One of the main reasons I started a book blog was because if I didn’t write anything down about the books I read, I would forget them, quickly and entirely. I still have a terrible memory, but now at least I can look back and remember a few vague impressions of a book I read a year or more ago. Without writing, reading starts to feel a little pointless, nothing more than fleeting entertainment, in one ear and out the other with no brain growth happening in between.
The problem is, sometimes I finish a book and don’t have much to say. This is especially true of books I like but don’t love. They’re solid reads, perfectly serviceable and worthy of recommendation, but I struggle to come up with a few paragraphs’ worth of enticement for other readers.
So in the interest of not letting those good-but-not-great books go to waste, here are a few mini-recommendations. Who knows, tastes are different from person to person—maybe one of these will be a home run for you.
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
A weird little ghost story with a love story in it. Or is it a love story with a ghost story in it? A ghostlove story. Anyway, it’s dark and atmospheric, playful and warmer than you think it’s going to be by the end. I could see the creativity and achievement in it, but after I finished it, I just kind of shrugged and moved on to the next book on my list.
Life Without a Recipe by Diana Abu-Jaber
I’ve been on a memoir kick lately, and this one is sweet and poignant and full of baked goods. Abu-Jaber writes about her complicated relationships with her German grandmother and Arab father, who were almost always at odds with each other and influenced her life in equal, if competing, ways. It's also the story of her roundabout route to marriage (third time's the charm) and motherhood (domestic infant adoption when she was well into her forties). This is the kind of memoir that's less a recounting of events than it is a smattering of reflections on life. Abu-Jaber's voice is charming, but I didn't come away with any big revelations or experience any of that memoir-catharsis I so love.
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
I love Roxane Gay, and I wanted to like this book a whole lot more than I did. What I’m learning about myself, though, is there are certain topics that I just don’t want to read about, and books that deal with those topics, even if they’re by an author I really respect, probably aren’t going to be for me. When I read the publisher's blurb, I wasn't sure it was the kind of book I could handle: a woman is kidnapped and held for ransom while visiting her parents in their native Haiti. But I pushed my squeamishness aside, because hey, it’s Gay’s first novel, and it had great reviews across the board. Now, having read the book, I know I need to listen to myself better. I don’t have to force my way through difficult books out of some weird sense of duty or martyrdom. And of course, everybody's different. If you have a strong stomach when it comes to violence, you might find An Untamed State a compelling read.