If only I'd picked up one more tiny little book last month. Just a wafer-thin one. Pat the Bunny or something. Then I could have a solid average of 25 books per month in the first half of the year, instead of a measly 24.83.
But, alas. I would certainly have exploded.
Anyway, as I was updating my spreadsheet with the 149 titles I did read from January to June, I noticed a few worthy titles I hadn't blogged about, so before I get to my July books, I want to talk about them.
First up, Geraldine Brooks's latest, Caleb's Crossing. I am a huge fan of Brooks, who astounds me with the breadth and scope of her subjects. Being anywhere in her vicinity guarantees me that I will be completely transported, and lose all track of my real life. And she never takes me to the same place twice. In this instance, it was Martha's Vineyard in the 1600s, when young settler Bethia's independent spirit and vast curiosity lead to a furtive and world-opening friendship with a Wampanoag chieftain's son who becomes known to her, and eventually to the world, as Caleb. The novel is based on the slim information available about the life of the real Caleb, who graduated from Harvard in 1665 - the first Native American to do so. Bethia writes of stolen knowledge, of the differences and points of communion between cultures, of words and writing and belonging. Brooks returns to these themes regularly, but never runs out of ways to explore them, or things I want to hear her say about them.
Patrick Ness uses a talking dog to immediately immerse YA (and other!) readers into the dystopian world of The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first of the Chaos Walking trilogy. It's eerie, and mysterious, and Todd, who's not quite a man yet, is thrust deep into danger that goes well beyond the crocs and the viruses and the aliens who were displaced when his people moved with never a bye-your-leave onto their world. Ness keeps the tension balanced on a knife-edge throughout, which led to many many nights, while I was reading this to the 11-year-old, of my succumbing to "just one more chapter" and not nearly enough sleep. Probably we should start the second book soon, before summer ends and regular bedtimes become slightly more important.
The Lover's Dictionary, by David Levithan, plays with the definition of "novel." Each alphabetical page is a word, explicated by a man trying to dissect and find the heart of his relationship with his lover. The definitions are brief but telling, each word chosen carefully and building together into a portrait of what is both wrong and right between them. (Levithan also has a Twitter feed with additional definitions, which is a great thing to add to your own feed, should you have such a thing. I'd wager even those who haven't read the book could get the spirit of the thing.) This is a playful, intriguing novel that gets at a truth about love while also changing a bit what you'd expect from the novel form to begin with.