The top 7 books
I plan to read in May 2023
Here is a sample of what I am planning on reading this month, another nice mix.
📚 CURRENTLY READING 📚
📚 A History of the Island,
by Eugene Vodolazkin
Translated by Lisa C. Hayden
was first published in 2020
To be published on May 23, 2023
by Plough Publishing
Ebook received rhough Netgalley
“Monks devious and devout – and an age-defying royal pair – chronicle the history of their fictional island in this witty critique of Western civilization and history itself.
Eugene Vodolazkin, internationally acclaimed novelist and scholar of medieval literature, returns with a satirical parable about European and Russian history, the myth of progress, and the futility of war.
This ingenious novel, described by critics as a coda to his bestselling Laurus, is presented as a chronicle of an island from medieval to modern times. The island is not on the map, but it is real beyond doubt. It cannot be found in history books, yet the events are painfully recognizable. The monastic chroniclers dutifully narrate events they witness: quests for power, betrayals, civil wars, pandemics, droughts, invasions, innovations, and revolutions. The entries mostly seem objective, but at least one monk simultaneously drafts and hides a “true” history, to be discovered centuries later.
And why has someone snipped out a key prophesy about the island’s fate?
These chronicles receive commentary today from an elderly couple who are the island’s former rulers. Prince Parfeny and Princess Ksenia are truly extraordinary: they are now 347 years old. Eyewitnesses to much of their island’s turbulent history, they offer sharp-eyed observations on the changing flow of time and their people’s persistent delusions. Why is the royal couple still alive? Is there a chance that an old prophecy comes to pass and two righteous persons save the island from catastrophe?
In the tradition of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Julian Barnes’s A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, Vodolazkin is at his best recasting history, in all its hubris and horror, by finding the humor in its absurdity.
For readers with an appetite for more than a dry, rational, scientific view of what motivates, divides, and unites people, A History of the Island conjures a world still suffused with mystical powers.”
I am also currently reading:
- Perché legere i classici? by Italo Calvino
- Les Trois Mousquetaires, by Alexandre Dumas (with French student E.)
- L’Arabe du futur #3 : Une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient, 1985*1987, by Riad Sattouf (with French student F. We are planning to read the 6 volumes)
- Les Vacances du petit Nicolas (Le petit Nicolas vol. 3), by René Goscinny (with French student I.)
- Thinking Orthodox: Understanding and Acquiring the Orthodox Christian Mind, by Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou (slow weekly reading with the catechumens of my Orthodox parish)
- The Transfiguration of Christ in Greek Patristic Literature from Irenaeus of Lyons to Gregory Palamas, by Christopher Veniamin
- John the Theologian and his Paschal Gospel: A Prologue to Theology, by John Behr (reading with another Orthodox parishioner)
📚 READING NEXT 📚
📚 Café Unfiltered,
by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Translated by Alison Anderson
Café sans filtre
was first published in French on April 22, 2022
Expected US publication July 11, 2023
Received for review, from New Vessel Press
I have read a couple of books by Blondel, especially The 6:41 to Paris, that I enjoyed a lot, so I let mysef be tempted by this one!
“At a classic café in the French provinces, anonymity, chance encounters, and traumatic pasts collide against the muted background of global instability. Jean-Philippe Blondel, author of the bestselling The 6:41 to Paris, presents a moving fresco of intertwined destinies portrayed with humor, insight, and tenderness.
In the span of twenty-four hours, a medley of characters retrace the fading patterns of their lives after a long disruption from Covid. A mother and son realize their vast differences, a man takes tea with a childhood friend he had once covertly fallen for, and a woman crosses paths with the ex who abandoned her in Australia.
Amidst it all, the café swirls like a kaleidoscope, bringing together customers, waiters, and owners past and present. Within its walls and on its terrace, they examine the threads of their existence, laying bare their inner selves, their failed dreams, and their hopes for the uncertain future that awaits us all.”
📚 Descent into Hell,
by Charles Wiiliams
It counts for The Classics Club
This is the result of my jar pick for last month. I didn’t have time to read it in April, because of other unexpected books, but will get to it hopefully this month.
This will be my first book by an Inkling I have yet to discover.
“In this provocative, classic metaphysical thriller, a group of suburban amateur actors plagued by personal demons and terrors explore the pathways to heaven and hell.
Certain inhabitants of Battle Hill, a small community on the outskirts of London, are preparing to mount a new play by the neighborhood’s most illustrious resident, the writer Peter Stanhope. Each actor struggles with self-absorption, doubt, fear, and sin. But “the Hill” is not like other places. Here the past and present intermingle, ghosts walk among the living, and reality is often clouded by dreams and the dark fantastic. For young Pauline Anstruther, who is caring for an aging grandmother and frightened by the specter of a doppelgänger who gets closer with each visitation, the prospect of heaven exists in the renowned playwright’s willingness to bear the burden of her terror. For eminent historian Lawrence Wentworth, the rejection of his desire pulls him deeper inside himself, leaving him vulnerable to the lure of the succubus and opening wide the entrance to hell.
