Books 2014

I have been terrible and lost nearly a year in books.

Highlights included discovering Nadeem Aslam- The Blind Man’s Garden and Maps for Lost Lovers are beautiful and haunting- and that Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote books for adults, and is it me or is The Making of a Marchionesse subversive as eff all? Disappointments included my first John Green novel, Looking for Alaska, and the infuriating A Tale for the Time being by Ruth Ozeki, a book I would have thrown at the wall had it not been on my kindle. Regret is for the faint of heart, though. Let’s proceed like we never left off!

9/14 The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin I started this, became annoyed, put it down, and started it again yesterday because I’d forgotten why I got annoyed. And then I got it- I wanted something meatier at the time. Yesterday I didn’t want something so meaty. There’s a slightly annoying quality to books that are aimed directly at a book club, books that in describing book lovers reference books that everyone’s gonna get- Austen, Dickens, Moby Dick, Anne of Green Gables. This is a smart lady’s book club book. There are some seriously heart-warming moments about family, enough patter about short stories and novels that you can nod along to that you feel like you’re learning, or maybe just that your college English classes’ worth is being validated, and it tugs at heart strings perfectly. It also makes you want to own a bookstore if you didn’t want to already.

9/14 Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. So I was chatting with my local bartender over a pint at the end of a long day and she  cautiously mentioned that she likes to read, and I just as cautiously mentioned that I like to read and asked what she liked to read. This is dangerous territory for any book lover, who tend to fall into distinct camps: in the ivory tower you’ve got your original sourcers. Then there are the theorists who read the really heavy stuff, and generally specified, recognized by a working understanding of semantics. The classics only. (The former three are no fun at parties. The next is dicey. After that you’re fine.)  The heavyweight modern lits who are recognizable by their having completed The Infinite Jest and their ability to gush about it’s finer intricacies. The middle and lower modern lits, generally read prize winning novels with occassional guilty pleasures, usually chick lit or YA, tend to form book groups. Then the genre sets. Then you’ve got your Flesch-Kincaid 4 readers- lovers of Ken Follet and his brethren. (If I’ve left anything out please advise in the comments) So this can be a devastating conversation for any true book lover because within most of these groups there exists The Enthusiast, the person who says, “You like to read? I love to read!!!” and the next day bequeaths you 17 dog-eared Clive Cusslers which you later have to pretend to have read and loved. So she looked at me apologetically and said, “I’m really into literary fiction.” “Oh, me too!” I said, well aware that that didn’t put her at ease. “What was the last good book you read?” “You know, it was this book called Burial Rites. It’s about the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland, and the year she spent on a farm, waiting for her execution. It was good. The author really played with whether she was guilty or  not.” “Oh, so like Alias Grace by Atwood?” I swear she almost jumped across the bar at that moment. “YES! And that’s why it was recommended to me, because I love that book so much!” “That was a fantastic book! Did you read…” and new book buds were formed. It’s a good book. Not as good as Alias Grace, but good.

9/14 All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I haven’t read a Doerr in at least ten years, cause he selfishly took a ten year break. This book felt very different from his others, though I could be misremembering. I was cautious, because it is set in World War II and there’s something about setting a book during WWII that feels, I don’t know, somewhere between lazy and cliche. The story is lovely, though, and has all of Doerr’s trademark evolutionary biology touches scattered throughout. It follows parallel stories of a blind girl living with her father in Paris and a German orphan with a genius for radios who is recruited into a brutal training facility for Nazi Youth in the premath to the invasion of Paris, and later when their worlds collide spectacularly in a small medieval town during intense shelling. It’s lovely and engaging and heartbreaking, and I suppose, (grumble) worth the wait, Mr. Doerr.


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