Six Degrees of Separation – from Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness to Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme first created by Annabel Smith & Emma Chapman, and now continued by Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest. The aim is create a chain of six books stemming from one designated book. That designated book is announced monthly, and the books can be linked in various ways.

This month’s chain starts with Ruth Ozeki’s most recent book The Book of Form and Emptiness, which I have not yet read, but the synopsis tells me that this is a book that features “a large public library” at some point, and this brings me to Edith Wharton’s classic novella Summer. This book is about Charity Royall, a seventeen-year old girl who was once adopted by a prominent lawyer in a small town of North Dormer. She lands a coveted role of a librarian at her local library and there meets a promising architect and potential suitor Lucius Harney. Edith Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921, becoming the first woman to do so, and 100 years on, Louise Erdrich also did so for her novel The Night Watchman, which won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize. This rather personal-to-the-author novel is set in the 1950s and follows the lives of North Dakota’s Native American population – the Chippewa tribe. The story focuses on a US Senator’s attempt to undo the protection enjoyed by the native tribe through the so-called Termination Bill.

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The “Six in Six” Challenge

The Six in Six meme or, as I call it, challenge, was first proposed and designed by The Book Jotter and now is in its tenth year. This is a challenge to list six bookish categories (the range of categories on offer is immense and can be found here), and, within each, to list six books that answer the question. The idea is that the books selected should reflect the blogger’s reading material of the past six months. As you can see below in my answers, I do not read many new releases and have included non-fiction books alongside fiction. The books listed are in no particular order and, apart from the “movie” categories below, were read by me in the past six months.

I. Six books I have read but not reviewed:

On Parole (1988) by Akira Yoshimura – Though not as good as the author’s Shipwrecks (1982), On Parole is still a thought-provoking book and a penetrating look at one man recently released from prison and trying to adjust to a society he longer recognises. The book was also loosely adapted into a film of 1997 (The Eel), which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The House on Mango Street (1984) by Sandra Cisneros – This tale is from a little girl, Esperanza, originally from Latin America, who feels uncomfortable living where she does, in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood of Chicago. The merit of the book is the true voice of a child trying to make sense of the world around her.

Butcher’s Crossing (1960) by John Williams – John Williams may be known for his novel Stoner (1965), but he also has other good books beside it. Butcher’s Crossing follows one inexperienced young man circa the 1870s who leaves his comfortable surroundings and education to travel to one forgotten spot on earth – Butcher’s Crossing, Kansas. He soon befriends a local buffalo hunter and walks out to seek adventure in the open, but will he find what he is looking for? This novel has beautiful descriptions of nature and reminded me of Mayne Reid books featuring buffalos which I used to read as a child, but it is also said to be influenced by the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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10 Books On My TBR I’m Avoiding Reading

I spotted this meme at Kath Reads (it was created by The Broke and the Bookish), and decided to also post my answers to it. We may be avoiding reading certain books on our TBR lists for a variety of (rational and not-so-rational) reasons. We may feel that we simply must be in the right mood for certain books or have enough time in our planners to finish really heavy tomes. Below are ten books from my TBR list which I have been avoiding reading because (i) they are too big and/or complex; or (ii) I receive conflicting messages whether I would love them; or (iii) I want to love them, but I am afraid I will not (for example, because I loved an author’s previous work), etc.

I. 2666 [2004] by Roberto Bolaño  

The sheer size and complexity of 2666 mean that I keep avoiding reading it. Bolaño’s last book is 1126 pages’ long, and its themes are manifold. It talks about ongoing murders of women in one violent city, but also touches upon the World War II, mental illness, journalism and the breakdown of relationships and careers, among other themes – a monumental work, in many respects.

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