A brilliant theological thriller, Descent into Hell is an extraordinary fictional meditation on sin and personal salvation by one of the twentieth century’s most original and provocative literary artists. Charles Williams, a member of the Inklings alongside fellow Oxfordians C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield, has written a powerful work at once profoundly disturbing and gloriously uplifting, an ingenious amalgam of metaphysics, religious thought, and darkest fantasy.
📚 Dirty Story (Arthur Simpson #2),
by Eric Ambler
Mystery / Espionage
Eric Ambler was one of my main discoveries in 2022, with Epitaph for a Spy.
Last month, I listened to The Light of Day – much more fascinating that the movie Topkapi, losely based on it.
So I need to read the sequel! I couldn’t find it in audio, so I’ll read it.
“Fleeing to Central Africa to save his skin, Arthur Simpson convinces his new employers that he is an accomplished soldier of fortune. That gets him mixed up with a multinational corporation who is vying for mineral rights in a hotly contested border area where no one trusts no one.”
📚 Sur la dalle (Commissaire Adamsberg #12),
by Fred Vargas
Expected publication May 17, 2023
This is the result of random pick ang the books I added to my TBR last month.
What a nice surprise!
Some time ago, Vargas declared she no longer had time to write novels, and wanted to focus on her fight to protect nature, raising our awareness agsint global warming and other phenomema.
So this was a great surprise to realize I’ll soon be meeting Adamsberg for the 12th time. This is a great series, so well written!
“- Le dolmen dont tu m’as parlé, Johan, il est bien sur la route du petit pont ?- À deux kilomètres après le petit pont, ne te trompe pas. Sur ta gauche, tu ne peux pas le manquer. Il est splendide, toutes ses pierres sont encore debout.- Ça date de quand, un dolmen ?- Environ quatre mille ans.- Donc des pierres pénétrées par les siècles. C’est parfait pour moi.- Mais parfait pour quoi ?- Et cela servait à quoi, ces dolmens ? demanda Adamsberg sans répondre.- Ce sont des monuments funéraires. Des tombes, si tu préfères, faites de pierres dressées recouvertes par de grandes dalles. J’espère que cela ne te gêne pas.- En rien. C’est là que je vais aller m’allonger, en hauteur sur la dalle, sous le soleil.- Et qu’est-ce que tu vas foutre là-dessus ?- Je ne sais pas, Johan.”
🎧 CURRENT AND NEXT AUDIOBOOKS 🎧
🎧 Warcross, by Marie Lu
366 pages / 11H46
Narrated by Nancy Wu
This is the result of my book jar pick (containing only books about which I keep saying, I want to read this one).
“For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.”
🎧 The Ferryman, by Justin Cronin
May 2, 2023
560 pages / 19H55
Narrated by Scott Brick & Suzanne Elise Freeman
Free audiobook for review, received through Libro.Fm
I have never read a book by Cronin, so this generous offer was tempting.
“Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.
Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process–and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming–which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.
Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group–known as “Arrivalists”–who may be fomenting revolution.
Soon Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than he realized–and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Passage comes a riveting standalone novel about a group of survivors on a hidden island utopia–where the truth isn’t what it seems.”
HAVE YOU READ OR ARE YOU PLANNING TO READ
ANY OF THESE?
WHAT ARE YOUR READING PLANS FOR MAY?
I’m really enjoying The Ferryman so far, there’s an intriguing mystery that I’m dying to find out about! Cafe Unfiltered also sounds really good. Enjoy your books!
Really enjoying it now as well
I keep meaning to pick up L’Arabe du Futur but I’ve never gotten to it. I wish I”d read the books when I still had access to a research library because they carried the series in French.
It is really very interesting. Let me know f you want the ecopies in French
My goodness, those are some ambitious book lists! I am still trying to finish up my last few International Booker Prize 2023 nominations. Thanks for your input about Hwang Sok-yong; I remember reading At Dusk with you, and I’m glad you found his latest more straightforward.
Oh looks like I was unclear. I haven’t read his latest book, just hoping it would be more straightforward
I just downloaded a French rom com from Netgalley France; easier for me to read. But when will I get to it? I’m a slow reader in English and French.
Yes, it’s neat that we can get French books on Netgalley!
I haven’t read any of these, but Café Unfiltered caught my eye. Happy reading! I like the idea of choosing a book title from a jar, I should try that.
LOts of people do that, some go fancy, with a different paper color for each genre
I love Cronin. I hope the Ferryman turns out great!
Have you read it yet?
The beginning is a bit confusing
Fred Vargas is always a good read.