August Reads – a roundup of the fiction I’ve read this month

This month, I’ve been catching up on a lot of much needed reading time, picking up a novel that I’ve wanted to read for years, and a few random finds from the local book store. I’ve always found maintaining a regular reading habit to be something of a struggle. But the last couple of months that seems to have changed. I have a lot more time on my hands nowadays, I guess, and there is less noise around me (both in a literal and an abstract sense).

The book that I’d wanted to read for a long time was Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous. I started the month with this short novel, which was published back in 2006. A few years ago when I started my masters degree, a few of my fellow students mentioned this book, as they were using it for their research for their own creative writing projects. I recall somebody telling me it was a disturbing read, and while I’ll admit there are a few unpleasant scenes in this book, I wouldn’t go as far as to call it disturbing, or anywhere close. The story reads like a confessional, a long letter or a series of journal entries. The protagonist (and presumably the author himself, considering he chose to remain anonymous) recounts his sordid sexual encounters. He admits that what he got off on was hurting people, not physically, but rather mentally. He enjoyed enticing people, luring them into relationships by making them fall in love with him, and when he had them in that sensitive state, he would break their hearts just for sport. I won’t provide any overt spoilers, but suffice to say his sadistic tendencies transpire to be not just a one-way affair.

The second book I read, which took me a long time to do so, was the 1971 horror novel, Hell House by Richard Matheson. I thoroughly enjoyed this classic haunted house novel, complete with many classic tropes and it’s own unique blend of twists and turns. There were some incredible stand out scenes in this book, and while I wouldn’t say that the narrative was in any way groundbreaking (although it may well have been when it was first published), it is well worth a read simply for the character development and some of the individual visual scenes.

Next, I moved onto The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan. This short thriller was without doubt my favourite out of the three that I’ve read so far. It was moody, atmospheric, drawing me in like a somber ballad about love and death. The author’s writing style is lyrical, at times poetic, but by no means too overt so as to be pompous. Again, there was nothing groundbreaking about the story itself, but O’Callaghan’s ability to capture time and place, and retain a low rumble of tension throughout the entire novel, made it one of my favourite reads in a really long time.

The book that I’m currently reading is Tender is the Flesh by Argentinian author, Agustina Bazterrica. I’m currently halfway through this dystopian masterpiece, and I’m loving every minute of it. At first, I found the prose a little bit difficult to adjust to, as there is a clear disconnect between the reader and protagonist. However, as the story has gone on, I’ve begun to realise that this has been doing for intentional effect. I’m especially enjoying this book because its themes are similar to the novel I wrote called Like Pigs. My lovely girlfriend recommended this book to me, because she’d heard great things about it. She bought it for herself but I managed to pick it up to read before she did!

I’m not sure what I’ll pick up to read after I’m done with Tender is the Flesh, but I definitely want to continue with the unnerving theme that I went into this month with. I’m already feeling spooky, like it’s Halloween already, so I’ll probably be reading horror books and thrillers for the next few months!

I’d love to hear in the comments what everybody else has been reading. Are you feeling the Halloween spirit already? Or do you think I’m crazy, because Halloween is so far away? Let me know!

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