Posted on September 02, 2018 under Books
I was silent on my blog in the month of August because I was working on my dissertation, which is now finished and handed in. That means I’m officially done my Master’s! Anyway, I’m back with one of my favourite types of posts: a book roundup.
I read my thirtieth book in July, thus making my yearly goal less than 60% of the way through the year. Now I’d officially like to match last year’s count of 51 books, though of course if I could get to an even 52 – one per week – I’d be especially thrilled. (Okay, secretly my stretch goal is 60, so let’s say somewhere between 52 and 60 by December 31.) I read 11 books in July and August, bringing my total count to 36 so far.
Slapstick, or Lonesome No More! by Kurt Vonnegut
I have now read nine of Vonnegut’s fourteen novels, so I’m making pretty good progress at getting through his catalogue. I also have a good idea of where different things fall in my personal ranking, and while Slaughterhouse-Five, Mother Night, and Bluebeard still remain my top three, Slapstick is certainly a wonderful demonstration of everything I love about Vonnegut’s writing. Nobody does absurdism better, but Vonnegut manages to retain such an urgent sense of humanity. Slapstick centers on twins Wilbur and Eliza, who were born with a birth defect and who, together, have a singular genius mind. Throughout their lives, they are isolated in various ways – due to their appearances and intellect; through literal exile; thanks to a flu that causes the apocalypse. This novel is much more sentimental than Vonnegut’s work usually is, though I suppose that’s not surprising given that the introduction is about his sister’s death. I will say that this probably isn’t a fantastic entry point for those unfamiliar with Vonnegut’s work, but I certainly enjoyed it. I might even like it better than his best-known absurdist work, Breakfast of Champions.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
I genuinely thought this was going to be a good book and now I’m happy that I only paid a few bucks for it on the Kindle store. Reading this novel, I could clearly picture Albom congratulating himself on producing heavy-handed saccharine drivel masquerading as something heartfelt and inspirational. It’s as though he crammed every sad thing he could think of into one story: war, car accidents, infertility, unresolved parental tensions, children dying… and yet all of it is surface-level, there only to impress upon the reader how profound this book is without ever truly engaging with any of these themes. All of the “deep” “inspiring” “beautiful” life lessons are delivered via dialogue; the reader is not left any room for personal interpretation or revelation but simply force-fed sappy tripe. The section on war was at first promising, but instead of concluding that war is destructive and violent and life-ruining, Albom ended up with a watery version of “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”, a sentiment that was passé by the end of WWI. Throw in advocating for forgiving rapists and child abusers and you’ve got a book that certainly sets my own political consciousness on edge. Regardless, though, I think this is a poorly-written, clumsy novel and I have no idea how it has managed to capture so much attention.
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
Longtime readers will know that historical fiction pre-1900 isn’t a genre that I dabble in frequently. The era of Napoleon’s reign is very far outside of my fictional interests. But for Jeanette Winterson, I can make an exception – especially if the book includes a lesbian romance. Winterson’s writing is exquisitely atmospheric, and she packs in the most gorgeous magical realism. (You may know that while I stay even further away from high fantasy than historical fiction, I am very into magical realism.) It’s a rumination on the human effects of war and the strength of love, and above all a very evocative tale about the ability of passion to both create and destroy.
They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib
Academically, I have always been interested in the study of popular culture. (My undergrad was basically in pop culture studies, and my graduate work has focused primarily on reality television.) Hanif Abdurraqib’s essays so beautifully illuminate why: because popular culture tells us so much about the quotidian, about the personal, about how mass-produced art touches us in profound ways. Abdurraqib does not simply write about music or sports; he writes about being Black and Muslim in America, about love, about loss, about growing up. Pop culture is how he, like so many of us, makes sense of the world and his position in it. He mediates his complex thoughts, his heartbreaks and victories, through pop culture, or perhaps it’s the other way around. It’s no surprise that he’s a poet, though his lyrical prose remains clear and insightful. He just has such a masterful command of language, and so it’s not only a joy to read his thoughts on Fall Out Boy or Serena Williams, it is delightful to marvel at his technical ability. Though he grapples with many unpleasant truths – about premature deaths, about police brutality, about the insidiousness of racism and Islamophobia in their many forms – there is something life-affirming about his writing. He searches for the good while remaining aware of the presence of the bad. It’s exactly the collection of essays that needed to be written in this hellish Trumpian era, and that demands to be felt deeply when we are close to losing hope.
