Tag Archives: book roundup

Book Roundup #9

8 Aug

“Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Adichie seems to get more famous by the day. First for her amazing novel “Americanah” , then because Beyonce quoted one of her speeches on feminism in her song “Flawless.” The woman is a feminist leader, an icon, but above all, she’s an incredible writer. This is one of her earlier books, set during Nigeria’s civil war in the 1960’s. Her characters are vivid and complex, and every word is strung with beauty.

“This was love: a string of coincidences that gathered significance and became miracles.”

“Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion Another book about the 1960’s. This is a collection of Joan Didion’s essays from that time. Didion spent the 60’s living in California and writing about the hippie movement in San Francisco and about the younger generation. It’s interesting to think that these are the people that are now the older generation and to read a lot of the criticisms about them are similar criticisms about my generation. Lazy and too idealistic. Too caught up in a movement to think about the greater realities of the world. Spoiled American children. How quickly some seem to forget history and their own experiences.

“Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee-A Look Inside North Korea” by Jang Jin-sung Another memoir of a survivor from North Korea. I can’t get enough of the hermit kingdom. Jang Jin-sung was a high official in the North Korean government under Kim Jong-Il, writing propaganda poems. He was commissioned to write an epic poem and asked to return to his hometown to do some research. When he arrived, he saw how his family and neighbors were starving and suffering. Upon returning to Pyongyang, he lends a ultra-classified book to a friend. His friend loses the book on the subway, and the two decide they have to escape North Korea or else they will be sentenced to life in prison for sharing the book. This memoir differs from the other ones I’ve read in that it takes place mostly in China as Jang Jin-sung and his friend hide from the authorities and depend on other North Korean defectors to help them. Obviously, they make it out and escape to South Korea. But it seems that it was mostly luck, and it’s sad to think about how many don’t have that same luck.

“Hour of the Bees” by Lindsay Eager My librarian sister also studied Children’s Literature while earning her Master’s in Library Science. She has always been a fan of young adult and children’s literature and passes her favorites onto me. I wouldn’t say this is one of her favorites, but we were on vacation together and she lent this to me to read on the plane home. Most readers have the habit of thinking of young adult and children’s literature as dull and puerile. But there is a lot of good, introspective work being produced, and I’m glad my sister can open my eyes to that on a regular basis. This book was about a young girl in New Mexico whose family spends a summer on a ranch with her ailing grandfather. She learns about her past, about her family, and about the value of home. It was a quick read but entertaining nonetheless.

“Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman” by Stefan Zweig I became fascinated with Marie Antoinette a couple of years ago when I was visiting Versailles with a friend, and we both realized that we didn’t actually know the details of her life besides the sensational. “Let them eat cake.” She was beheaded. She wore huge wigs. But what else was there? This is a great biography of her, because (as it suggests in the title), she was an average person. She had nothing inherently special about her, good or bad. She was born into wealth and royalty and was married off for political reasons. She was spoiled as some wealthy people are and had no sympathy for the poor, because it was a part of society she never saw and never understood. This book paints her as a person who was caught up in history, in the changing fortunes of empires, and came to represent what was wrong in a greater political system. It was a great read that delved into the history of the French revolution which never ceases to be interesting.

Book Roundup #8

13 Jun

The last month has been ROUGH, friends. A lot of difficulties and frustrations seemed to be coming out of every nook and cranny of my life. And I definitely had my share of meltdowns and crying jags. But through it all, friends, family, and co-workers all rallied to my side, offering comfort, support, and help. And knowing I have that, made all the troubles in the world seem much smaller.

It’s also been a rough go of reading the last couple of weeks. A couple of amazing books that I rushed through, and a couple that I couldn’t even finish.

