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What we've been perusing: authors and readers sharing the books they loved during the month of January.

What we’ve been perusing: authors and readers sharing the books they loved during the month of January.

Simon, Guardian reader

I have been reading Mariana Enríquez’s Our Share of Night, which focuses on Argentina during the 1980s and 1990s. The novel explores the dictatorship and its aftermath through themes of horror, witchcraft, and family dynamics. I appreciated the author’s observations on life and the unique perspective taken on the father-son relationship. While the novel’s darkness, violence, and oddity were captivating, there were also moments of tenderness interspersed throughout.

Zachary C Solomon, author

In a strange coincidence of major life events, my first book was published in January and my second child was born. As a result, I haven’t had much time to read, but I did manage to find a few short and engaging novels that kept me awake a little longer.

Kathe Koja’s first novel, The Cipher, published in 1991, follows the story of Nicholas, an alcoholic who works at a video store. One day, he discovers a mysterious black hole in the utility room of his building. Unlike the typical light-bending and time-sucking black holes found in outer space, this dark spherical anomaly has the power to distort and change anything it comes into contact with – from bugs and mice to steel artworks and even Nicholas’s own hand. Despite my usual disappointment with genre fiction, I continue to search for a novel that can captivate me on both a sentence level and with its intriguing premise. The Cipher is one such novel.

I was intrigued by the realistic writing style of Dutch author Tim Krabbé and his book The Cave. Although I am only halfway through the novel, I already know that I will be searching for his other works. It reminds me of Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers, which is a brilliant and chilling story that I greatly admire. Interestingly, I recently discovered that one of my favorite horror movies, The Vanishing (the original 1988 Dutch version), was based on Krabbé’s similarly titled novel. So far, The Cave is a rare gem of a novel that simultaneously makes me feel completely lost and assured in the hands of a skilled storyteller.

However, above all else, I am still consumed by thoughts of Jenny Erpenbeck’s recent book Kairos, which I finished reading in June. That is a testament to its excellence.

Zachary C Solomon’s “A Brutal Design” is now available.


Kate McCusker is a writer for The Guardian.

Similar to all other individuals from Ireland that I am acquainted with, I recently completed reading Paul Murray’s lengthy novel, The Bee Sting, and was seeking something more lighthearted to carry with me. I chose to read Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want to Know and consumed it in one sitting.

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I regret being tardy to the admiration of Levy’s work, only discovering her through her novels Swimming Home and Hot Milk a few years ago. While I appreciated her fiction, it wasn’t until I read her “living autobiographies” The Cost of Living and Real Estate towards the end of last year that I truly understood the hype surrounding her writing. (My admiration was further solidified upon learning that the author enjoys a lunchtime cigarette with a vermouth on the rocks.)

In response to George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Why I Write,” “Things I Don’t Want to Know” delves into Levy’s experiences ranging from a depressing working holiday in Mallorca, her childhood in apartheid South Africa, and her teenage years spent writing on napkins in a diner in north London. The book is filled with numerous standout phrases that would make the pages glow neon yellow if highlighted. One of my personal favorites is: “Yes, I have often called my daughters back to zip up their coats. Yet, I also know that they would rather be cold and free.” After finishing the book, I was less interested in understanding Levy’s motivation for writing and more grateful that she continues to do so.

Alun, Guardian reader

After two unsuccessful tries in the past 20 years, I finally connected with George Eliot’s Middlemarch. The novel is beautifully written and cleverly observes Victorian conventions with a touch of humor.

Source: theguardian.com