Friday, April 3, 2015

Book List Hawaii '15

The best part of ditching reality for Hawaii for a month is the time to read. The second best part is running every morning. The third best part is taking naps on the beach because getting up early and running several miles every morning makes me tired.

My reading list has been good. I just asked everyone for recommendations, so I got to read some of the best books from the past 18 months and to skip the lame books. It was a mixed success pattern. So, in the order I read them:

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I think everyone read this book months ago, so I put it at the top of my reading list and that was not a mistake. It took me until I was on the plane to Hawaii to actually start reading a book after coming home. I don't know why it took so long. Yes I do. Downton Abbey. Anyway, this was the perfect first book coming back. It pulled me in immediately. I'd forgotten how good it feels to be addicted to a book. It's the feeling of preferring the book's world over the real world. This book also reminded me how beautiful the sad moments in literature are. I love the father in this book almost as much as any father in any book ever (he and the dad from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close could have been best friends in another world). It's so sickly satisfying to know what's going to happen but to love the characters too much to give up hope on their behalf. Books are the best.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Normally I don't do post-apocalyptic literature, but I saw tons of recommendations for this. Within the first few chapters, I realized that if there's an apocalypse, I hope I go early. I'm not one of those fierce survivors. Wipe me out with the rest of them. But I liked reading the book a lot. It was fun and interesting, but it had depth. I liked the constant presence of Shakespeare. Which brings me to...

King Lear by Shakespeare (obviously). Station Eleven left me with the urge to read this play. Truth be told, this is the first time I've ever read Shakespeare "for fun" (gasp). Also, pretty sure this is the first time I've read Shakespeare since high school. I don't mean to state the obvious, but Lear is really really sad. In a beautiful way, but a really really sad one. It was a more real kind of sad for me than Macbeth or Hamlet or Othello and I liked it for that. For once, I didn't actually know the plot of this Shakespeare before reading it. Spoiler: it ends like every other Shakespeare tragedy- really really sad.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. I had a moment sitting on the beach when I was like it's kinda pretentious to be reading Shakespeare on the beach and right now I want to be entertained more than anything so I opened the kindle store (I LOVE MY KINDLE) and downloaded the most entertaining thing I could find, Amy Poehler, obviously. I read the book cover to cover in a couple hours, and it was super entertaining, and the end of it I was kinda tired of Amy Poehler.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham*. This gets and asterisk because I didn't actually finish it. Lena Dunham is all the rage so I was like "sure I'll read her book." And I read a few chapters and skipped around and read a few more throughout the book, probably reading like 50% of it, then I realized I wasn't really enjoying it. I definitely saw the awesome fearless woman everyone loves and respected her for that, but I also felt like I'd read those same stories 120 other times on the Internet. So that's why I respect Lena Dunham but did not bother finishing her book.

All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found by Philip Connors. I think books about suicide are some of the hardest to write, and I have major respect for Connors for this one. I liked it because it was honest. It was sad, but it didn't try to be sadder than it was. Sometimes it was funny. It was always interesting. But mostly, it was straightforwardly honest, in a way you have to be to write a book about a suicide. It's hard to write really honestly, because there's "honesty," which is just a certain kind of show put on for readers, and then there's real honesty.

Food Matters by Mark Bittman. Last November, I had 4.5 months left in Ukraine and decided to stop eating sugar. This is the point at which missionaries typically get into I don't want to go home except that I am so exhausted I can't go on much longer mode and I was feeling it start to creep in on me. But when I stopped eating sugar, I noticed I was less tired than I had been my entire mission. Seriously, I felt so much better. This little experiment has led to me an interest in health-related things. Anyway, I really liked this book and what Bittman teaches here. Which is why I'm a quasi-vegetarian again. Here I come Whole Foods.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. It was funny, it was entertaining, it was fine. I think it makes a better audiobook than real book, maybe? I like that she's smart and it comes through.

A Little More About Me by Pam Houston. I love Pam Houston. Cowboys Are My Weakness remains in my top 3 short story collections. I love that she is an adventurer and I love the way she loves the West. I super enjoyed reading this collection of essays. Among other things because it bolstered my insistence that I must trek in Bhutan.

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