Saturday, January 12, 2013

Break Reading List

Since the two activities that have consumed most of the past 3 weeks of my life have been getting "skin cancer"  (still don't believe in it) and reading, I thought I'd do a recap. These are the books I read over break. Some were great, some were not. The really sad thing was that even though I read all these books, I still have 5 books I brought over to Hawaii that I didn't read. Maybe a kindle is a good thing for me after all. 

I'm not ready to go back to the real world where I don't get to spend every day of my life reading whatever I damn well please. 

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

This is a book that's been on my radar for quite a while. My last day in Hawaii, I was getting a bit worn-out by my history book, and downloaded this one (one more Kindle perk). And it was by far my favorite book I read all of break. It's a short story collection, and the stories are just awesome. I love the fable-like mystical elements of them, combined with plainness of life. Also, the writing is just so damn good. I wanted to underline everything, because the words were just so right. I love this book to the point of mild obsession. 

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

There is no denying the fact that Jeffrey Eugenides is a phenomenal writer, and I love how well-written this book was. I really liked reading it right up to the end, which was bad. Similar to Middlesex, actually, in that it was just a give-up kind of ending. Totally unsatisfactory, and yet I still really liked reading it. Probably it was because the protagonist is an English major who doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. Goodness, I love that English major protagonist.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I absolutely loved this one. I'm kinda a sucker for the nonfiction discovering-self books. My favorite thing that I learned from this is the connection between happiness and growth. That's something that I totally believe in, and as I've been trying to incorporate it into my days, I'm already finding it to be incredibly true. I've started a mini Happiness Project of my own for the next 5 months or so. 

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

This book was one that slowly and subtly got more and more sad. The good part was the absolutely heart-wrenching ending. The bad part was that getting there was, at times, very slow. I did really like the narrative style though, it was incredible in the emotional vividness and honesty. I love that I simultaneously loved, hated, pitied and wanted to punish Paddy.

Democracy by Joan Didion

I read this book in one sitting. Joan Didion's been one of my favorites ever since Year of Magical Thinking (even though I haven't worked up the strength to read Blue Nights). The amount of craft in this novel is amazing. Seriously I was reading it and just blown away at how talented Didion is. That being said, I was a little underwhelmed by the plot and characters. Yet I still liked the book. I can't entirely understand how I liked a book without liking the plot or characters, but there you have it. 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This was another one I read in a single day. It's surprisingly compelling. And yet, once I'd finished it, I felt kinda meh. I understand why people would love it, but it wasn't the best book ever. It felt like Atwood was first and foremost making a feminist point (that I happened to agree with) and secondly writing a novel. 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene

My reason for reading this book was that someone recommended I do, because it's a good vacation book. And it definitely is a vacation book, because it's only worth reading for plot. The plot was nice and sad and yes. My problem was that it was so poorly written, it almost killed the plot. I'm sorry John Greene, you did not pull off writing a teen cancer love story. You just didn't. Also, your attempts at foreshadowing were pathetic, because I knew what was happening at every turn.

The Gift by Lewis Hyde

This was my only homework over break. I had to read it for my poetry workshop, because Hyde is coming to Swat in a few weeks, and he'd going to do a small discussion workshop with our class. So full disclosure, I haven't quite finished this one. But I've read most of it, and I've enjoyed it. It's very good analysis of art and the cultural role of the gift. And I think it applies to more than art. 

Bury the Chains by Adam Rothschild

This was my non-English major book, but it was stil awesome. It's the story of the abolition of the slave trade throughout the English empire. It's an incredible story. I think this was probably the most moving book I read all of break. I can't talk about it too much without starting to cry, because it's just astonishing how much good can be accomplished by a few people who follow their consciences. 

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving  by Jonathan Evison

This book was so bloody sad. Seriously, from the first page it's devastatingly sad, but not that poorly-written sappy sad. It's truly tragic, in that sense of unimaginably painful things that might happen to anyone actually happening to someone. And in that sense, it's nothing less than addictive. Basically I loved reading/crying over it.

Book of Mormon Girl  by Joanna Brooks

I've had this book on my shelf for around eight months. One of my fringy-Mormon friends (the great ones who vote for Obama and wear pants to church) recommended it to me. Granted, it's sold at Deseret Book, so it's not that fringy a book, but still. For the first half, I was a little exasperated, because I was just like "right, Mormonism's weird  Everyone knows that. Mormons are acutely aware of it. What's your point?" But the second half I loved. It was the kind of honest response to the church that I love reading. Brooks perfectly described the anguishing complexity of being a Mormon, and I kinda love her for it. 

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