Practice English Speaking&Listening with: RECENT READS #2 I've read some amazing books recently [CC]

Difficulty: 0

Hey, guys! Welcome to Bookish Islander. My name is Juan. I hope you're doing very well.

Today, I'm here to talk to you about my recent reads!

Do you know the thing that bores me to tears when it comes to fiction? Well that's reading long

drawn-out, explicit graphic descriptions of sexual acts. And I don't care about

the gender identity about the people involved, the characters, involved I don't

care about their sexual orientation... I just find it as boring no matter what no

matter who's involved, no matter what it is. I just find it incredibly dull to

read about sexual encounters in an explicit way. I'm all in favor of reading about

sex. Some of the best books ever written have been about sex but going

into explicit descriptions? It's boring. I'm not making a moral judgment. I don't

care about pornography versus non-pornography. I'm not gonna enter that

debate here. I just find it boring. That's my problem. If I start reading something

and I discover that what I'm reading is the description of a sexual... a very

intricate description of a sexual act, I immediately switched off and I want to

get through it as quickly as possible. And that's one of the problems I had

with this novel Cleanness by Garth Greenwell. This is his latest novel.

He's famous for having written a novel which was published a couple of years

ago called What Belongs to You. I haven't read that one

yet. In fact, when Cleanness came out and people starting

recommending it to me, I thought I would go back and read What Belongs to You

first, but then, you know, there was so much buzz about this novel that I picked

it up and read it and I was very disappointed. However, you know, there are

things that I liked about this novel so let me just give you a little bit of an

idea of what this novel is about without spoiling anything. So, we have a character

who's a young American who lives in Bulgaria, so in former Eastern Europe

and he teaches English. As far as I can tell, it's a contemporary novel.

It's set in this day and age and I'm not sure why he's in Bulgaria of all places, you know

but there's a lot of talk there about that part of Europe, Central or Eastern

Europe and the problems they have particularly with homophobia, homophobic

laws and that kind of thing but only very superficially. That's not really...

It's not an explicitly political novel, I don't think, although there are

elements of it. But what you notice more reading the novel are all the sexual

descriptions. Why? Because this character, this American character, has a few sexual

encounters throughout the novel and he very explicitly tells you all about

them. And, of course, I have no problem with that except that I find it boring.

This novel, however, is not all about sex. You have descriptions of what's going on

with his body but you also have a more introspective view of what's going on in

the mind. And reading this novel I thought that, as a reader, I definitely

prefer when writers talk about minds than when they talk about bodies. So I

don't think this is just about sex. I think I wouldn't enjoy a novel where

people were eating all the time or doing anything physiologically. I think

I prefer, as a reader, and this a very personal thing, I prefer when writers just focus

on what's going on in the minds of the characters more on the psychological

trail of things.

And that brings me to my next book which is Chess Story or The

Royal Game, it's translated as both, by Stefan Zweig. If you follow my channel

you know that I really like Stefan Zweig. He was an Austrian writer from the

beginning of the 20th century. He killed himself in the 1940s while he was in

exile in Brazil. he exiled himself from the Nazi regime and that has to do with

this novel because Chess Story is set onboard a transatlantic that's

going from New York to Buenos Aires. Okay, so onboard that ship you have a doctor

Dr. B (so that's all we get) and he's very tortured, very psychologically tortured

and we know that his being at some point he was held captive by the Nazis.

So, he's fleeing Austria and he's going to exile himself in Argentina. Now, onboard

of that transatlantic ship, there's also the world champion of chess,

someone called Mirko Centovic. Now, Mirko Centovic is still very young

but is a reknown chess player. So, most of the novel is a chess game between

the two and that's all I'm gonna say because anything else I said about this

novel would be a huge, huge spoiler. Now, it's a very short book you can read it

in one afternoon. I do recommend it, but I think I've discovered that I prefer

Stefan Zweig's nonfiction to his fiction and that's funny because, as you probably

know if you follow this channel, I'm more of a fiction reader than I am

of nonfiction reader. But last year I read his book The World of Yesterday and

I loved it and I really want to reread it. I'll probably reread that this year.