FOUR BOOKS I DIDN’T FINISH

I hate not finishing a book. It’s quitting at its worst. But when I’m stuck in a book that I’m not enjoying, I end up thinking of the millions of amazing books that exist in the world. It’s a tragedy that I can’t possibly find time to read them all in my lifetime, so why waste time on something I’m not enjoying. Sometimes it’s necessary to cut the losses and move on. Otherwise reading becomes a chore instead of the pure pleasure that it can be. So these are the books I abandoned.

  1. “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer” by Sydney Padua– For starters, this was a graphic novel, which I don’t tend to enjoy anyways. But it was about the 19th century friendship between Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, and how they came up with some of the earliest concepts of a computing machine. It sounded interesting enough. But the structure was odd, and I couldn’t fully tell what was true and what was fantasy, although most of it was fantasy. A lot of the narrative was grounded in footnotes which were lengthy and often about mathematical theories. I was in over my head.
  2. “Awakenings” by Oliver Sacks- I was excited to read my first Oliver Sacks book. He was a neurologist who also wrote a lot of books that have great reviews. This one was about patients of his that suffered from a paralyzing form of Parkinson’s. In the 1970’s, Sacks and his team put the patients on a new drug, L-Dopa, that pulled them out of their paralyzation. Some of the patients had amazing results, others struggled with bizarre side effects. I’ve seen the Robert DeNiro/Robin Williams movie they made from this book and loved it. But the book was dry and just had patient histories and outcomes. Also the book was loaded with footnotes, drunk with them. I’ve learned I can’t stand footnotes. They ruin the flow of reading. Too distracting.
  3. “This Old Man: All in Pieces” by Roger Angell- Dr. G lent me this book to read. Mr. Angell is a client of ours, and Dr. G was given a copy of this book, signed and dedicated. Roger Angell is famous for writing pieces about baseball (particularly about the Mets) for the New Yorker. Dr. G and I share a profound love for baseball, so he assumed I’d enjoy the book. It was hard to get through because so many of the pieces were about people he worked with at the New Yorker, whom I had never heard of. There wasn’t even a whole lot about baseball. At one point, Dr. G asked me how I was enjoying the book. I was honest about my struggles, and he confessed to me that he never finished it for the same reasons. If Dr. G doesn’t deem a book worth finishing, I’m sure as hell not going to spend any more time reading it.
  4. “News Whore: The Prequel” by Mandy Stadtmiller– I like Stadtmiller as a writer. I’ve mainly read her pieces on XOJane where she works as an editor-at-large. She writes about love and relationships in a neo-Carrie-Bradshaw way. This book is a collection of her essays about her twenties. The problem was that they weren’t really essays as much as they were one page snippets of her life, interspersed with selfies and random pictures of her apartment that had nothing to do with anything. It felt like reading a boring person’s diary. I didn’t feel like there was a narrative or anything to be gained, so I gave up. She can do better. I know she can.

FOUR BOOKS I FINISHED AND LOVED

  1. “The Stand” by Stephen King- My Stephen King obsession continues as I read one of  his most famous books, “The Stand.” It’s a giant, epic novel about a super-virus (Captain Trips) that wipes out more than 99% of the human population. The scant survivors band together in two tribes, one good, one evil, and they try to rebuild society while worrying about the looming other tribe. It’s long, but engrossing. Like most other Stephen King novels, below the entertaining reading experience, there are deeper themes of religion and destiny. Do we choose our fate? Or are we preordained to be good or bad?
  2. “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith- I was reading this book on my lunch break, and one of my co-workers commented that it was a book that everyone was reading on the subway “like 10 years ago.” Only in New York could reading a book be “so last season.” But there’s a reason everyone was reading it. It’s beautiful and hilarious, and that doesn’t diminish in 10 years. Her writing is fluid and quirky as we follow characters through the streets of London. It also touches on the idea of immigration, and how immigrants lives are affected by the melding of their past with their present.
  3. “How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter” by Sherwin Nuland- In one of the first scenes of the show, “The Knick,” Dr. Thackery gives a speech about medical advances in surgery in the early 1900’s. “We humans can get in a few good licks in battle before we surrender,” he said. And the truth in medicine is that we can fight battles but never win the war. Our bodies are not designed to last forever, and this is a blessing and a curse. This seemingly morbid book breaks down the ways in which our bodies are most likely to die: heart disease, cancer, trauma, including others. The human body is an incredible piece of engineering, and the death of the machine is just as interesting. The book was hardly morbid though, it was introspective.
  4. “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver- Kingsolver is known as a novelist, but this book follows a year in which her family moved to a farm in Virginia and pledged to only eat food they could grow themselves or find locally. Most of the book is a treatise on the food industry in America, which is always a terrifying topic. Our meat is gross. Our fruits and veggies are gross. Our breads are probably killing us. Although I try to buy organic and almost never eat at fast food chains, I didn’t realize how much farther I still have to go. I’m absolutely guilty of not knowing when certain fruits or vegetables are in season. And I have no idea about how far the foods at my grocery store have had to travel to get to me. If anything, this book made me more committed to trying to buy foods from farmer’s markets and avoid processed foods even more than I already do.

