The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro – I’ve never read anything else by this award-winning author, or seen any of the film adaptations of the novels, but the New York Times review for this one intrigued me. It actually wasn’t an especially positive review, but a fantasy set in England shortly after the time of King Arthur seemed interesting. The main characters are an elderly couple named Axl and Beatrice, who, like their countrymen, have forgotten much about their past, and set off in search of their son. Along the way, they meet up with a Saxon warrior and his young squire, as well as Sir Gawain from Arthur’s court. It turns out that the memory loss is due to the fog produced by the dragon Querig, but it’s possible that slaying the dragon and restoring everyone’s memory could ruin the current peace in the land. It’s kind of an odd read, with mystic elements like the dragon, ogres, and a boatman who rows people to an afterlife-like island where everyone remains isolated, yet at the same time seems to be aiming for a sense of realism. The plot isn’t much, but there are some interesting discussions on the value of memory and forgetfulness, Christianity and paganism, and love and devotion. As other reviewers have indicated, the style can be a little difficult at times, but it still held my interest.
You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations, by Michael Ian Black – A humorous autobiographical work by the comedian, focusing on his relationship with his wife and kids, and with growing older in general. My wife read this before I did, and identified with how Michael and his wife were always fighting, but still loved and supported each other. It’s a funny book, but it’s also a comfort to anyone who’s had relationship difficulties (and really, who hasn’t?). It sounds trite, but it’s a refreshingly human work, with Michael expressing his honest feelings on issues like marriage and raising children, without sugar-coating it but also not being overly negative (except for the sake of the occasional joke, of course; he wouldn’t be Michael Ian Black without insulting comic exaggerations).