I still want to explore some of his fiction, but I think I already know that

I prefer his non-fiction. Next ,there's another European novel but this time a

contemporary one. Well, it was one that was published a couple of years ago.

It's called Strike Your Heart or in French Frappe-toi ton coeur. It's by the Belgian

writer Amélie Nothomb. I'm a big fan of hers but

I've only read a handful of her books. So I'm slowly making my way through her

back catalog. Now, this one is fantastic. Could a mother be jealous, but I mean

deeply jealous, of her own daughter? This is what Amélie Nothomb explores here.

It's a very short novel like all Amélie Nothomb's works. And, in fact, if you're a fan

of her work, you'll find everything you love about her in this book: it's succinct

it goes to the point, it's very dramatic, it has that killer writing. And if you're

not a fan, if you don't know... if you've never read anything by Amélie Nothomb and

you don't know where to begin you, could do a lot worse than to pick up this book

Strike Your Heart because, again, it has everything that fans love about her

writing. So if you want to get a taste of what she's like as a writer, I think

you could do a lot worse than to pick up Strike Your Heart.

Let's stay in France

for a little, I have a couple more contemporary French books

that I want to talk to you about. One of them, like Strike Your Heart, is available

in English translation. The other one isn't but I'm sure it will be soon so

I'm giving you a little taster for something that might become quite big.

Okay? So there's a little bit of an an English language EXCLUSIVE. But, first, let

me tell you about the other book. Okay, so Who Killed My Father

by Édouard Louis. If you've watched my recent videos, you know, I made a video recently

where I talked about Édouard Louis and how much I liked his fiction. He's written three

books. The first book was The End of Eddy

then came History of Violence and then, last year, came Who Killed My Father.

Now, the three books are set in the same universe, with the same characters

They're autofiction or autobiography or however you want to call it!

It's hard to keep up with all the literary terms in vogue but all you need

to know is that he inspired himself in his own life so the main character is a

fictionalized version of himself and then everybody else is his family and

friends. Okay? So, I loved the previous two books and

I recommend them highly. You can read them in any order but I think it's better

possibly to begin with The End of Eddy and then move on to History of Violence

if you like The End of Eddy. Now, Who Killed My Father is a very short book

It's the shortest one of the three. It has the same characters. This time it focuses

on Édouard Louis's father it is a novel, I guess. I don't know, it's hard to

define. I think it works better as a book about sociology and about how the

system and late capitalism in contemporary France (but this could apply

to everywhere else in the West, in the so-called West or the Global North) let

down his father. So how the system and late capitalism let down Édouard Louis's

father. If you've read his previous two novels

Édouard Louis is now a bourgeois Parisian writer, very much in vogue not just in

France but also around the world. But his family come from a little village in the

north of France. So he had a very working-class/rural upbringing and

that's the main subject matter of his novels, you know, particularly the first

one The End of Eddy is about how he moved on or moved away from that rural/working-class

childhood background to a bourgeois, middle-class French

intellectual Parisien background, you know. And it's such an amazing

book I couldn't recommend it any more, any higher. Now, Who Killed My Father is

not as brilliant as the previous two. It's still very good and, you know, I'm a

completist and that's why I read it. And if you've read the other two and want

more then I recommend it. If you've read the other two books, the previous two

books and are okay with that, then you don't really have to read, in my opinion,

Who Killed My Father. And if you haven't read anything by Édouard Louis, don't start by

Who Killed My Father. Go back and read either The End of Eddy or History of Violence.

Okay now it's my English language exclusive: Le Consentement by

Vanessa Springora is the book of the season. It came out only a few weeks ago

in France and it caused a huge scandal. Why? Okay, who's Vanessa Springora,

first of all? Well, she's a young editor. She's, I guess, in her 40s now but when

she was 13,14 years old she had a relationship, a romantic relationship

with a writer called Gabriel Matzneff. Now, Gabriel Matzneff was famous.

He's still famous... it's not like a hugely... He's not a best-selling author

but he's celebrated in the literary... The literary? No.