Book Roundup #7

25 Apr

As I sat down to write this post, I came to the sobering realization that I haven’t written in a month. What on Earth have I been doing with myself? I’m not even entirely sure. Some fun things have happened which I’d like to write about in the coming days, but I guess the answer is that it’s Spring in New York, and everyone wants to hang out and do fun things. Who am I to say no? But lots of train travel has led to a lot of reading.

The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Ed. by Scott Dodson

 

RBG is legit. She’s amazing and incredible, and all American women owe her a great deal of their freedoms and opportunities to the work she has spent her life doing. I delved into RBG scholarship by reading this book of essays about her work. I read the first third (the portion about the gender equality cases she championed) with gusto, but I’ll be honest I didn’t finish the rest of the book. The last two sections were about her much less sexy work, mainly her obsession with Swedish civil procedure. This book was more geared for law professionals which I am not. And this book made me realize how happy I am that I’m not.

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

After how much sleep I lost while reading “The Shining,” I decided I needed even more Stephen King twistedness in my life. In type A fashion, I googled a variety of rankings of his novels and decided “‘Salem’s Lot” was a good next step for me. It’s about vampires taking over a small town in Maine. I wasn’t too wild about it. Maybe because in the last decade, the vampire thing has been beaten to death and forever tarnished by the abysmal Twilight series. But I also think my adolescent adoration for everything “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has skewed my perception of anything vampire.

In any vampire story, rules are created. How to kill vampires, how to make them, what their abilities are. I subscribe to the Buffy rules, and I don’t stomach other worlds’ rules well. Secret fact about me: Sometimes when I’m at kickboxing class, I pretend I’m Buffy.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

My sister is a librarian and got an advanced copy of this book at a library conference that she attended. The cover was dramatic, while the title seemed benign. I was skeptical when she said she liked it, but I ended up loving it. The plot is odd. A Korean woman decides to become a vegetarian after a dream she has. It throws her whole life upside down and creates turmoil with her family. Sounds like a stupid plot, but the book was beautiful. The imagery, the hint of insanity. It was poetic, and I couldn’t put it down.

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

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Another book that my sister picked up at the library conference and worked its way through the readers in my family. It follows the investigation of a missing child through the eyes of the mother and the eyes of one of the detectives on the case. Another title that I found to be melodramatic. But the unraveling mystery was fun. Macmillan does a good job introducing suspects and revealing clues. A great, easy read.

