What to Read Next (No. 261): Recent Book Club Winners
"Piranesi" and "Tomorrow and Tomorrow Tomorrow"
Happy Friday, readers!
How’s your week going? Here in the Denver area, we’ve had snow on the ground for much longer than usual and the cold temps seem to be sticking around. So I’ve been getting a lot of reading done, including jumping headfirst into James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series. Before I share more 2023 reads with you though, I have a couple more from 2022 to get to.
So this week I’m featuring our two most recent book club selections, both of which earned high marks from almost the entire group. One of them was easy to include in my 2022 favorites list and the other wasn’t too far behind.
As always, I’d love to hear what you’re reading! Let me know in the comments.
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Books of Titans Podcast
Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with Erik Rostad, host of the Books of Titans podcast. We mostly talked about how to read more books, our own reading routines, and also why we read. Follow Erik’s project of reading “the great books” and give this episode a listen:
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
The books I enjoy the most are consistently the hardest for me to write about. I don’t want to oversell it, but I do want to accurately convey how much I loved the reading experience. Without further preamble, let me just say that Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow was easily one of my favorite reads of 2022.
What I’ve been telling people is that it’s a novel about video games that’s not actually about video games. Sam and Sadie have been friends since childhood, when they bonded over video games (Oregon Trail!) after meeting in unfortunate circumstances at a hospital. Their relationship ebbs and flows over time, as most friendships do, and they eventually end up making video games together — and not slasher games, but artsy games full of meaning and wonder.
Again, though, it’s less about the games themselves and more about the art, the creative process, the friendship, the business, and the roller coaster ride that ensues between those things.
What makes it so impressive is the leap Zevin took between previous projects and this one. I read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, which was really nice, but fairly basic and predictable in its style and storytelling. Jane read Young Jane Young and wasn’t all that impressed.
But both of us were delightfully surprised with the stylistic and narrative growth of Zevin in Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. There are a couple places where she goes off-script with the format in really unique ways, which is always a bold choice, but it worked surprisingly well.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a beautiful story about finding your way in and through life. Sam, Sadie, and Marx are going to stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve already read it!
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Though I really liked Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, it was looong. The style was quite enjoyable, but sometimes hard to swallow over the course of 900+ pages. So when I heard her second novel was under 250 pages, I was excited to revisit her work in a tighter, more compressed package.
Piranesi starts by dropping the reader into a confusing, unknown world: the House. The House has 3 floors, a number of halls going off in opposite directions, and seemingly infinite rooms and statues. A sea laps at the bottom floor and can even interrupt the entire ecosystem of the House when the tides align.
Piranesi, our (human) main character, is one of just two living residents. In partnership with “the Other,” he’s on a never-ending search for “the Great and Secret Knowledge” that would give their existence more meaning.
Slowly and consistently, Clarke drops little clues about this world we’ve been dropped into. Sure enough, the puzzle begins to come together — and once I realized it was coming together, I couldn’t put the book down.
Honestly, to say anymore about the plot is unnecessary and would only serve to either confuse you more or give you too many hints.
What you need to know is that Susanna Clarke’s allegorical dreamscape of a novel is that it might take you a bit to get into, but the payoff is well worth it. The less you know going into it, the better.
I loved the final pages, and especially the last line. I’m giving this one 4.5 stars.
That’s all from me this week! Thanks so much for the time and attention. I sure appreciate it.