Thursday, September 1, 2016
Books I Read in August
You guys, if there is any other proof needed that I have finally turned a corner in this pregnancy and I'm starting to get my groove back, it's the fact that I read EIGHT books last month. That's slightly less than two a week! Considering I've only been managing a paltry average of three books for the past few months, this is a definite uptick for me. Might even be a record. There were some good ones, some fabulous ones, and some just okay ones. Let's dive in.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
I will admit that I knew very little about this one before I picked it up. Basically, I knew it had received positive reviews from places I couldn't quite remember, and I knew it had one of the best titles ever (seriously, isn't that an amazing title?). If I'd realized I was getting into some teenage boy coming-of-age drama, I may have skipped over this one. If there's one subject in literature that tends to make me cringe, it's entering into the dark place that is the teenage male mind (think, Catcher in the Rye or The Chocolate War). This one had it's dark and uncomfortable moments, but in the end I think I'm glad I finished it instead of dropping it early on. It made me realize just exactly what it is I dislike so much about teenage male psychology (but that may be a post for another day). Still not sure I'd really recommend this one, but it was well-written for what it was.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
This is another one that came highly recommended from a source I can't remember now, and that I also didn't know nearly enough about before I started. If I'd realized it was basically a more grown-up, slightly more sophisticated Twilight, I wouldn't have bothered. But by the time I realized there were vampires in this story, I was a little too interested in the main character (a witch who also happens to be a professor at Yale). Needless to say, I got sucked in. But, I was totally ready to be done and put this series aside forever, until the ending happened! And I'll try not to be spoilery, but basically, this author pulled pretty much the one punch at the end that could possibly get me to come back for the second book. I'm still fighting it, but my curiosity might get the better of me. All this to say, if you liked Twilight, go ahead and pick this one up, because if you can plow through the beastly thing (almost 600 pages!), it's basically the same story, but better.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Generally a recommend. See my full review here.
A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving
Oh my goodness, such beautiful writing! The images in this book were just incredible. I think certain of these images will stay with me for a long, long time. This story, and these characters, were deeply fascinating, but I really need someone to talk to about this book (I even tried briefly explaining the plot to my husband just so I could talk to someone about the big themes). This book has some very complex things to say about religion, and miracles, and politics, and I think I loved it but I'm also not sure I fully understood everything. Have any of you read this one? Would you like to talk about it? Any other John Irving books I should read, because his writing really is quite incredible (although, the number of semicolons he uses! Ridiculous!).
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Obviously, this was a reread, but I honestly think the last time I read this was circa sixth grade. A reread was long overdue. Oh, and how well this one stands the test of time! Such a delightful experience to revisit again. Anne is just so much my kindred spirit. I specifically reread this one for the writing project I'm about to embark on, but now I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to spend this fall revisiting the whole series. What a shame!
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Okay, so I had my name on the library wait list for this one, but was obviously something like #358 when it came out at the end of July. I went back and forth for weeks on whether I should just patiently wait it out, or go ahead and splurge on an unread book. I finally just bought it because, well, it's Harry Potter. I'm definitely not a hard core Potterhead, but this series was so much a part of my adolescence that I figured it wouldn't hurt to add this to the other seven books in my library (I don't own and haven't read any of the other Potter world books, but this one felt necessary). And yes, I loved it. Not as much as the original series, but it was still just delightful fun. In all honesty, it felt like some pretty serious fan fiction (I'm trying not to be spoilery, but the story messes with the original plot-line in some pretty interesting ways), but is it truly fan fiction if the original author herself writes the story? Also, I know people haven't liked the play format very much, and I will admit it feels quite different from the flow of the original novels. But, I just spent the last semester of grad school reading plays and writing about how plays are literature, so I didn't have a problem with it. I entirely recommend to anyone who loves Harry Potter even the littlest bit and can handle reading a play format. Also, new life goal: see this play on the stage (in London, if I can manage it).
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
This is another book I picked up as inspiration/preparation for my big writing project I have planned. It was quite lovely, as far as writing advice books go. Really, it was refreshing to read a book about writing that was actually well written. I haven't read anything by Lamott before (although I think one or two of her books are on my TBR list), but I found her style to be quite charming and humorous (if a bit more neurotic and anxious than I tend to be). I will note, her advice really applies mainly to MFA type writers, or those of serious literary fiction, which means it does not apply universally, but I still found it quite useful and inspiring. I may review this book more in depth later.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
So, after writing out several paragraphs here, I realized I just have too much to say about this book, and I'm going to have to give it a full separate review. For now, just know that I highly recommend. It's a bit bleak and depressing (the subject is death and dying, after all), but also extremely interesting and essential to think about. Really good stuff.
Whew! Did you make it through all that? What a great reading month! Have you read any of these? I'd love to hear your thoughts!