 

 

 

Book Roundup #6

7 Mar

Big things happening here. Big changes in the works and due to stress and an insane to-do list, I haven’t been able to write. But I have found time to read, because I will always find time to read in the same way that I’ll always find an excuse to buy Oreos, it’s a part of who I am. And despite my former post going against reading challenges, my librarian sister convinced me to sign up for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge. So instead of aiming to read a certain amount of books, the challenge offers different types of books to be read. A biography, a book by a transgender person, a book about religion, etc. It’s been a great way to search out books that I might not normally read.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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A beautiful book written as a letter from Coates to his son about being black in America. It’s eloquent and heart-breaking. It pairs well with the Black Lives Matter movement and how frustrating it is to be a person of color in the 2010’s. As a white person, I don’t know how to talk about these issues. I support what black people are doing, but I also know that it is not my movement. It is not for me to claim it or to comment on it, because I can’t sympathize with the racism and discrimination they experience on a daily basis. But this book helped me understand it better, and for that I’m grateful.

“It was only after you that I understood this love, that I understood the grip of my mother’s hand. She knew that the galaxy itself could kill me, that all of me could be shattered and all of her legacy spilled upon the curb like bum wine. And no one would be brought to account for this destruction, because my death would not be the fault of any human but the fault of some unfortunate but immutable fact of ‘race,’ imposed upon an innocent country by the inscrutable judgement of invisible gods.”

Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw

This was for the play requirement of my Read Harder challenge. I’ve seen “My Fair Lady” dozens of times, but this is the first time I’ve ever read the play. And I think it’s the first play I’ve read outside of school. It’s a strange thing to read a play, to have access to dialogue and some descriptions, but having to plug in everything else. It’s the story of a poor flower girl (Eliza Doolittle) in turn of the century London who is taken in by a couple of linguists who wage a bet on whether or not they can turn her into a lady and pass her off at a royal ball. The play, more so than the movie, focuses on Eliza’s humanity. The linguists that teach her begin to see her as an object, since she is both poor and a woman. It’s an interesting study of society and how something as simple as how we speak can isolate us.

“I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself. Now you’ve made a lady of me I’m not fit to sell anything else.”

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

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This translated book is by a journalist who lived with a family in Kabul after the invasion and the expulsion of the Taliban. It follows the patriarch, Sultan Kahn, who owns one of the few bookstores in Afghanistan’s capital, and the lives of his family members. The book goes into detail about living in a post-Taliban Afghanistan, accessing education, the lives of his sons. But it is the lives of his wives and sisters that shines through. As much as I can sit and complain about the United States and my current place in the world, I’m quite blessed to be a woman who has had access to education and has been able to make my own decisions. The women of Afghanistan (at least the ones described in the book) live their lives almost as slaves. They have little choice about where their lives will go. The family decides who they marry and for what price, then their husband decides how she will lead her life. Some benevolent husbands allow their wives to pursue education and jobs, others force them to stay at home cooking and cleaning. I’m not sure how much has changed in the past decade since the book was written, but it made me grateful for what I have. For being able to make my own choices about relationships, about what I wear, the jobs I’ve worked, my access to books and school. It made me feel blessed.

Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America by Kati Marton

Dr G lent me this book, although I’m not entirely sure why. It’s written by a Hungarian immigrant whose parents were journalists in communist Hungary in the 1950’s. As an adult, Marton goes back to Hungary and reads through the state surveillance papers about her parents. She discovers unsavory things about her parents’ extramarital affairs, but also reads about their time in prison and how much they missed their children. Overall, the book was a little dry, often times reading like a book report. But it also felt like a story that has been told before, maybe because I studied in Prague and read about so many stories like this. I didn’t find anything remarkable about it. It made me want to rewatch “The Lives of Others” which is an incredible film about communist surveillance in Berlin. This book wasn’t bad, but I’ve seen it told better.

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

The premise of this book sounded so interesting. In Mississippi, a young boy is found hanged from a tree in his back yard in the middle of the day. His baby sister decides to investigate his murder 12-years-later as a young girl in a small town. I’ve also read “The Secret History” by Tartt, and I think both books are similar in their failings. An interesting plot, great characters, beautifully described setting, but so much superfluous information. Pages about inconsequential moments. This book took forever to finish, and there wasn’t any great payoff in finishing it either. I felt like I worked really hard to get through the book only to be disappointed with the ending. Tartt is famous for her book “Goldfinch” which I’ve wanted to read. But how many hours of my reading life can I possibly dedicate to this woman?

