Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vacation Reading

I mentioned in the vacation post that I devoured 4 books (really 3 because I've stopped reading completely upon my return and may never finish Orange is the New Black at this pace...but I read a lot of it.)

The first book I finished was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. It's about a person who gets to come back and do life all over again each time she dies, changing her ultimate fate. At first I found it well written but tedious and I put it down a few months ago in favor of something else. I decided to finish it on vacation because I kept hearing so much buzz about it and I'm really glad I did. This was the kind of book that I was truly sad to see end, I felt like it could (and maybe should) continue forever. It's also the kind of book that makes me marvel that the writer managed to keep the storyline organized and cohesive. Sometimes I become so obsessed with trying to create a mental timeline or figure how different elements of the story work together (Time Traveler's Wife comes to mind) that I feel like I'm too distracted doing that to enjoy it. Once I just read without expectations, trusting that it will all come together, these books end up being my favorite. This was an amazing book and I still find myself thinking of it sometimes. (Very rare because I have book amnesia and forget everything beyond "loved it" or "hated it" 10 minutes after I finish a story.)

Then I read And the Mountains Echoed by the guy who wrote the Kite Runner. I don't know if he has a real name, but I do know that this man is a genius. Not just a literary genius, he truly understands people and the struggles of the human condition. I saw that the synopsis of this book was something very short, something like, "A story about trying to find the missing piece of yourself in someone else." (But probably not that exactly--wouldn't it be awesome if I actually looked this stuff up for you?) and I thought that someone had really gotten right to the point with giving very little information with that summary...but by the end of the book, I was amazed at how perfectly it explained the tale told. I read it in one day and was very moved by it. When I finished, I closed my eyes for a minute to soak it all in and got goosebumps. This is the kind of book that makes me think, "Holy shit, I could never write a book like this. THANKS FOR KILLING MY DREAMS WITH YOUR UNGODLY AMOUNT OF TALENT." Those are the ones I love.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is the type of book that kind of annoys me just by the cover. I can't really explain this aversion. I don't like light, funny, silly books in general (that sounds fun of me, doesn't it?) and I don't like books that I feel are girly or gimmicky. This was all of the above. I liked it, though and, sadly, related all too easily to the neurotic, introverted main character with terrible judgment. The way the story was presented was easy and engaging, it was witty and entertaining, it was over-the-top silly in a mostly acceptable way and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Will it be on my Top 10 list? Never. Top 20? Probably not. But I'm ridiculously picky and I have read a lot. I didn't find out until the end that the author wrote for Arrested Development, my favorite show ever, so it makes sense that I enjoyed the humor.

And as mentioned, I started Orange Is the New Black but I no longer comment on books I haven't finished because sometimes they either slowly get awesome or reveal that they suck towards the end (I'm looking at you, Hidden Cities). I was hoping to finish it before starting the television series, so that means I probably won't watch the show until everyone else is already over it and done discussing it.

I never did do a book wrap-up for 2012 (she says in August 2013) and I feel irrationally guilty about that, like it weighs on me at night sometimes. I feel like last year wasn't a great reading year for me. I can't go into much detail due to the aforementioned book amnesia but I loved Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. It's the fictional account of Christ's first 33 years, as told by his childhood best friend. I thought it was incredibly funny and clever. I also loved The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, which reads more like fiction than non-fiction. My favorite for the year though was probably The Book Thief. It was unique, dark and beautiful. This is one that I look forward to sharing with Big Kid some day because the writing was incredible.

Phew! We're all caught up now. Probably for a while since my nook is uncharged and I'm not on vacation.


Tara said...

I just finished OITNB yesterday. It was really good but somehow I get the feeling that she glossed over a lot of the bad that goes on in women's prisons. I watch a lot of Lock-Up & Scared Straight & things like that where they go into both men's & women's prisons. I sincerely doubt maggots on the floor is the worst thing you have to worry about, ya know what I'm saying? I did like that she discussed the glaring lack of services available to cons as they begin to prepare to re-enter society that will teach them how to survive legally. Although she didn't go far enough, for me, to accuse the system of being a major part of the poverty cycle.

One book on prison life that I REALLY enjoyed was called Fish. It was from the perspective of a 17 year old serving time in a men's maximum security prison for robbing a Photo-Mat (this was in the 70s) with a toy gun (he claims it was a joke, that the clerk would know it was a toy.)

I tend to get on kicks, reading a bunch of books on one topic. I read 3-4 books on JFK Jr. (Come to the Edge was the best of the lot), Midwifery (Confessions of a Midwife was my favorite of those), now I'm on prison. Weird, huh? ;)

Unknown said...