How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS by David France
It is only natural that the LGBTQ community and movement have changed so much since the early days. But it’s also a bit sad that so much history has been forgotten, AIDS only a footnote to so many. This can’t necessarily be attributed to wilful ignorance; of course, the disease decimated a generation of gay men, so many of them incredibly young, and many stories died along with them. This book obviously deals with the unthinkable magnitude of loss; the complicity of the government and scientific community in ignoring, commodifying, and amplifying the crisis; the brutal homophobic rhetoric that the crisis engendered. But it’s also a hopeful book, because it shows us what activism can do. No, HIV/AIDS should not be thought of as something of the past, but it is undeniably true that thanks to the tireless work of scientists and activists – many of whom, it must be recognized, were gay people with AIDS – the life expectancy and quality of life for those with HIV/AIDS have improved dramatically since the early days of the crisis. And so in such a dark and horrible time, I think this book is a necessary reminder of what we can accomplish through meaningful grassroots activism, and that marginalized communities absolutely can advocate for themselves to create change. This book deals with an expansive and emotional topic, and it demands delicate treatment: it must be both meticulously-researched and deeply compassionate. David France, a gay journalist who was involved in early AIDS activism and who personally knew many of the key players, is the perfect author. His writing is packed with information but so engaging, and his ability to personalize the stories of the people who tamed the disease is incredible. This book contains so much humanity within its 515 pages. It’s an important, stunningly-written history.
France directed a 2012 documentary of the same name, which is also great (though far narrower in scope). I also highly recommend the short documentary When AIDS Was Funny, about the Reagan administration’s deafening silence on the crisis as it claimed thousands of bodies.
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
I’ve enjoyed Koul’s Twitter presence and longform content for several years now, and her book is just as funny as I would have expected. Her essays (mostly) center around womanhood and being the first-generation Canadian daughter of Indian immigrants, and her exploration of the complexity of her family dynamics is wonderful. I just wanted there to be a bit more of a wow factor than I found – though perhaps that’s because I read it immediately following two incredible, substantive, emotionally-powerful non-fiction books. I’d still totally recommend this – it’s just not as good as, say, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple, predictable, and repetitive life, but when she witnesses an accident on her way home from work, everything changes and she is forced to confront her loneliness (and her childhood trauma). Eleanor is a hilarious character, with the running gag of the novel being that she is quick to chastise others for their poor social skills even though she is the one behaving in an unusual way. I don’t often come across novels set in Glasgow, and the friendliness and warmth of the supporting characters is very much in line with my experience of Scottish people. (By the way, I have done some calculations and determined that, given that Eleanor lives in the West End and there is only one Tesco Extra in the West End, the book must be referring to the Maryhill Tesco where I did all my shopping.) I think Eleanor’s various eccentricities require a slight suspension of disbelief, and the big reveal at the end was (mostly) easy to piece together – though there is a substantial twist which is then bizarrely not fully explored. It’s a very enjoyable read which strikes a good balance between dark and fluffy, but it’s not without its flaws.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Roy and Celestial have only been married for a year and a half when Roy is convicted of a crime that he did not commit. At first, they try to make their marriage work while he is in prison – but as time goes on, they grow apart, up-and-coming artist Celestial’s cerebral world so far removed from Roy’s reality. But when Roy’s conviction is overturned, he wants to return to their marriage, though Celestial has moved on. Though I wished at times that the book explored the political aspect of the story, Jones’ portrayal of the human cost of racialized unjust incarceration was poignant and believable. All sides were sympathetic, the conclusion realistic and satisfying.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
I picked this up thanks to Elena‘s recommendation, and I’m very glad I did! This novel follows four generations of a Korean family who are displaced to Japan. It spans the better part of the 20th century, and it is clearly meticulously-researched. Above all, this is a novel about the strength and importance of family, particularly in the face of challenges (discrimination, immigration, war, loss). The writing is beautiful; Lee’s ability to capture a particular setting – whether urban or rural, the 1930s or 1980s – is wonderful. I loved the characters; each was distinct and sympathetic though flawed. I think the book tends a bit towards melodrama in certain areas, and I wished that some of the characters’ storylines hadn’t been tied up as an afterthought. But I think that this is an ambitious and beautifully-written book which so evocatively portrays the struggles and triumphs of a single family in a fraught sociopolitical climate.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
This was the inaugural work book club selection. It’s a very quick read and it makes a compelling spectacle, though it’s not particularly well-written. It was pretty clearly written by a man; the descriptions of the female characters were just… very male-gaze-y, and so many of the female characters are vapid, bitchy, class-conscious gossips. I imagine the movie is a lot better: all the joy is in witnessing extreme opulence, and surely a visual medium has the upper hand there. And you don’t even have to slog through sloppy writing to get to it!