Book Roundup #5

1 Feb

I had a week of vacation time about to expire, so I used it up for a week of traveling, writing, and of course, tons of reading. One of my favorite things about going on vacation is having the excuse to sit and read for hours. Whether it be on a plane, in an airport, at a restaurant, on an island sanctuary, I look forward to how much reading I can get done on extended days off.

MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL by JOHN BEHRENDT

When I decided to take a vacation to Savannah, pretty much everyone I told asked me if I had read this book/seen this movie. I had heard marvelous things about it. With my plane tickets bought, I had to read it. It didn’t disappoint. Another book that is proof that nonfiction is often stranger and more fascinating that fiction. This book is a classic that describes one New York journalist’s life in Savannah society. Odd characters, muddled history, transvestites, voodoo priestesses, and a murder that shook the upper society of Savannah. It absolutely lived up to the hype.

THE PUSHCART PRIZE XXXVI

This is one of the series I had mentioned in my post about short stories. What I like about pushcart is that unlike other series, Pushcart doesn’t limit the writing form. They have a balance of nonfiction essays, fiction, and poetry. It’s nice to have a poetry palate cleanser after reading something longer and weightier. My favorite essay in this collection was “The MFA/Creative Writing System is a Closed, Undemocratic, Medieval Guild System That Represses Good Writing” by Anis Shivani. It put into words exactly why I’ve been so skeptical about applying to an MFA program and confirmed my decision not to. This entire collection, though, was dense, and I don’t have the space here to fully describe all the pieces I loved.

SAVANNAH FOLKLORE by Nicole Carlson Easley

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According to legend, this statue of Little Gracie can be heard crying at night.

While I was in Savannah (more detailed post to come), I became interested in the ghost stories. So upon my wandering one day, I found an adorable book store E. Shaver, Bookseller and spent an hour or so wandering the aisles and petting their cats that live in the stacks. I wanted to know more about the local history, but there wasn’t much to choose from, besides the big display of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” I settled with this short, glossy book that gave a quick overview of a lot of the history and legends of Savannah. Not great writing, and I read it in an afternoon while relaxing in a square. I hated revealing myself as a tourist to the cute ladies that managed the cash register at the book store, but I had to know more about the weird things I had seen and heard.

THE ALIENIST by Caleb Carr

Dr. G and I always discuss what books we are reading, and he gave me this murder-mystery paperback to read on my vacation. It’s pretty run-of-the-mill serial killer stuff. The Alienist refers to one of the main characters who is a psychologist. The book is set in the late 1800’s when psychology was a new and misunderstood science. It had a fun aspect of historical fiction to it, talking about the grimy Lower East Side of New York, the hatred many people felt toward immigrants (not much has changed). Teddy Roosevelt is a main character since he was police commissioner during that time. The group of sleuths try to find a serial killer by examining his motives, his mind, what his upbringing was most likely like. It was a fun vacation book to read.

JOHNS, MARKS, TRICKS, AND CHICKENHAWKS: PROFESSIONALS AND THEIR CLIENTS WRITING ABOUT EACH OTHER

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A book of essays written by a variety of people who work in the sex industry and who are patrons of the sex industry. I find this subject interesting, but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The essays vary in what they cover, and some are a lot more graphic than others. Some people are into some weird things. And while I believe that the whole beauty and point of reading is to get a glimpse into other worlds, there are some worlds that I’d rather leave alone, some images I’d rather not have in my head. I made it about 60% through this book before I had to put it away. Just not my thing.

 

Book Roundup #4

4 Jan

December was a critical month. I decided to put a greater focus on my writing, and in starting that, I’ve tried to grow this blog, post more frequently, and find a subject that I could focus on. So while I’ll still have the occasional post about my 30 before 30, life as a vet tech, travel and other miscellaneous things, I’ll be posting more regularly about books and what I’m reading. Trying to make that shift onto the booknet!

