I’ve been a bad blogger lately, but since I made a promise to myself when I started this blog that I would not make this just another ‘should’ in my life, I’m okay with it. I started a new job in January. Huge, positive life change. And I’ve found that a) I haven’t wanted to sit in front of a computer more than necessary and b) my reading has pretty much been reserved for weekends because I’ve been pretty tired during the week. Which means, I’ve only read 4 books since January. That’s a low number for me, but to be fair- one of those books was 784 pages long.
So- in the order I read them, here are my thoughts on the books that kept me company as winter (slowly) turned into spring. You’ll notice, the books are varied in style and topic. As my high school English teacher used to say- variety is the spice of life.
1) I went from a post-apocalyptic novel (The Bone Season) to a book about a young boy named Bit, who grows up in a decaying commune in New York State in the 1970s- Arcadia by Lauren Groff. Guess what, (spoiler alert), it got a little post-apocalyptic too, which I didn’t see coming. But in an entirely different and realistic way. Like- a world without bees, which may not be too far off in the future. And without the bees, we can kiss life as we know it goodbye. But I digress…
You see the entire book through Bit’s eyes. At the beginning, he’s a babe in arms. By the final page, he’s got a daughter of his own. I’ve always been a little fascinated with late 60’s/early 70’s counter culture, so that’s what attracted me to the book. What kept me engaged was Groff’s language. The lady can write. Such a great attention to detail and words that flow like honey. It’s also a very satisfying read, because it really does track this one boy/man’s life, and as he grows older, how we see his world changes as his perspective shifts. One thing I found odd at first is that the book is entirely void of quotation marks. But you know, once I got used to it, I hardly noticed. I’d definitely recommend this one.
2) Next off the shelf was Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Brosh also runs a blog called Hyperbole and a Half where she tells stories from her life and illustrates them in MS Paint, to hilarious results. I first came across her work via the entry called Sneaky Hate Spiral, and it changed my life. I just might be Allie Brosh, but with cats instead of dogs. Late last year, Brosh put out a book that collects her “best” work and contains some new material too. If you like laughing- check out her blog. If you can’t stop laughing, go out and get her book. For all it’s hilarity, the thing that struck me the most is how poignant it can be. In the last couple years, Broch hasn’t been as active on her blog because she’s been dealing with some seriously shitty major depression. She writes/draws a lot about that in the book, and is willing to be so vulnerable and honest about how it feels to be depressed. For people who have never had to deal with mental health issues, I think it explains what it’s like really well. For people who have, I think you’ll relate. And even while she’s dealing with dark emotions, her work still manages to be funny, which is often the best way to get through to people.
3) Up next was the big one: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I was on vacation, and that was my beach read, all 784 pages of it. Thankfully, I read it on my Kobo (which is still weird for me. I like “real” books). It took me about two months to read it, but it was the type of journey that could easily be stretched out like that. It’s the kind of book and story that you want to savor. It was on so many critic’s best of 2013 lists, I had to check it out. AND- I just saw that it won the Pulitzer prize for fiction. Well deserved!
Again, it’s the coming of age story of a young man (there seems to be a pattern here) who, on a day when he’s suspended from school, goes to an art gallery with his mom and is inside when a terrorist attack occurs. He’s one of very few survivors, and in a stupor of shock and concussion, sees a painting in the rubble and takes it as he evacuates the building all alone. This action sets off a series of events as he bounces around from one temporary home to another, and dreams of a young woman he met eyes with just before the blast went off. It’s the kind of book you can get lost in.
4) Finally, I needed my equivalent of brain candy: Missing You by Harlan Coben. When it comes to popular fiction, I gravitate to mystery/thrillers, and ever since my mom lent me a Coben novel to read while on (a different) vacation, I’ve read much of what he’s written. There are always many twists and turns in his novels, and I like that I never see the end coming. He also likes to rip things from the headlines. Missing You deals with catfishing- people pretending to be someone they are not on dating sites. Usually, catfishers are up to no good. In this book, they’re up to some very bad things. It was a quick, easy read and thoroughly enjoyable.
And now I’m reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, lent to me by my book-buddy Jenette. She swears it’s the best fantasy novel ever written. Time will tell… but more on that next time.