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
This is a very difficult book to write about. It’s allegedly about a college student named Phoebe Lin, who in failing to process her recent trauma joins a cult. It’s narrated by her boyfriend, Will, who has recently left his zealous faith. But really this book is mainly about an emotionally-scarred, hot young woman and the boyfriend who is obsessed with the idea of her. It’s almost disappointing that this was written by a woman, as if men haven’t forced this tired narrative on us enough. The book isn’t all bad; it’s thought-provoking and I really can’t fault Kwon for how well she evoked such a dark, uneasy atmosphere throughout. But the explorations of religion and grief seemed quite surface to me, and there were almost no actual details about the cult. I mean, surely we’re all in it for the probing psychological profile of cult members, the tales of scandal that happen within. (I personally find cults second only to serial killers on the morbid fascination scale, so you know I was waiting for it to get juicy.) Maybe I wanted it to be a book that it just wasn’t. That’s also kind of how I felt about Donna Tartt’s A Little Friend. But this book sort of does a similar thing to that one: its summary is a bait-and-switch. If you accept that and take the book for what it actually is, maybe it’s better. Another Donna Tartt reference: the unrealistically pretentious, sinister small-town college student thing does beg comparison to The Secret History, though it’s certainly not at that level. It’s a strange one. Maybe you should read it and make up your own mind.
I predict my next post will feature quite a few books as well, as I recently started a new job with an hour’s commute each way – prime reading time! I have a big stack waiting for me, too.
Posted on July 01, 2018 under Books
Happy Canada Day! We’re now halfway through 2018 (ahhh!) and I’m feeling very good about how this year is going books-wise.
May was a bit of a wash; I was travelling and then preparing for and executing a cross-continental move. But I got back in the swing of things in June, and I think I managed to read a respectable amount. In these two months, I read 6 books, bringing my yearly total up to 25 – which means I’m halfway to 50 halfway through the year. I set a goal of 30 for 2018, so I think it’s safe to say I’ll be meeting that. Since I’m doing so well, I’d be happy if I could stay on pace and meet (or exceed) last year’s total of 51.
Tampa by Alissa Nutting
This book is based on the real-life case of Debra Lafave, who molested one of her fourteen-year-old students. (Generally the media describes Lafave’s in softer terms such as “seducing” her student, because that’s how we talk about female sexual predators, I guess.) It absolutely succeeded in getting me in the head of a pedophile, which ultimately is not a place that I care to be. Celeste’s monologues were very well-written, reminding me a lot of Amy Dunne’s self-righteous, angry narration in Gone Girl. Clearly, Nutting is truly talented, and that talent is what elevates this book above the simple category of “shock value smut”. That said, I don’t think it’s an especially complex novel, and since the subject matter is so stomach-turning it’s not one I’d ever revisit or even recommend to anyone. Needless to say, it has the potential to be incredibly upsetting if not triggering, so please proceed with caution.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I wrote a very scatching review of this book on Goodreads. Here are some of the salient points, though you are very welcome to read the whole thing (as well as some of the other one- and two-star reviews on there, because they’re amazing):
You know those people who use their extensive knowledge of pop culture as a substitute for a real personality? This is the literary equivalent of that. I’m not against a book whose primary function is spectacle over substance; sometimes you just want to be dazzled as a reader. It’s like the cinema of attractions in book form. That’s cool. It’s just that this wasn’t a spectacle that I particularly enjoyed.