The literati celebrate him in France. He's written a lot of autofiction, as well

It's such a big thing in France. Everybody knows... everybody has known for decades

that he has had relationships with minors both male and female. He's written

about this. He's made his career writing about it. So it's not like Nabokov

writing Lolita because that's completely fiction. He had

those relationships and then not only did he use those young people for sex

but then he benefitted from those relationships by writing ,sorry, about them

and selling books, you know, and becoming celebrated in the Parisian literary

scene. This didn't cause a scandal. Everybody thought it was amusing and

great, you know. It's so hard to believe but that's the way it really was.

But that all changed with the appearance of Le Consentement

which you can translate literally as The Consent, right?

By Vanessa Springora. So, this book reads like Lolita written by Dolores Haze.

It's amazing, it's eye-opening, it's so frank, it's very well-written and it's caused a

massive scandal. I learned all about it after reading this book because I did

not know who Gabriel Matzneff was. I went down a rabbit hole. I read so many

things I watched so many things on French television about it. I went back

and watched some of his appearances on TV, some of his TV appearances in the

1980s and 90s where he openly talked about having sex with minors and writing

about them and how he "fell in love" with young women and everyone applauded him

or laughed or thought it was great and it's so shocking to see that now but

you know, you think that things have changed but it's only this new book

Le Consentement has changed things and has put this conversation on the table in France.

I think the book is relevant to everyone. Even if you don't know about

the scandal you can read a little bit about it. But even if you don't know

anything, you know, just read the book because it's

you know, it's amazing how she talks about it. How she talks about the

relationship and how people reacted to the relationship and everything that

happened between them in such a clear way, so rational and so clear

that it has a much bigger impact than if she went all melodramatic about it but

she doesn't in this book so I couldn't recommend it... if you can read French

I recommend it and if not, watch out, because I'm pretty sure there will be an

English translation at some point very soon. And the last book that I want to

talk to you about today is A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon

James. Now, why did I read this book? That's a question I asked myself not

just as soon as I finished it but also as I was reading it. Why am I reading

this book? This book was not for me. However, I think it's a really good book

so let me see if I can just explain that, okay? So why did I read it in the first

place? Well, if you follow my channel you'll know that last year

I started a project of reading every single winner of the Booker Prize and

I started with the last decade, with a current decade, well, the last decade

actually now. And so I began with those books and I've been reading them in

order. Now A Brief History of Seven Killings won the Booker Prize in 2015, so

I got to that but it's a very long book and it's a book that I find so hard to

make my way through that it took me several months to finish it. So now

I'm looking forward to moving on to other winners.

You might have thought that I forgot about this project. I didn't. It's just that

this book took me so long and I didn't want to go on with other books until I

finished this. Okay? So what is this book about? Well, as I said, it won the Booker

Prize in 2015, it's a novel, it's a great book. It's about the political violence

in Jamaica in the 1970s -- Marlon James is Jamaican -- so in the 1970s and 1976 that

was all this political drama and violence in Jamaica and there was some

involvement from the CIA so the U.S. interfered with local politics... Go figure!

You know... What? I didn't know that happened? Particularly the 70s, right?

The novel is told in different voices. I struggled with that but I think

it's a brilliant conceit. I think it works really well in this book.

My problem was that I am personally not interested at all in political novels of

this caliber and have no interest in Jamaica. No offense! But I just don't

It's not something that I've thought about or knew about or... And the

book didn't make me care about it. But if you care about Jamaica, or if

you like novels with lots of voices in an intricate structure then

I recommend it because I think it's very well constructed. I think, in fact, it's

it's a tour de force and that's a term that I don't use lightly, people know that.

People who know me... they know that I don't use that term lightly but I think

A Brief History of Seven Killings is quite the literary tour de force.

These are my recent reads. I'm reading lots of interesting books. Go to my

Goodreads page to find out what I'm reading and what I have on my TBR.

I'm also doing some really interesting buddy-reads at the moment so I'll have a lot of

new books to talk about very soon. And you can find more information about all

the books that I discuss in this video in the show notes below. Thanks for

watching. I hope to see you again very soon. Bye bye!

The Description of RECENT READS #2 I've read some amazing books recently [CC]