Tara, that's my favorite thing to do, my hairdresser and I call it chunking. It's been a while since I've gotten onto a good subject to stick with, I think my last was leprosy.

OITNB seems fine but not earth shattering so far. The writing doesn't knock my socks off, the subject matter is interesting but I don't feel like she goes deeply enough into her own feelings (at least yet--we'd have half a book on how I was freaking the fuck out if I was the author). I'm starting to wonder if the show might be better than the book.

Destingirls said...

I'm halfway through OITNB and I don't seem to have the need to finish...I will though. I do want to know how it ends. Will there be more seasons? I never watched Breaking Bad and I think I'm going to start that next.

We should all throw in our top 5 reads of the year...Im always looking for a good book.

Unknown said...

I'd love to hear people's favorites, I'm always looking for books to add to my pile!

There will be more seasons to OITNB. I know this despite working very diligently to avoid all OITNB show conversations because I don't want anyone to mess it up.

Jamie said...

A good prison one I just finished was Sweet Hell on Fire. It's written by a woman who was a corrections officer in a max security men's prison. It's a pretty quick read but actually really good.

My last "chunking" was schizophrenia :)

My tops so far this year, all non-fiction:

Brain on Fire - woman gets a weird, random disease that displays as schizophrenia - SUPER interesting.

The Saddest Girl in the World: a foster mother, Cathy Glass, writes about some of the children she's fostered over the years. They have all been really great.

Beyond Belief: the leader of Scientology's family member that defected. I also got into books on religion.

The End of Your Life Book Club: mother is dying but her and her son continue to do a book club till the very end. Got some good book suggestions from this one.

All right peeps - I'm half way through the Flowers in the Attic series and will need something next :)

Unknown said...

Ohhhh, schizophrenia is an interesting one! I will check out some of these recommendations! Brain on Fire sounds fascinating, how scary.

Jayne said...

*GASP* Say it isn't so.. FINALLY a 2012 best book list!! Thank you! Now you can sleep at night with a clear conscience...I think I asked for your list back in, February? Tsk tsk ;) This might come off as a little stalkerish (or a lot) but I read what you recommend, we seem to like the same books. I started The Book Thief, but it was much heavier than I was in the mood for and handed it off to my mom, I must read it now! Thank you again and now I can start bugging you in 4 months for the best of 2013 list.

Unknown said...

Jayne, I remember your comment! Haha, you might have been the source of some of that guilt but thank you! I really convince myself that no one cares so it's fine to skip it but I love talking books and love seeing what others are reading too!

Jayne said...

I didn't mean for you to feel guilty or lose sleep at, I wish I had that affect on my hubby and 2 boys! It's not okay to skip your lists, I love 'em! ;)

I just started reading The Fault in Our Stars and I think it's about to get really good...a friend recommended Suzanne's Dairy for Nicholas and that was VERY good-I don't cry over books (except for The Art of Racing in the Rain) but this one made me cry, I gobbled it up in 3 hours! Loved that book!

Jamie said...

I just put five of your "Read in 2013" in my cart on Amazon. I'm pretty sure you need to keep up with these posts.

Also - the links you randomly post are super great, too.

Unknown said...

It was for the greater good, Jayne. I rely on societal pressure at times (lol!).

Jamie, I was just thinking I need to do more link posts. My bookmarks are over run with things to share. I will put it on the list, and if it's anything like Jayne's request, I'll get it done in about 6 months.

I also have to say that the Penelopiad was fantastic. I'm not a huge Atwood fan (I know, I feel bad about it) but this was a short and lovely tale from the wife of Homer from the Iliad/Odyssey and her perspective of how that all really went down. Sounds boring as hell but it was really funny in an awesome way. I had fun reading it and also felt better and smarter for doing so. I even went to a book club meeting and discussed it and had plenty to say. (But I always have plenty to say, even when I shouldn't.)

Lisa said...

Ohhh...I feel very inadequate, in a literary manner, when I read your book posts! You have so much insight about what you read. I pick up a book...I read it, or never finish it because I'm just not into it, but I can't quite put things into words the way you do! Love your book reviews.

And I have to say I do really enjoy, and miss, your link posts. So yes on that!

Unknown said...

I think writers have a different love of reading, Lisa! I am a word nerd and the endless ways they can be combined astounds me.

I will do more link posts if you will comment on each of them. (LOL)

Lisa said...


Amie Lout said...

I went way out of my usual reading pattern this summer as I was given a travel/memoir book by Denis Hickey. Breaking Free, I wasn't at all sure at first, but after I read it I was truly inspired. I am sctually really glad I read it this summer, really changed my outlook on life and the things we muddle it up with.