ARC Review: A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders (2021)

Genre: Nonfiction (Writing Craft)
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop | Libro.fm | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC

This is my first foray into nineteenth century Russian short stories and Saunders’ experience teaching them page-by-page shines through this craft book that is also a specific craft study. Saunders selected works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol to explore how these stories work and the connections between readers and authors.

What really stuck out to me about this collection was the subjectivity of the analysis and the dispersal of advice. Saunders makes it abundantly clear that the reader is allowed to get out of this work what they will. Disagreement with his impressions is encouraged throughout, and he even used the page space to refer to his own evolving relationship with these works. The balance between analysis of each story and more zoomed-out writing advice and Saunders’ own insights play well together, and it kept me engaged from start to finish.

There are definitely bits that I am taking with me as far as the exercises go, and some of the adages of what makes great writing work. A recommended read for people who learn by example (like yours truly).

My 2020 in Reading

I read 153 books this year in a 50/50 split between audiobooks and other formats. Being unemployed helped that along, didn’t do much for me in terms of my mental health. But there were so many good reads consumed and published this year, I had to make two lists. Enjoy!

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November 2020 Reading Recap

In November, I attempted NaNoWriMo, and I did not win. Which is fine. Work was wild. I’m not on any contractual deadline. I read a lot, but I feel like this month had more duds in it than usual. It happens.

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October 2020 Reading Recap

In October, my friends and I went full spooky season and watched a new movie every weekend. By new, I mean, it was a different movie, but it happened to be new to at least one of us every time. Watching movies with friends is nice, don’t you know?

Started a new job this month, so reading has noticeably slowed down. Whoops.

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Review: MY FRIEND ANNA: A True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Book of the Month Club

Content warnings: Alcoholism, suicidal ideation, panic attacksThis tale of toxic friendship and con-artistry opens with the narrator on what should have been an idyllic vacation in Morocco with friends. It quickly turns into a nightmare when credit cards decline and tough financial decisions to prevent more immediate problems arise.

I had vaguely heard of the story of Anna Delvey when it made the rounds on social media. Admittedly, I went into this tale expecting a ruckus tale of rich people shenanigans and extortion. I was pleasantly surprised with what this book actually is.

The level of self-reflection in this work is something else. You can easily see how Williams fell under Delvey’s spell, under the guise of trust that got taken advantage of. The mismatch of friendship expectation made this a slow read for me because even though it’s public knowledge how the cons ended. The pacing when Williams tries to get in touch with the increasingly distant Anna leaps off the page, especially given the plain presentation of their correspondence.

Much quieter than expected, but heart-aching and engaging nonetheless.

October 2020 TBR

Doing something a little different this month: posting about books I recently acquired or have some kind of deadline on reading.

As far as blog posts go, later this month, I’ll be posting about my second bout of burn-out. Riveting.

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September 2020 Reading Recap

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September marked the beginning of autumn, of Revision Season, I celebrated my eight year anniversary with my boyfriend, and made a lot of progress as far as job hunting goes. With that came exhaustion, however, so this month’s recap is a bit lighter than normally. Also Hades dropped and that’s been really good for my creative well.

There were two interviews this month:

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Review: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard (2016)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2016
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Discussions of violence and rape

The depth of my knowledge of ancient Rome starts with a loose understanding of Romulus and Remus, and ends with Shakespeare’s plays.

Beard’s account of Rome’s first millennia is full of colorful characters, dissections of different accounts, and touches on the myriad relics that continue to be found to this day. This book is so easy to listen to. The stories flow into each other and each chapter builds on what came before it. SPQR manages to hold the story of early Rome, while managing to go into depth on certain stories. The fact that this is not a Cliffs notes account of all the politics, intrigue, and conflict is really something to behold.

What really endeared me was how funny it was in places. Perhaps it was my own ignorance, but the dead pan way Beard presents the tales really worked to tickle me. My personal favorites include the truth about the assassination of Julius Caesar and several attempted murders on collapsible boats.

In terms of minor gripes, if you enjoy a plethora of rhetorical questions, this is the nonfiction work for you. Some of them do eventually get answered, if only tangentially. But there is enough material proposed to fill another 500+ page book. In addition, my favorite chapter was the one about the haves and the have-nots. It covers unseen aspects of culture that get overshadowed by the nigh-legendary political stories. This discussion, however, can also cover another 500+ page book.

A fantastic, easy-to-read primer on early Rome with enough material to encompass further exploration and learning.

August 2020 Reading Recap

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Summer is coming to an end, I guess. The autumn equinox doesn’t hit until September 22nd, but we can already get pumpkin spice lattes, so I’m saying summer is over. A few more books read this month. No interviews, but I have so much excitement coming in September. Continue reading