[Lack] of incredible writing chops does not necessarily deter me from enjoying a book. A formulaic, predictable plot does, though. Watery social commentary that any half-sentient sixteen-year-old could come up with does. A novel that is packed full of pop culture references but completely lacking in any indication that the author has heard of a single woman in his life does. … Art3mis is afforded the wonderful plot of “Is she hot in real life and will she sleep with our protagonist?” She’s a blatant male fantasy: chock full of all the requisite masculine nerd culture references but a curvy, pretty woman instead of a basement-dwelling man. Wonderful! Emailing Art3mis to warn of imminent danger, Wade charmingly adds “PS – I think you look even more beautiful in real life,” because every intelligent, accomplished woman wants unsolicited, condescending affirmations about her appearance when she’s being hunted down by an evil corporation.
Ready Player One depicts a bleak future, but it doesn’t draw any attention to one of its most disturbing elements: the lack of female influence on the cultural, social, and political landscape. This book is a celebration of a male-dominated nerd canon disguised as an adventure novel slash social critique. If you’re into the male-dominated nerd canon, you might enjoy its spectacle. Clearly, I did not.
Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez
Scarborough is a suburb of Toronto, amalgamated into the city in 1998 by an evil premier who we will not speak of. (I’m not a fan of amalgamation, but that’s another story.) It’s one of the most ethnically diverse areas of Toronto, itself one of the world’s most multicultural cities. Scarborough compassionately and complexly tells the intersecting stories of various low-income people who live in Scarborough. They are all united by a morning literacy programme offered at a local school, with many of the children attending for the promise of free breakfast. Almost all of the characters in this novel are people of colour, and Hernandez’s care and research in representing their cultures and experiences living in Canada is evident. She writes children and adults equally convincingly, affording every character compassion and nuance. The standout character is the literacy programme coordinator Hina, who you just hope is really out there supporting low-income communities, standing up for herself, and just generally being lovely and strong. Though this novel certainly has its fair share of sad – and even heartbreaking – moments, it’s not tragedy porn. It’s simply the story of a community and its resilience. I absolutely love reading novels set in Toronto, and I’m so glad that Scarborough exists to such local acclaim – these are stories that are not often told but that are so important for us all to understand as neighbours. I don’t remember the last time I was so gripped by a book that I read it in one sitting!
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Some of the best modern fiction is being written by Nigerian and Nigerian-American women, and I’m so glad that books like this, Homegoing, and of course Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works are gaining international attention. Under the Udala Trees is about Ijeoma, who comes of age during the Biafran War in the late 1960s. Sent away to be a housegirl for a grammar school teacher and his wife, Ijeoma meets and falls love with a Muslim girl named Amina. While I found the prose a bit stiff at times, the story was beautiful, the character of Ijeoma so richly-drawn and believable. In general I never tire of LGBTQ narratives, but it is true that so many are white and Western. I’m endlessly glad that this book exists, and Okparanta has so much to say about homosexuality in Nigeria, both within the novel and outside it.
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
Some of the best feminist-oriented coming-of-age stories have been produced by Canadian women. Alice Munro is best known for her short stories (she’s won a Nobel Prize!); Lives of Girls and Women is her only novel, though it could be argued that it’s a series of short stories centering on the precocious Del Jordan. Born in the 1930s, Del is raised by an enlightened, progressive mother in the small town of Jubilee, Ontario. The book follows her from age nine to young adulthood as she navigates the social and sexual expectations of a rapidly-changing world. The lives referenced in the title represent the different people Del is throughout the book as well as the different paths she could take. Her mother represents what she would have been reduced to had she been born a generation earlier; her friend Naomi represents the more conventional path taken by women. But Del is not a beacon of feminist consciousness like her mother. She is curious and sharp, but she pushes back against her mother’s progressive politics, looking for something greater than herself but also craving normalcy. She’s a fascinatingly complex character, a very convincing portrait of a young woman in the 1940s and 50s.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
I got it into my head that I want to read all of the books on that fake BBC-endorsed “100 books to read before you die” list, mostly just to say I had but also because there’s probably some good stuff on it. I’m still trying to decide if I should do it or not, and the biggest deterrent is the 50,000 pages of Dickens I would have to read. I thought I’d dip my toes into it and read some of the books I’m actually interested in, and I started with The Picture of Dorian Gray. Obviously I knew the basic story, but hadn’t actually read it. I ended up really liking it – it’s full of drama, intrigue, murder, and hyperbole about how having to watch a bad play is a truly torturous experience… basically everything you need in a late 19th century novel. I thought the character of Lord Henry was the most interesting; though the novel centres around Dorian and all of his soulless indiscretions, Henry is just as terrible – and he hasn’t even sold his soul for eternal youth. Of course, the dramatic tension of the plot was enough to reel me in, but it’s also a fascinating character study.
