Admittedly, I had a late start to this reading challenge. I have been sick, on and off, and traveling. Normally, traveling is great for reading, but when I went to Puerto Rico in February, I left my book on the plane. I was so frustrated. It was A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra and I was over a hundred pages into it.
In late spring/early summer, I got more into the swing of my book challenge. I will list these in the order in which they were read. While I read some earlier this year, the majority were completed fairly recently.
Pages read thus far: 3,080
A Book with Bad Reviews:
Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" by Lena Dunham
I was excited when I heard that this book was coming out. I had read some of her stories in the New Yorker and watch the HBO show, "Girls," all of which I've enjoyed. Unfortunately, the book was not that interesting to me. It felt sort of slapped together. Some stories were better than others. I think Dunham is a talented writer when she takes the time and energy to write something really telling about characters or situations, but those instances were few and far between in this book. She's producing so much content all the time that I wonder if insight has escaped her. Overall, I'd give it a 2.5/5 because it was well written, interesting, and there were brief moments of insight.
A Book that Scares You:
The Art of Dying: by S.N. Goenka
I do not usually read spiritual books, or books about a particular lifestyle. I was raised Roman Catholic, grew up to be an Atheist-leaning Agnostic, vegan, liberal lady who is stubborn as it gets. Reading about religion or spirituality honestly scares me. I had heard quite a bit about Vipassana meditation because Rivers Cuomo from Weezer practices it, as does my acupunturist, Ashlyn Pardee. I try not to always have the "I am right" outlook, but I do, especially when it comes to religion. However, meditation has always seemed like something I could benefit from, and would really like to try, despite its spiritual ties. The stories in this book are about people near death, or written by close friends or family of a dying Vipassana practitioner. The stories were very insightful and its clear that ideology changed with each person who began practicing this type of meditation. It won't cure what ails you, but it will teach you a way to experience life and death in an arguably more comfortable way. I enjoyed the book, but I think the only way to really know if it works for you is by attending a retreat, of which there are many. I am considering signing up for one. I would give this book a 3/5.
A Book that was Originally Written in a Different Language:
Norwegian Wood by Haruku Murakami
When I posted a picture of this book on Instagram, my friend Aimee told me that he's her favorite author and this book is different than any of his others. It's a love story, and it's sad. It's beautifully written. Some critics have drawn parallels between the author and protagonist. I enjoyed the book. Would I read it again? Probably not. There was not an intimacy between the reader and the world/characters in this novel to make it especially powerful. Perhaps it's the translation. Maybe the story was not compelling enough to me, personally. I enjoyed it, and I could see how this novel would be an earlier novel for a writer who would later garner accomplishment with a major, critically acclaimed novel. This book earns a 3.25/5 from me.
A Nonfiction Book:
Bad Feminist by Roxanna Gay
I really wanted to love this book. I'm a feminist, and I'm always looking for more perspectives and insight. Though she recognizes her imperfect position as a feminist, enjoying rap music that also degrades women, I found this book to be a patchwork of contemporary media analysis with a gender and race perspective. It looks like these essays were written for conferences and pieced together into a book with themed segments. Nothing was particularly insightful, and her analysis of media like The Hunger Games was boring and rudimentary. Maybe I enjoy a historical perspective better, or sociological, anthropological.... I was just so bored by this book. I would give it a 1/5.
A Book You Can Finish in a Day
One More Thing (Stories and Other Stories) by B.J. Novak
I was surprised with how genuinely witty and well-written these short stories were. The formats were varied and it was actually really inspiring. I loved it--it was strange and funny and gave you all sorts of feels. I want to read it again already. It was my favorite book read in this first part of the challenge. It gets a 5/5.
A Graphic Novel
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Book 1 by Joss Wheton
I love Buffy, so I'm a bit biased. Switching from one platform (television) to another (comics) was interesting. There were no limitations for the monsters/big bad guys, so that was cool. At the same time, I have little experience reading comics and always have a nagging sense that I'm doing it all wrong. I did enjoy this, and was left with wanting more. I give it a 3/5.
A Book that Became a Movie
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I was surprised I would like this. I still have a deep-seated book snob that lives within me, and it's tough to get her to read something that's such a recent hit over a classic novel. But, once I got her to shut up, I really enjoyed this fucked up little piece of literature. I do think that there were parts that could have been expedited. Overall, it was a really nice read. I give it a 3.5/5.
A Book by a Female Author
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
I had high hopes for Miranda July's first novel. I loved her short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You. This novel was so highly anticipated. I liked it. But I didn't love it. The story and the characters weren't that interesting to me. The revelations that the characters had were...meh. Nothing resonated. The characters and the story is strange, but that did not deter me. It just did not seem special. It gets a 2/5.
A Funny Book
Yes Please by Amy Pohler
Sometimes when an actor or comedian writes a book, they lose their voice. The book doesn't sound like them. This was not the case with Yes Please. I could hear Amy Pohler, comedic timing and all, in this little book about life. It was a quick read and I enjoyed it. I liked it more than Tina Fey's Bossypants, even though I usually like Tina Fey's projects a little more than Pohler's, and I liked it more than Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I think Amy Pohler showed a real sense of her true self in this book and it was a fun, lighthearted read. I give it a 4/5.
A Book Based on or Turned into a Television Show
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
The language in this novel is much different than I had expected. When you see the Netflix television show, you expect it to keep a certain voice. In actuality, the book is a darker and more matter-of-fact. It focuses less on the other inmates and more on Kerman. It's not completely without humor or self-actualization. The events play out in a much less dramatic way. Less happens in this book. Although I love the show, I also really enjoyed this toned-down version. You see the prison system through the eyes of a virgin criminal, and you find how it shaped her. This book gets a 3.5/5.
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