like Them and So You’ve Been Publically Shamed, this was just a super engaging read and leaves you plenty of facts to annoy intrigue your friends with.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (2013, Simon & Schuster)
This has been on my shelf for an embarrassing amount of time and so I’m glad to have finally read it, although it didn’t engage me as well as I think it may have done a few years ago. It tells the story of Julia, an 11-year-old girl who at the start of the novel is just dealing with growing-up. However, it’s soon found that the Earth’s rotation is slowing, throwing normal life out of context. The writing in this is lovely, as it’s told by an older Julia looking back, it feels wonderfully nostalgic and there’s a great sense of place; almost reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. However, I just found the plot progressions to be mostly pretty predictable, despite an original premise, and I just didn’t find myself really reaching to read it. I will say that this would be a great ‘cross-over’ novel, if you enjoy Young Adult science fiction novels and fancy something a little more ‘adult’ (but not by much).
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (2014, Corsair)
I’ve been itching to read this for ages, having heard only good things and really liking Gay’s essay collection Bad Feminist. This is the story of Miri, a successful lawyer from a wealthy Haitian family who is kidnapped when visiting her parents in the country with her husband and young son. The novel then tells the story of what happens to her during her captivity, and then what happens after. Gay doesn’t flinch from describing the things that happen to a woman in this situation, so it’s frequently not an easy read but I really loved the insight into Haiti as a country and culture. Gay also handles the issue of trauma fantastically too. The only thing that distracted from really loving it was some pretty clunky dialogue (especially in the romantic scenes) and some plot choices that just seemed a tad convienet. However, I would really recommend this if you’re looking for a fast-paced, thought-provoking read.