Out of the six books I read in May and June, there was only one I really disliked – all the others were very enjoyable. Can’t complain too much about that!
Posted on May 05, 2018 under Books
Well, I’m pleased to announce that in the first third of the year I’ve shot past the halfway point. In March and April I read 8 books, for a total of 19. I’m well on my way to my goal of 30 in 2018 – it appears that I may have underestimated myself.
The Problem That Has No Name by Betty Friedan
Another £1 Penguin Modern volume! This one contains two chapters from Friedan’s seminal sociological study The Feminine Mystique. The first is the most interesting to me – it’s about how housewives, promised fulfilment through marriage and childrearing, are actually bored, exhausted, and dissatisfied. As you may know from reading some of my older book posts, I have a (very niche) interest in narratives about women developing inexplicable psychosomatic disorders as a result of the drudgery of housewifery, so you can see why this section was of particular interest to me. In fact, many of the housewives Friedan studied did develop symptoms such as hives and exhaustion. The second essay in the book traces the history of American first-wave feminism, as Friedan ultimately argues that in the 1960s there was a regression after women won the right to pursue education and work. Friedan’s writing is urgent and compelling, making it quick to devour these two essays.
Of course, women now commonly go to university and develop successful careers, so we have to reframe Friedan’s work. Studies have shown that women are no more happy than we were in an era of fewer freedoms – so now we’re left to wonder if we’re better off “having it all”. Womanhood still seems tinged with ennui. It’s interesting to meditate on this even though the context has changed so much since the publication of The Feminine Mystique!
The Red Tenda of Bologna by John Berger
I will read anything by John Berger. His writing has a lush, dreamlike quality; I really felt like I was walking through Bologna as I read this essay about memory, family connections, and art. It’s not often I come across non-fiction writing that is so evocative and sensual. Berger is best-known for the second essay in the volume Ways of Seeing (which featured in an earlier post), but I’d highly recommend his other writing as well. I’m not a massive reader of non-fiction (and read pretty exclusively in the genres of feminist/pop cultural analysis), but Berger’s writing is far from dry and straightforward.
Fame by Andy Warhol
Warhol’s writing has such a levity – he doesn’t take anything too seriously, and he injects a lot of dry humour into his essays. I don’t always agree with the conclusions he reaches, but he has such an interesting way of framing things that I found myself nodding along anyway. I took an anthropology class in my undergrad where basically every assignment was about making visible social norms and values that are so engrained that we don’t question them. I feel like Warhol’s essays do this a lot, casting things that we take for granted as absurdities in a quest to make new meaning. Though I’m quite familiar with a lot of Warhol’s work (as a sentient adult human and as someone who did a degree in pop culture), I’d never read any of his essays before. I think I understand his artistic point of view better now. And now I really want to go watch Lou Reed’s screen test on a loop because it’s so good and also I love Lou Reed and wish he were still on this plane of existence.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
I was really excited to read this book, because Seanan McGuire is the real name of one of my favourite contemporary writers, Mira Grant. Grant is the pseudonym McGuire adopts when writing the most badass, exciting, twist-y, fun sci fi. (Seriously, the Newsflesh series is so good, and I’m not a sci-fi or zombie novel person.) Unfortunately, I may not get on with her urban fantasy persona quite so well. Now, I will disclose upfront that I don’t read much fantasy in general and particularly little urban fantasy. But I am willing to give anything a chance, really; I’m not a genre snob. And the premise of this series is wonderful: it’s about children (predominantly girls) who find doors to other worlds. Each kid seems to find a different world, ranging from the underworld to fairy nations to lands filled with candy. Each world is exactly what they need: an escape, tailor-made to their needs. Many of the kids who return to the “real” world are despondent and wish they could go back, so the elderly Eleanor West (who spent many years in her own world) creates a boarding school to help rehabilitate them. There’s something about finding a secret doorway to another world that just appeals to my inner child. But the payoff in this novel is just nonexistent: the dialogue sucks, the characters aren’t well-developed, and the pacing is off. I figured out the identity of the serial killer at the heart of the plot way before it was revealed, which was disappointing because Mira Grant’s novels have the best twists. I won’t be continuing on with this series, but as long as Grant continues pumping out Newsflesh novellas I will eat them up.