In the past, I would only post about books I LOVED. I’d still like to give those books a special spotlight, but I’ll try to do a roundup of all the books I’ve read each month that weren’t included in their own thing.

So, December books!

Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison

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I’ve always wanted to read Jim Harrison as he’s known as another rugged American writer, much in the same vein as Hemingway. He writes novellas which is not a common form. Longer than a short story, shorter than a novel. Novellas tend to have a more intricate story line while also being a relatively quick read. This book consisted of three different novellas that took place in different areas and times but all featured manly men who struggle with love and family. The title is based on the last novella in the collection of the same title. It was made into a Brad Pitt movie of which I’ve only heard negative things. So, read the book instead!

The Beast God Forgot to Invent by Jim Harrison

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It was a co-worker who gave me both of these books, not sure what conversation prompted the lending, but I ended up having a nice December of Jim Harrison. This collection was built the same way as the first. Three novellas, centered around male characters, written 21 years after Legends of the Fall. I liked this collection better. It felt less focused on the masculinity of the characters and more on the development of the characters.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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I used an aging Barnes and Noble gift card a friend had gotten me for my birthday to buy this beaut. It was a fun read, unconventionally written. She has chapters where she writes an acrostic poem to her career wife Tina Fey. She has a chapter where she talks about her travails through the comedy world. There are guest chapters written by Seth Meyers. Every time I read celebrity books, I do so with a discerning eye. Did they really write this? Is this ghost-written? Did they actually experience these things? I believe that Poehler actually wrote this, due to the first chapter where she whined about how hard it was finding the time to write the book, and she ends the book with an anecdote of when she lost her computer with the only copy of the book on it, only to have it be found by a kindly TSA agent. I admire Amy Poehler for what she is doing in the entertainment world for women. She creates and acts in roles showing women as more than desperate love-seekers or gossipy fashion-hounds. Most of the chapters of the book reflect that female empowerment attitude. This book also made me laugh audibly on the subway which is always a sign of an enjoyable read. I’ve already passed my copy on to some of the girls I work with.

“Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.”

 

 

Book Roundup #3

13 Jul

I was amazed today to realize how peripatetic my 2015 has been so far. New Mexico, London, Spain, Tangier, California, Maine, and later this week Canada. I’ve had so many amazing opportunities that I haven’t been able to turn down. One of the side-effects of my jet-set life is a lot of reading to fill those plane and/or train rides. I like being stuck on these journeys with a stack of books or gigabytes of books as the case may be. It’s one of my favorite things about traveling, having an excuse to sit and read or write and let my nerd-self simmer in the English language. These are some of my favorites of late.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari


Buy here.

I bought an Aziz Ansari comedy special years ago and somehow ended up on his mailing list. In preparation for his debut book, I got a mass email that announced a lottery for his book release party open to those that pre-order the book. It doesn’t take much to convince me to buy a book, so I pre-ordered a copy in hopes that I’d get to hobnob with Aziz in New York. I didn’t win, but I was surprised to find the book on my kindle one morning. I was even more surprised to find out that I loved the book. I’m not a huge fan of comedy books. I just don’t find them funny without seeing the delivery. But, although, Aziz Ansari’s brand of humor is present throughout, the book is more of a sociological study about dating in the modern world. He conducted experiments with a sociologist and combed through OKcupid’s data to find out how people are dating and what they are doing right and/or wrong. He even discusses modern dating in other cultures like Japan, France, and Argentina. I read the book in about a day as it was fascinating and easy to get through.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Spoilers in that video, although I like the analysis.

