What I've Been Reading Recently

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I bought this based purely on the name so I had no idea what to expect when I started reading. What I got was this: a web designer working in a bookshop full of mysterious coded volumes; a whizz kid from Google; a secret cult; the collision of printed books with modern technology; an adventure. The writing is simple, the plot is intriguing and it touched on a lot of things of interest to me. I raced through this in an afternoon.

Perfect by Rachel Joyce
Two stories: in 1972, two eleven year boys try their best to stop a mother from falling apart after an accident; in the present day, a man with a history of mental health issues tries to protect himself from life's uncertainties. Gorgeous writing and a heartbreaking book about the damage other people can do to one another - this was by no means a happy read but it was rather lovely.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
Two families come together in one house to prepare for their children's wedding. The book largely follows one father, Winn, who is a well-intentioned man hampered by his own rigid views of success and morality. All of the characters are flawed but likeable people and they all have seemingly trivial but ultimately emotional moments. And I enjoy that kind of thing.

The Most Beautiful Thing by Satya Robyn
In the first section of this book, teenage Joe is sent to spend the summer with his aunt in Amsterdam. In the second section, he returns to spend another summer with her, this time as an adult. I really loved the first part - Joe is awkward and uncertain and his aunt is a struggling, sometimes misguided artist; their relationship is appealing. I was less keen on the second part - although this is where the actual story unfolds, it felt colder and more distant and I lost my compassion for the characters.

The Brain-Dead Megaphone by George Saunders
Having read and loved quite a lot of George Saunders' (smart, surreal) fiction, I had high hopes for this and it didn't disappoint. I'm not sure if I knew (or cared) when I bought it that it was a collection of factual articles; I had forgotten by the time it worked its way to the top of my To Read pile so was surprised to find myself reading very intelligent thinkpieces on the real problems with the media, racism, the weakness of assorted arguments for war, and some of Saunders' favourite books. The book is a few years old now so some of the references were a little out of date but the premises were timeless. Well worth a read.

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1
When it says tiny stories, it means tiny stories. This is an anthology of greyscale drawings accompanied by just two or three sentences each. Some are cute, some are serious, some are downright silly and you can read the whole book in ten minutes but it is really quite adorable - possibly too pricey to buy for yourself (at around £8 it's a lot of money for a tiny amount of content) but it's a perfect stocking filler for arty bloggers. I've added the second and third volumes to my wishlist already.

*Affiliate links are used throughout this post. Some of you may prefer your library to Amazon, though. :)


  1. I read Perfect a few weeks ago, choosing it at random from my mum's bookcase, as I hadn't heard anything about it. I really enjoyed it, glad to see someone else did too!

  2. I read it at random, too, so wasn't sure what to expect - it's really good though, isn't it?

  3. I got Mr Penumbra from the library on a whim because the name entertained me - I'll have to give it a go!

  4. Argh! This was me. Blooming Disqus signed me out.

  5. Argh!

    Let me know what you make of the book, though!

  6. Yes, it is! Not a book I'd have chosen in a shop (the title would have put me off) but so glad I've read it.


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