Feedback by Mira Grant
Speaking of which…! I’m a huge fan of the Newsflesh series – it’s about political bloggers who find themselves wrapped up in a sinister government conspiracy in the zombie-infested America of 2040. Feedback, the fourth novel in the series, follows a different group of political bloggers. It retains a lot of Mira Grant’s signatures: a badass female heroine; an incredibly thorough consideration of the ways society has changed in response to the zombie outbreak of 2014; a lot of fun action (and less fun death). But Grant had a lot to live up to because the original trilogy boasts some of the most enjoyable action characters of all time as well as truly mindblowing twists. I don’t think Feedback quite hits the mark: only the narrator, Aislinn, is fully-developed, and even then she’s basically just an Irish version of Georgia Mason from the original series. The action wasn’t as twisty and fun, either. Some of the impact of the major character deaths was mitigated somewhat by the fact that, well, I was expecting a lot of destruction since I’ve read the original trilogy and am very aware that Grant will kill basically anyone. It’s still a really fun novel, but at 500+ pages I was expecting a little more oomph.
Coming To You Live: A Newsflesh Novella by Mira Grant
… and then this is exactly what I want out of the Newsflesh world. Shaun and Georgia Mason remain the most enjoyable action protagonists ever and this novella gives us a new high-stakes situation instead of rehashing more of the same. This will have little appeal to those who haven’t read the original series, but for longtime fans it’s a nice way to spend a little more time with these awesome characters.
The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
I wasn’t expecting anything incredible out of this novel, but I managed to go in totally unspoiled, which helped a lot. It’s a solid, enjoyable thriller if you don’t use too much brainpower on it. The writing isn’t great, the identity of the killer was pretty obvious (at least to me, and I rarely figure these things out), and without the train voyeurism angle it’s a pretty standard plot. But I thought the character of Rachel was pretty interesting, and the book takes a kind of feminist-adjacent angle that was mildly compelling if not in any way politically radical. In terms of female-fronted thrillers I think Gillian Flynn will always take the cake, but I read this novel while on vacation and I think that’s a pretty good time for it. It’s a quick, easy, and fun read, in any event.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Finally, after years of trying to find a copy of this book to no avail, Aisling hooked me up! A few people told me they enjoyed Burton’s second novel, The Muse, quite a bit more, but I have to say I love both. I understand the criticisms of The Miniaturist, but at the end of the day I was totally sucked in. I can’t remember the last time I devoured a 400-page book so quickly and eagerly; it didn’t lag at all. I loved the story and the characters, and the world felt so rich and complete. I saw certain things coming, but other major plot points came totally out of the blue even though in retrospect there were plenty of hints dropped. Altogether, I think it was a cleverly-plotted and incredibly compelling novel. I’ll eagerly read whatever Jessie Burton puts out next – her novels are the perfect blend of clever and readable.
I have about nine days left in my European travels (in Copenhagen right now, leaving for the Faroe Islands tomorrow), and the days have been so packed that I haven’t had too much opportunity to read. But I’m hoping the second half of May and all of June will be fairly fruitful, although I do have a dissertation to write between now and September. I’m definitely on pace for 30 books in 2018, though secretly I’d like to do 50 again. We’ll see!