Books I Read in April

I started reading several books in April but I didn’t finish any of them. Usually, when I have a compelling book on the go, I look forward to getting the time to read a few chapters in the evening. But my well of reading matter has run dry and I need to stock up on good books.

The first book I started reading last month was The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing. I received a free digital copy from the publisher (Canongate Books in the UK) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Lonely City cover

The premise of the book centres around a time in Olivia Laing’s life when she finds herself alone in New York after a bad break-up, having moved from the UK to be with her American boyfriend. Despite being surrounded by millions of people, loneliness in the city can be at its most acute.

“The city reveals itself as a set of cells, a hundred thousand windows, some darkened and some flooded with green or white or golden light. Inside, strangers swim to and fro, attending to the business of their private hours. You can see them, but you can’t reach them, and so this commonplace urban phenomenon, available in any city of the world on any night, conveys to even the most social a tremor of loneliness, its uneasy combination of separation and exposure” (Quote source: Goodreads)

Laing explores her own state of intense loneliness by reporting on the lives of iconic artists who also experienced ‘the lonely city’, from Edward Hopper to Andy Warhol. I was most interested in Edward Hopper, and reading this book led me to Google him to see the paintings which Laing describes.

But I wasn’t compelled by all of her artist subjects; I started skimming through the chapters on David Wojnarowicz and Henry Darger. I confess I hadn’t heard of these two artists before opening the book, and their art does not appeal to me. In fact, I found aspects of it grotesque and disturbing.

frank-kohntopp-130291 resized

The book didn’t match up to my expectations. I was hoping for a much deeper exploration of this period of the author’s life, but her reflections on her own experience in ‘the lonely city’ are relatively concise compared to the lengthy elaborations on the artists. It feels, as one reviewer said, as though Laing is keeping back some aspects of her own experience. Laing’s writing is well-constructed and it isn’t a bad book; it just didn’t compel me to keep reading.

The other books I started reading in April were The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell and Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m still reading the McCall Smith book. It’s a light, amusing read set in a privileged middle-class corner of Edinburgh, but it isn’t really satisfying my craving for a compelling, literary plot.

What should I read next? If you have any recommendations, let me know! What have you been reading recently?

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10 thoughts on “Books I Read in April

  1. That’s a bummer about The Lonely City, since I remember you were quite excited to read it (and I was quite excited for you to finish so you could give me your thoughts on it haha). It’s a shame the author didn’t delve too deeply into her own experiences since that definitely would have made it much more compelling and relatable as well, perhaps. I’ve been on a fiction reading spree over the last few weeks, which is very rare for me nowadays. I finished The Wedding Shroud a few weeks ago, which had been a Prime Reading selection. It takes place in ancient Roman times and it was a fun, if occasionally frustrating, read. It’s part of a three-book series so I eagerly started the second, only to have my enthusiasm and investment in the characters wane. There’s only so much angst and war I can take in a story before it starts boring me. I might pick it up again but for now, I’m sticking to rereading my old favorites for the millionth time. 😉 Hope you have a good week ahead!

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    • Yes, it’s a shame it wasn’t what I expected. Taken literally, its subtitle ‘Adventures in the Art of Being Alone’ accurately describes it. It’s really about loneliness in art. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I was more interested in the artists Laing focuses on.

      The Wedding Shroud sounds intriguing, but it annoys me when I lose interest in the characters of a book. When that happens, I kind of feel like there isn’t much point in continuing to read it haha.

      Sticking with old favourites sounds like a good plan! 🙂

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  2. I totally get in reading dry spells, too. It’s such a bummer, but I am always happy to get back into a good book. The premise of The Lonely City sounds good, but I can see where it would be hard to connect with the artists, etc.

    As for books, I’m currently reading Dog Crazy by Meg Donahue and it’s a cute, lighthearted read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dog Crazy sounds like a really cute read.
      I just got a new book ‘The Secret Language of Dogs’ by Victoria Stilwell. It looks really interesting – I think you’d enjoy it! I’ll post a review when I finish reading it. 🙂
      Talking of dogs, I’m typing this comment with Aimée snoring on my lap. Too cute! 🐾

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  3. Just read (!) a murder mystery I found in our apt. bldg’s laundry room — not my normal read. It was OK. Too many characters. Read Roxane Gay’s collection of short stories “Difficult Women”…also OK but nothing that amazed me. I enjoyed her essays, Bad Feminist, more.

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    • Murder mysteries aren’t usually my go-to books either. I like intentionally reading books outside my ‘normal’ genres though.

      I just finished “My Name is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout. Really enjoyed that. Now reading a non-fiction account of the Durrell family, “The Durrells in Corfu” by Michael Haag. Gerald Durrell’s “My Family and Other Animals” is one of my favourite books. I was disappointed by the recent TV adaptation of it though – they fictionalized a lot of it and left out most of the book.

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        • It certainly made me want to revisit Greece. 🙂 IMO the first series was better than the second, which I finished watching at the weekend.

          I was surprised that the scriptwriter missed so much out of the book and made their own storylines up instead. So many scenes in the book are comedy gold!

          I’m finding it interesting to learn more about the real Durrells. Have you read any of Lawrence (Larry) Durrell’s books?

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