Though I have been reading at a ferocious pace, I have not kept up with posting about the books I've been reading for this challenge (see Part 1 for more information). That means, this post is a double edition: 20 books! These were read in a little less than two months. I'm hoping I will be able to keep up the pace and read all 54 for the challenge.
Pages read thus far: 8045
A book published this year:
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
I thought it would be interesting to choose this book for this category since it was written prior to To Kill a Mockingbird, but was only published this year. I enjoyed this book, but it was, for me, no where near the masterpiece that Mockingbird is. Many people have had negative responses to this book because it complicates the characters that they have grown up idealizing. However, it makes complete sense, as Mockingbird was told through the point of view of a child, and this book is her adult coming of age story. I give it 3/5.
A mystery or suspense novel:
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
There was so much hype surrounding this book. I was not quite sure that I would like it. My sister really enjoyed it, and though we have different tastes, I knew that if she liked it, it would at least be entertaining. And I did enjoy it. It had a nice pace, interesting twists (although they were a tiny bit predictable). The writing was good and the characters were interesting. I give it a 3.5/5.
A book based on real life:
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
We Should All Be Feminists was based off of Adichi's TedTalk. She is a Nigerian writer and has such a unique perspective. I downloaded this book off Kindle while I was on vacation in Massachusetts and read it in one shot, in the morning. It was a quick read. I am not sure how much this differs from her TedTalk, but I can't imagine them being too far off from one another. She makes great points and has a wonderful narrative tone. I give it 4.5/5--I wanted a whole 300-page book on this!
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
A lot of my classmates read this book in high school. Somehow, I was not one of them. I decided to choose this play because I was headed to Massachusetts and I was hoping to visit Salem (didn't happen, unfortunately). This is not a true story, but it is based on one. I really liked books about the Salem Witch Trials as a middle school girl, but have not revisited the subject. This play was really interesting--the mass hysteria and blaming that can happen. I think it's a fascinating tale and I like how it was also representative of the period in Hollywood when there was a hunt for communists (this being when The Crucible was written). Overall, I give it 4.5/5.
A book published the year you were born:
Cathedral y Raymond Carver
I love some depressing shit. Yes, I've always been that girl. Raymond Carver is a master of the short story, usually suggesting characteristics about people that are not that appealing, that we may find in ourselves. His stories are incredibly character-driven, which is why I love them so much. Even though some stories are depressing, I think that pointing those characteristics out, in a showing not telling way, teaches us to not be like that. If that makes sense. I had read a few of these stories in other collections before, but it was really wonderful re-reading them. It gets a 5/5.
A book a friend recommended:
Blankets by Craig Thompson
I was looking for a book that would make me cry to fulfill that book on my list and my friend, Derek, handed me a copy of Blankets. Even though it was sad, with a coming of age story where a boy is molested, questions his relationship with religion and god, has a rough family life, and falls in love, with all of its complications, it still did not make me cry. Perhaps that is because it is a graphic novel, and I am still new to reading these books and feel an emotional barrier between comics and myself, as opposed to words and myself. I'm working on it. This was still good and since Derek recommended it, it fulfilled another book challenge criteria. It is definitely a must read for people who love sentimental and adult graphic novels without any supernatural bits. 3.5/5.
A book from your childhood:
The Witches by Roald Dahl
One of the reasons I wanted to do this challenge was to read books I have been wanting to read. I have never read The Witches. However, it was from my childhood in that I loved the movie and I remember vividly watching it with my friend Megan at her home, more mesmerized than scared by the witches in the book. I really enjoyed reading this book and I can't wait to gift it to my niece, Hazel, once she gets a little older. It's an imaginative tale that I was thoroughly entertained by as a 32 year old. It gets a 5/5.
A book your mother loves:
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
I love my mom, but she prefers overly sentimental books by Nicholas Sparks, so I was dreading this challenge. When I learned that both she and my sister enjoyed this book, I figured I would give it a go, as my sister has a bit better taste (sorry, mom!). The Memory Keeper's Daughter was well written and interesting, covering unusual circumstances. I enjoyed reading it. Would I read it again? No. But I'd say it's better than Nicholas Sparks any day. 3/5.
A book from an author that you love but haven't read yet:
The Dying Animal by Philip Roth
The reviews on the GoodReads app where I track my books has all of these reviews calling Philip Roth a sexist pig. I find them utterly amusing. Some people cannot separate characters from authors and they believe everything in the book to be a literal translation of Roth's own views. Do we read The Merchant of Venice as a literal antisemitic play, or do we look at the hypocritical ways in which people act? I love Philip Roth for making awful characters point out awful beliefs and characteristics. He is one of my favorite authors and even though this isn't my absolute favorite of his novels, it still gets 4.25/5.
Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
I have been listening to Sonic Youth since I was in eighth grade, when I would spend weekends at my friend Meg's house and listen to music for hours in her room plastered with band posters. I enjoyed learning about Kim Gordon's life. It takes a lot of the glamour out of being in such a big band. so if you're interested in keeping that illusion, you should steer clear. Her stories about growing up, moving, her family, New York City, and her relationship with Thurston Moore were all equally fascinating. I give it a 3.5/5.
A book more than 100 years old:
Complete Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant
I've enjoyed Guy de Maupassant for years, so I had read some of these stories before. I like his perspective, how he points out the error in human reasoning and selfishness. His story, "The Necklace" is a pretty popular story, in many short story collections, and a part of much curriculum. For this category, I had originally begun reading Jane Austen's Persuasion, but I absolutely could not stomach it. I read half and could not get myself to read a page more. I give this collection a 3.75/5.
A book based entirely on its cover:
Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders
I really wanted to read another George Saunders book, after falling in love with Pastoralia a couple of years ago. I liked the title and that the cover was just the words in a cursive design with a rainbow effect in the lettering. I had no idea it would be so short! I read the entire book in just a few minutes. It's a commencement speech, and it's really lovely. It's one that would be good to read often as a pick me up. It is similar in form to David Foster Wallace's This is Water. For what it was, I thought it was lovely, quotable, and after posting a pic on instagram, I've already lent it out to a friend! 4/5.
A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit:
The Fall by Albert Camus
I could see The Fall being used as a book to examine existential philosophy. It's a monologue where the reader only hears the dialogue of the main character. I have always wanted to visit Paris and Amsterdam, where the book takes place/reminisces about. This book is much more subtle and misunderstood than his others, and I found the characters to be very curious. I really love The Stranger, so much so that I taught the book in advanced writing classes at University at Buffalo. I feel like this book deserves another read and deeper analysis. It gets 3.5/5,
A book set in the future:
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I was surprised I liked this book as much as I did. I was dreading this sort of fantasy category. I enjoy some Utopian/Distopian novels, so I thought that was what I had read, but The Time Machine is a classic that I have been meaning to read. I loved the language, and the description of the future creatures. It was a lovely, quick read. 4/5.
The Night Trilogy: Night, Day, Dawn by Elie Wiesel
The first time I read Night, I was thirteen and it was the first time I ever read a book in one sitting. It's so painful, told in a minimalist way. I read once that the original draft was around 1000 pages and the publishers had him cut it down to 115. Night is a memoir about the holocaust. a young boy's journey through the most brutal circumstances. The fact that this novel exists is a miracle, that Wiesel survived. This book should be required reading for everyone. It gets a 5/5.
Dawn is the imagined future of a holocaust survivor where he joins a terrorist group retaliating for the injustices of the holocaust. The main character is given the task to kill an English officer in retaliation for one of their own being sent to death. I was struck with how people can respond so differently to tragedy and how relevant this book is to today. It's a 5/5.
Day is a fiction novel about a man who is struck by a taxi in New York City, and his recovery from the accident. More than that, it is about a man who is so changed by his experiences as a holocaust survivor that he suffers tremendously in his life, feeling depressed and suicidal, unable to connect with others. It shows that the holocaust did not end. For some people, it is a part of them and their suffering continues. I give Day 4.5/5.
A book that made you cry:
Just Kids by Patti Smith
I listened to Just Kids while traveling to DC, for a friend's wedding. I knew so little of Patti Smith's life, her struggles with poverty and following her dreams to be an artist. I didn't think this book would make me cry, but the relationship that develops between her and Robert Mappelthorpe is complicated and real in the way modern romances sometimes are. I get very tearful when it comes to people affected by HIV/AIDS, especially when they are discriminated against because of their sexuality, so at a certain point, I lost it, and some tears escaped. It gets a 3.5/5.
A book with a one-word title:
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
Americanah was such a good book. I love postcolonial novels that look at the disparity between their home and the US. This novel follows two Nigerians and their decisions that pull them apart, on separate continents, until they are reunited. Adichi is a fantastic writer. I am so happy that I came upon her work. This is one of those books that envelopes you. You think about it when you're not reading it. The characters are deep and interesting. I am looking forward to re-reading this book. Unsurprisingly, it gets a 5/5.
A book written by an author with your same initials:
Attempting Normal by Marc Maron
I have been listening to WTF podcast for about a year now. Marc Maron has a great way of getting people to be vulnerable and reveal themselves in a way that most actors, comedians, industry people, do not. He does that with himself in this memoir about his life and career. Maron wasn't an overnight hit; he was a drug addict, sex addict, and generally made some poor decisions. He's a curious character and this book was like a prolonged intro to a WTF podcast where he talks about himself. I really enjoyed it. I give it a 4/5.
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