Book Roundup: February 2017

Another month down, folks! Not quite as many books as usually but most of them were pretty good, and a few were excellent. 

NUMBER OF BOOKS READ: 7 + one re-read

NUMBER OF FEMALE AUTHORS VS MALE AUTHORS: 3 females, 4 males. Off my game!

NUMBER OF DIVERSE (non-American) SETTINGS: Well, 2 were set in Europe, 1 in a fantasy world, one throughout time and space, and one on Mars, so, a bit hard to quantify this time around…

RATINGS SPREAD: One 5-star, Four 4-star, Two 3-stars. Good month!

 

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WHAT I READ: History Is All You Left Me (Adam Silvera)

WHY I READ IT: Praised for being a realistic YA LGBT novel.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I was skeptical for most of this book that the characters would do something I didn’t want them to do, but Silvera did a good job at keeping it grounded (and sad).

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WHAT I READ: The Year Of Living Danishly (Helen Russell)

WHY I READ IT: I desperately want to live in paradise, aka Denmark.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Mostly it made me depressed to live in the U.S. God bless Denmark, apparently.

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WHAT I READ: In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (Erik Larson)

WHY I READ IT: I’m not sure, but I assume it was on one of those “Read this to learn how to live in our new autocracy” listsicles.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Fascinating and well-written narrative nonfiction of a time period I thought I knew about, but this book taught me so much more.

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WHAT I READ: Wayfarer (Alexandra Bracken)

WHY I READ IT: As a follow-up to one of my favorites, Passenger.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I definitely should have re-read the first book more recently.

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WHAT I READ: Spindle (E.K. Johnston)

WHY I READ IT: Book club book!

WHAT I THOUGHT: Way too much “road trip” narrative and not nearly enough action. The author clearly wanted to make spinning/a spindle the central part of the story, and concocted a fairly weak explanation to make it so.

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WHAT I READ: The Martian (Andy Weir)

WHY I READ IT: Well you know, the movie was good.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Absolutely do not get the hype. The math and science seem incredible (I skimmed past a lot of it) but the dialogue was stitled and the characters not nearly layered enough.

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WHAT I READ: Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance)

WHY I READ IT: 2016’s “It” book.

WHAT I THOUGHT: This one WAS absolutely worth the hype. Easily read and a compelling topic; I only wished it had slightly more research/stats to back it up (but the author was clear from the start it wouldn’t). Left me wanting much more.

 

Re-readBig Little Lies. I first read this book a few years ago and with the HBO mini-series launching, decided to give it another go. Just as good as the first time!

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Book Roundup: January 2017

This was the first month into my 2017 resolution to read harder books more deeply, and I expected that each month my total number of books read would be a little lower than usual. But at 9 books read this month, I was actually pretty on-par with my normal reading schedule, and I still feel like I had a good combination of heavy and light books. On to the stats!

NUMBER OF BOOKS READ: 10

NUMBER OF FEMALE AUTHORS VS MALE AUTHORS: All ladies this month!

NUMBER OF DIVERSE (non-American) SETTINGS: 3, although two of those are in Ireland (well, technically one in Ireland and one in a apocalyptic probably former Ireland).

RATINGS SPREAD: Two 5-star, One 4-star, Five 3-star, Two 2-star,

Want more? Goodreads, baby.

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WHAT I READ: The Wonder (Emma Donaghue)

WHY I READ IT: Big fan of her Room.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Meh on my end. Good atmosphere-building, but as a full-length novel it dragged.

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WHAT I READ: Spare and Found Parts (Sarah Maria Griffin)

WHY I READ IT: Book club!

WHAT I THOUGHT: If not for book club, I don’t think I would have kept reading it. I just didn’t get a lot of why the characters did what they did, and it was hard to get into the world.

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WHAT I READ: Today Will Be Different (Maria Semple)

WHY I READ IT: This book was all over the blogs as super-good, and I did mostly enjoy her Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

WHAT I THOUGHT: I liked the book, but didn’t love it. I wanted it to be a better exploration of adult mental health, but it didn’t do a deep dive into a whole lot.

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WHAT I READ: Talking As Fast As I Can (Lauren Graham)

WHY I READ IT: Love me some Graham crackers, and especially Gilmore Girls! 

WHAT I THOUGHT: It was very similar to a lot of other celebrity memoirs – some interesting chapters (mostly about the making of GG) but ultimately just a lot of fluff that was clearly written to get her a boost in sales coinciding with the new episodes.

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WHAT I READ: This is Where It Ends (Marieke Nijkamp)

WHY I READ IT: Another one popular on the blogs.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I REALLY did not like it.

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WHAT I READ: Boy, Snow, Bird (Helen Oyeyemi)

WHY I READ IT: One of those “must-reads,” lent from a friend.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Really more of 1.5 stars than 2 stars for me, I really did not like it. It just wasn’t compelling enough to read to the end, and I ended up skimming a lot.

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WHAT I READ: Strangers In Their Own Land (Arlie Hochschild)

WHY I READ IT: Part of my read harder pledge, this nonfiction narrative explores the “Great Paradox” of conservative America (specifically in Louisiana).

WHAT I THOUGHT: I’ll have a lot more to say in a later post, but I LOVED this book – both as a piece of writing (very well done and compelling) and as a piece of research.

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WHAT I READ: Dear Mr. You (Mary-Louise Parker. Yes, that Mary-Louise Parker)

WHY I READ IT: One of my favorite (travel) bloggers highlighted this as a favorite of 2016.

WHAT I THOUGHT: My god, I loved this book. One of my two five-star books of the month. This is the most unique celebrity memoir I’ve ever read, as Parker uses a combination of prose and poetic prose to convey key moments in her life via a series of letters to men – some significant men in her life, like her father and grandfather, others seemingly less significant (but you come to see how they keyed into her being) like a cab driver or a firefighter she passed on the street. So beautiful, so tear-worthy.

