The State of Things: An Update
No Stopping Me Now

Throwing Caution To The Wind

Read With Us

Generally speaking, I'm cautious when it comes to recommending books to other people. I actually don't do it very often, and only if I really, really understand someone else's reading tastes and can match my recommendation to what they may enjoy.

I mean, I'm notorious among people who know me . . . for liking books others don't find appealing. You see, I'm a big fan of the gritty, messy, "hard" books. The ones with ambigous endings. Or books that feature characters without names. Or books with weird punctuation. I tend to appreciate authors that stab you in the heart, and then twist the knife around a bit. Sometimes more than a bit. That kind of thing. (Although I absolutely draw the line at books where animals die or come to harm.)  

So I've learned to be careful about making recommendations.
Because not everyone likes that kind of book.
I often say . . . I loved it. Your mileage may vary.
And people generally get what I'm saying.

Our most recent Read With Us pick . . . 


ummm . . . well. It might fit into that category of books I'm cautious about recommending. It's gritty, and definitely messy. Some people might say it's "hard," (but I'd just say it's life.) The ending is kinda-sorta ambiguous (spoiler alert: everything is not tied into a pretty bow, neat as you please, by the final page). All the characters do have names, and the author uses standard punctuation -- but there is a lot of dialect (which can be somewhat challenging until you get the hang of it). And, yeah. The author definitely stabs you in the heart and twists it around - real good - a few times.

I loved it.
Your mileage may vary.
But I'm going to throw caution to the wind . . . and recommend it to you anyway.
I really do hope you'll pick up a copy and give it a try!

Because Shuggie Bain . . . is definitely a book worth reading. The writing is brilliant, the story compelling. It's completely "readable" . . . despite the dark subject matter. And that . . . is a testament to the mastery of author Douglas Stuart. He writes so tenderly about hurt and damaged people who are just trying to make their way in a world that isn’t helping them at all. You'll care about his characters so much and so deeply, despite their ugliness and all their flaws. It's Powerful Stuff, I tell you.

While not a memoir, author Douglas Stuart did draw upon his own experience as a queer boy growing up in Glasgow with a single mother who struggled with addiction in writing the novel (his first, by the way). NPR's Scott Simon did an excellent interview with Douglas Stuart in November 2020, just days before Shuggie Bain won the Man Booker prize. It's worth a listen -- and at only 6 minutes long, it's quick and easy, too. (Plus, Douglas Stuart's accent is absolutely charming.)

Speaking of accents . . . Much of the book is written in Glaswegian dialect (also known as Glasgow patter) (and I'm not making that up). It doesn't make it impossible to read or understand the book -- I had no trouble getting the meaning through context, but this little Glaswegian Dictionary would have been a helpful reference. I started out reading the hardback version of the book, but before long, I found I really wanted to hear the voices and the dialect, so I grabbed the audiobook version and alternated between reading with my eyes and my ears. I highly recommend this approach, as it added depth to my reading experience.

Although our turnaround time from announcement to discussion is a bit shorter than usual for this book, you've still got plenty of time to read along. We'll be posting our blog book discussion questions on Tuesday, June 8 -- and then we'll be hosting another Zoom book discussion later that same evening at 7:00 pm Eastern time. (I know that makes it early if you're in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, but Bonny, Carole, and I all live in Eastern time -- and we turn into pumpkins if it gets to be too late.) I hope you can make plans to join us for the Zoom. We've had a couple of great discussions now. It's a lot of fun to get together and talk books with blog friends. 

I do hope you'll join us!

I highly recommend this one. . . 
I really do.



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So far you're 100% on recommending books to me (though I realize that doesn't mean a whole lot because you haven't recommended many)! I agree that this was a tough book in terms of the subject matter but so worth reading. I wish I'd had that link to that dictionary while I reading! Most of it I figured out from context, but it would have been useful at the time. I did start to "hear" the dialogue in an accent as I read, but I also think it would be an amazing experience to listen to the book (and that's what I'll do if I ever get the urge to reread it).


Thank you for that dictionary link! I am going to listen to it (and I better get moving on that!)

I gave a re-listen to that Scott Simon interview... he is so good! Thank you for that, I had forgotten about it!


I did like Shuggie Bain, but I can understand how it might be a difficult read for anyone who has lived through a loved one with severe addiction issues.

Based on your self described likes, I will dare to recommend Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. It's a road novel of sorts. Characters do not have names, punctuation in some parts is sparse. It's about immigrant children. And it's about the difficulties in modern family life.

Oh, and right after Shuggie, I read Elmet, another Booker contender which I really loved for the language, the atmosphere, and the story telling, though it's not a happy story.


Yes to all of this. Especially the mastery Stuart has with his characters and presenting them as real, struggling, human beings. You are right that it's a difficult book to recommend in that the subject matter is difficult but the writing is so good, the story so compelling, it's all worth the heart stabs.


I agree and think this is a book well worth throwing caution to the wind! It's funny how each one of us enjoys different things in books, but I rarely enjoy books with happy, neatly-tied up endings, and I definitely want some sort of "life" in a good book. I'm reading Shuggie again for the second time and the Glaswegian dictionary is going to come in handy. Thanks!


This might be a silly question, but how did you keep track of where you were between the pages/audio formats?


It sounds like a book that's going to make for a great discussion...and I so enjoyed being part of the last one! I'm going to sit this one out, though; I don't have the bandwidth at the moment. (which is why I've committed to lighter summer reading this year.) But a good one for my TBR for Later...thanks :)


I'm starting this week! Audio only so far but I'm considering your back and forth suggestion.


Just requested Shuggie Bain from the library. I like "hard" books occasionally, too, although I am a little hesitant about reading dialect. But if the book grabs me, I will endure :)

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