Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Why You Should Read With Us: Young Mungo

I'm here today to give you some reasons why I think you should Read With Us. I'm literally doing this with a list. Here, in no particular order, are five good reasons to consider reading Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart. 

1.  I don't mean to speak for everyone, but many of us loved Shuggie Bain so much that we were very anxious to read Douglas Stuart's second novel. I've read reviews that call Young Mungo "a followup" and to me that makes it sound like a sequel. It is most assuredly not, and you can read this one whether you read Shuggie Bain or not. 

2.  I have read very few bad reviews of Young Mungo. Yes, there are a few on Goodreads (55 one- and two-star reviews out of 58,365) but I disagree with some of the points they have tried to make. One said the "writing style was too wordy and descriptive", but Stuart's accomplished prose is one of the reasons I appreciate the book so much. Another complaint was that the characters speaking in their Glaswegian dialect was "too thick to read effortlessly." It may require a little more effort to intently read and/or listen, but I would argue that any extra effort required is worthwhile. Some readers have said that the book jumps around between two timelines too much. I'm not often a big fan of a story told in a non-linear fashion, but even I can figure out the timeline in Young Mungo, with chapters clearly identified as "The May After" and "The January Before".

3.  It's not another book about nuns! 

4.  Young Mungo is about much more than poverty and misery. Stuart has replied to critics who have called his writing "poverty porn" by saying, "That phrase tells poor people that they don’t deserve to write about their own existence truthfully. People from the middle classes never have that leveled against them. It’s never hummus porn, or baba ganoush porn, it’s just literature. All that kind of banter does is silence anyone who wants to write with clarity about poverty.” One reviewer said that Young Mungo was "nothing but non-stop misery". Stuart says, "I didn’t know people felt that way. I understand I’m writing about tough lives, but I don’t see my books as miserable at all.” While it's nice to imagine the world as a place filled with rainbows and cute puppies, not everyone gets to live there, and I would rather read something filled with honesty and truthfulness. 

5.  This quote from Nasim Asl from Books From Scotland may be the best reason of all: "Despite the hardships and horror, the fear and danger present in the novel, Stuart has captured what it is to love, in all its complex glory – and more importantly, what it is to hope."

Our Read With Us book discussion day is scheduled for Tuesday, June 7 (six weeks away so you've still got plenty of time). Kym, Carole, and I will each post discussion questions on our blogs that day, and then at 7:00 pm Eastern time zone, we'll be hosting a live book discussion on Zoom. I think the book is wonderful (so far) and the discussions are always educational and fun, so I hope you'll come along and Read With Us!


  1. LOL - #3 cracks me up (I would like a sequel to Agatha of Little Neon though). Good news! I received notice yesterday that Young Mungo was at my library waiting for me to pick it up. I did so pronto. Haven't started yet...but plan to do so today!

  2. Those are five very good reasons to read Young Mungo (with us), Bonny! I actually haven't started reading it yet (I thought I'd start a little closer to our discussion this time around, so it would all be "fresher" in my mind when we meet. . . ), but I can't wait to dive in! XO

  3. These are 5 amazing reasons to read Young Mungo! And I would add a 6th... because the ending filled me with such incredible joy! I am about to begin my second read of Young Mungo... this time reading with my eyes and my ears... and I am excited to see what I pick up on this reading!

  4. Well, you had me at number 3! ;-)

  5. As much as I would like to read with you, you have not picked a book I am interested in reading. I have nothing negative to say about the nature of the book or the author, just that I have enough misery in my own life to want to spend any time reading about it in someone else's life. Enjoy your read and discussion!

  6. Those are great reasons but I have to admit that the critics of this make me roll my eyes. It's called real life, people, and we're all in it.


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