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WHAT I READ: Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

WHY I READ IT: I was tragically behind the curve on this beautiful book.

WHAT I THOUGHT: One of my other five-star books for the month; I can’t believe I waited this long.

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WHAT I READ: My Name is Lucy Barton (Elizabeth Strout)

WHY I READ IT: Her Olive Kitteridge is something I moderately enjoyed.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I bumped this up to 3 stars, but it was really more like 2.5. Beautiful writing, but pretty meh.

Bookish Oversights: Americanah

As part of my 2017 pledge to read harder (and my general life pledge to finally read those bookish oversights everyone loves), I borrowed a friend’s copy of Americanah and dug in this week. And hoooh boy, did I love it. For some dumb reason, I’ve been casually resistant to reading books not set in the U.S. I guess I would assume it just wouldn’t be personally interesting or relevant to me, or something. And guys, that was so dumb and closed-minded of me. The very purpose of books is to expand your horizons and let you explore worlds, countries, and backgrounds different from your own. Why was I limiting myself from such amazing pieces of literature, just because I assumed it wouldn’t be relevant to me? This is why Trump won, people!

In any case, I could not be more thrilled that I finally gave Americanah a go. Pretty much everyone I know who has read this book is obsessed, including the book community – it was one of the 10 Best of the year by the New York Times, won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award, and a host of other accolades and accomplishments.

WHAT I READ:

Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

On a scale of 1 to 5 star-crossed lovers, I give this 5 Ifemelus and Obinzes.

#FirstFifty Synopsis:

Ifemelu is traveling to Trenton from her home in Princeton to get her hair braided at an African hair salon. It’s clear that this is a big day for her, as she mulls over recently hearing more about her long-lost ex-boyfriend, Obinze; breaking up with her current boyfriend, Blaine; and making plans to move from the United States back to Lagos. Obinze, too, can’t stop thinking about Ifemelu as he goes through the motions as a middle-aged wealthy Nigerian man living a slightly corrupt life in Lagos. With that groundwork laid, we are brought back a few decades to Ifemelu growing up in Nigeria and the beginning of the relationship between the two.

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

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Don’t make my mistake, people – find a copy near you (preferably at your local library or bookstore, because we need to support those communities now more than ever) and enjoy sinking in to the worlds and lives of Ifemelu and Obinze.

Reflections on my Ghost Life

Confession: I think a lot about Ghost Lives (via Adventurous Kate), my Sliding Doors lives: what my life would be like had X happened instead of Y. If I had gone to this college instead of that college; if the military hadn’t transferred my father to Virginia and instead we had stayed in New York; if I had never had my first internship in international education that eventually led me to my chosen career path.

I particularly think about my ghost life in relation to DC. I lived in DC for six years during college and grad school as I hatched from a little baby freshman college student to a semi-adult (at the very least, I learned how to pay bills, and I kind of learned how health insurance works). While my mother could certainly tell you about my ups and downs during this time (many a teary phone call, as I do not handle transition well) I tend to look back on this time with rose-colored glasses. I had so many lovely friends around me, DC is a genuinely fun city (at least Kristen-level fun- I have no need for 24 hour transit since my bedtime is 10pm), and it was just a bus ride away from home.

When I left DC in 2012, I was pretty ready to leave. Many of my college friends were starting to drift away, and I wanted a new challenge. And so, I spent a year bouncing around Europe and Asia and living at home like a bum, and then moved to Boston three years ago, where I have shivered ever since.

Part of me wonders though: who would I be if I were in DC as a late twenty-something individual? Would I have remained in my old, familiar ruts, or would I be taking advantage of the many events and networking opportunities? Where would I be working, and where would I be living?

There’s obviously no way for me to know, although I felt some twinges of nostalgia over the past year as work sent me to DC on a semi-regular basis. As I met up with friends and explored the city with fresh eyes, I felt a little sad to be going back to my little rut in Boston. (To be honest, I have way more friends in DC than in Boston, which is just depressing.)

My ghost floats around DC, and who knows? Maybe my body will join her sometime soon.

Oh yeah, there’s a book review here. It’s a book set in DC, so there’s your connection.

WHAT I READ:

The Hopefuls (Jennifer Close), Book #103 of 2016

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

On a scale of 1 to 5 DC Tropes, 1 being THAT HUMIDITY and 5 being BUT EVERYONE IS SO BORING, I give this 3 corrupt politicians.

#FirstFifty Synopsis:

Beth and her husband, Matt, kick off the book in 2009 having recently transplanted themselves in DC; Matt worked on the Obama campaign, and is eager to continue the Hope and Change in the presidency. Beth is less than thrilled, because apparently DC is a hellhole compared to the Elysium that is New York City – DC is hot, humid, only populated by government workers (which is surely a surprise for the 60% of the DC population who does not work for the government, including formerly yours truly), and she just has nothing to talk about with them. She mostly spends the first fifty pages bitching about living in DC, going to dinner at her in-laws’ house (her MIL does sound pretty terrible – any woman who refers to her first child as her failed “first pancake” has definite shades of Lucille Bluth), and basically not making any effort to make friends or find a job of her own. The first fifty pages end with Matt and Beth meeting another couple who actually seem interesting and full of life: Ashleigh and Jimmy.

WHO KNOWS what will happen from there? (Well, I know, because I read this already)

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

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NEED MORE?

In general, I give this a “meh.” I didn’t hate it? I liked reading the stuff about DC? But certainly there was a lot to be desired. More here! And I’ll try to read a better one next time, SORRY GUYS