I watched the movie before I read the book. A sin, I know. But I had accidentally found out the twist in this book when reading an essay about unlikeable female characters. I was so disappointed to have it spoiled for me that I didn’t want to read it. But after seeing the movie and reading Flynn’s other book “Dark Places,” I had to. It was amazing. I couldn’t put it down. I loved every ounce of the character of Amy and the dark tones of the book. Gillian Flynn has quickly joined my fantasy Boss Ass Bitch Booze Brunch club along with Cheryl Strayed, Amy Poehler, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi. I daydream about hanging out with these intelligent women and discussing writing, creativity and just being awesome. I guess they would discuss, and I would refill their cocktails/bring out more hash browns, but I’d be honored to be there and to possibly soak up some of their glory.

Anyways, “Gone Girl” takes a commonplace narrative of a murder and twists it around to something new. I know I’m late on the bandwagon, but I just can’t stop thinking about the book. It raises so many questions about love, marriage, feminism and identity.

“Travels with Charley: In Search of America” by John Steinbeck

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years, and it went above and beyond my expectations. John Steinbeck has always been one of my favorite authors. This is a departure from his usual fiction writing and is a memoir of a road trip he took with his standard poodle Charley through the country to try and get back in touch with what real America is like. I loved this book for all the reasons to love any Steinbeck book. Funny, beautiful, and revelatory. My mother bought me my copy when we were in Monterey as a souvenir of our California trip, and I’ve marked this copy up with all my favorite quotes and parts I want to go back to and re-read.

“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found, nor much identification from shapes which symbolize continents and states.”

Book Roundup

15 Jan

Oh heavens. 2013 has not been kind to me so far. We are two weeks in, and I spent the first week bed-ridden with a nasty cold (albeit not the super-flu that’s going around) and a couple of days ago I sprained my ankle walking down stairs (no one has ever accused me of being graceful.) Hopefully this just means I’m getting disasters out of the way now in preparation for an amazing 50 remaining weeks. But despite a brief respite in California with my family when both legs were functional, and I was only suffering from a lingering cough, I have spent most of my time in bed watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and reading. Thanks to my new addiction to Good Reads (Join and be my friend!) I’ve been reading a lot of amazing books lately. I only like to recommend books that I absolutely loved, and I’m amazed that I have three to write about. In that sense, 2013 has been awesome.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Boot_jkt-330I’ve written about Cheryl Strayed before. She is one of the most honest, intuitive writers I’ve encountered in a long time. “Wild” is a memoir of her time hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She was 26, lost, confused, and simply out of ideas. So, quite ill-prepared, she decided to take a summer to hike the trail and figure her shit out.

As someone who is also 26 and likewise lost and confused, I found her hell-bent journey fascinating. She doesn’t hide or sugar-coat any of the bad decisions she made in her life, and like a lot of 20-somethings she embarked on a somewhat foolish journey. The wisdom of what she learns about herself and how she reconciles her past with her blurry future was fascinating to me. I couldn’t put it down.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Nothing_to_EnvyWow, man. North Korea is an insane place. I’m sure you already know that. We all laugh about the antics of Kim Jong-Il, but this is one of the most isolated places on Earth. We really have no way to know what’s going on in there, and they don’t know what’s going on out here!

Demick interviewed six escapees from North Korea about their lives inside. It’s mind-blowing. I read this in a day. My jaw was on the ground. It’s heart-breaking to know the immense amount of suffering going on, and the fact that the people there are so brainwashed that they think they are the lucky ones in the world. When I lived in the Czech Republic, we studied the failures of communism, but this takes it to a whole new level of failure.

How to be a Woman by Cailtlyn Moran

how-to-be-a-womanI have decided that this book should be recommended reading for most everyone. First of all, it’s a hilarious memoir of her life. Second, she makes some damn fine points about feminism and the state of women in the world today. Third, it’s not an intimidating book at all. People are TERRIFIED of the term feminism, but they really shouldn’t be. It’s quite simple, wanting women to have equal standing in the world. I read this book while I was lying in the sun in California, quietly nodding to myself and occasionally letting out a “Mmmmhmmmm” or an “Aymen!”

“What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy, and smug they might be.

Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are.”