I haven’t done the best job in 2013 of cataloging all the books I’ve read. But, here are a few currently on my desk.
David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is hilarious and easy. I’m not adding a single new note to the choir. Sedaris is beloved.
I am enjoying it particularly so because the short stories are quick. I sit outside under a palm tree during my lunch break, savoring cold leftovers and often covering my mouth because I am laughing so hard. 4 out of 5 bananas
Otherwise, the F in Exams book was a silly and appreciated birthday gift. It is on my office table as a conversation piece. And Stitched Gifts is providing ample ideas for the holidays — of which I have decided will be mainly embroidered and sewn.*
In the last few months, I’ve also read:
The Emperor of All Maladies: a non-fiction look into cancer. This Pulitzer winner reads like a textbook, and is obviously applauded. I found it too heavy, especially during October when my news feed was, for the first time, full of graphic breast cancer photography. I struggled with this book, swallowing my own fears with each page. 3 out of 5 bananas
Chris Bohjalian’s The Light in the Ruins was an easy, read. It wasn’t nearly as well crafted as Midwives, but I enjoyed it all the same. Set in World War II Italy, I learned much about renaissance Italian art, rural Italian living, and Italy’s divided heart during the great war. 3 out of 5 bananas
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson was a delightful read. While my book club did not agree with me on this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a different take on time travel — what would happen if you could start your life over, and over, and over again. And what if that life could go back to change Hitler’s and prevent World War II. 4 out of 5 bananas.
I’m currently reading Running the Rift — and loving it. Set in Rwanda, it is the fictional story of a track and field great who is trying to survive the genocide and compete for his country in the Olympics. I’m also reading my first issue of Taproot, which is simply divine. It is a great mix of country living writing, photography, crafts, recipes and simplicity. Five out of five bananas, absoloodle.
Still on those last 5 chapters to finish draft 1, novel 2. I feel like I’m at mile 20 of a marathon and would rather just sit down for a bit. Or get a ride home.
There is carousel of emotional baggage that comes with being this close to the end of such a project, having faced the praise and critics once before. I need to slap on some bravery and get after it, already. (If you hate it, you hate it. I do think it is a pretty good story.)
* Oh, the holiday planning. I’m annoying my friends with Thanksgiving recipe lists — we are helping our friend Trond host. And Christmas! The gifts and the planning and the cards and the bunting and the tiny white lights to be strung from the patios! Truly, my very favorite time of year.
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Book Whose Title I’ve forgotten and can’t find on Google. It was easy and entertaining, which is what I needed. A young woman travels to Columbia to visit her maternal family. Her mother, who died when she was young, had a second life previously unknown to her daughter. Also, of course the young American falls in love with a narco’s son, and is lured into a dangerous life. So memorable, obviously. 2.5/5 bananas.
TED: The Empowerment Dynamic. My housemate BJ suggested I read this. He is not a reader, but loves this. (When a self-described “non-reader” makes a book recommendation, I take note.) Again, an easy read. This reminds workers how to react to difficult situations at work. En sum: don’t be a victim. Create your happiness. Learn to react in a positive, productive manner. If you are into these types of business, good-attitude, pump-you-up books, you’ll dig it. 3/5 bananas
The Sunflower: A coworker years ago gave me this novel. Again, total vacation reading. It is about a woman who travels to Peru to volunteer in an orphanage after her engagement is called off. I enjoyed it for what it was: romantic, spiritual, fluff. (Who doesn’t need an entertaining, easy read from time to time?) 2.5/5 bananas.
Season of Migration to the North: This was our book club selection for February, and surprisingly — most of us read it. This novella is considered part of the classics for African literature. Set in Sudan, it is the story of two men who return from the west to reintegrate into their villages, with colonization haunting their every move. I didn’t enjoy this book, but it has made me better for having read it. The brilliance is how much heavy thematic layering the author crams into a basic story of two men in a Sudanese village. At the end, you have to reconsider each of the character’s actions, and what influenced their decisions. I’ll think of this book for years to come. 5/5 bananas.
Shantaram and The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. The T.S. book is beautiful, but an odd shape and heavy. It is too big to hold at night when I normally read, or the tub. My sit-at-a-table-and-read-a-book time isn’t often. So, it’s going to take a while, even though the story is enchanting. Shantaram I’ve wanted to read for years and just haven’t gotten around to it. (Found a copy the other day at the Boulder Bookstore and literally jumped up and down. The last copy I’d seen was in the Joberg airport and I didn’t have the room for yet another heavy book.) Also, the next book club book looks pretty darn good: Peace Like A River.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Sugar
Oh, and hey! My second novel is at 190 pages. Woo! Colorado has been so very good for my writing life. I’ve had the chance to join some great writing groups, take classes and become a member of a writing cooperative, and spend countless hours in mountain coffee shops surrounded by pines, distracted only by the steady stream of attractive, rugged bearded men who could be lumberjacks. Or my next boyfriend.
I consider reading good books training these days. Like a golfer who drives several buckets of balls after each round because he knows it makes him better — reading fiction, nonfiction and the cereal box at breakfast is my writing workout. Writers who say, “I don’t read! Who has time for reading?” are frauds at best.
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I’m back in a writing class that doubles as an intense book club. A few reviews of recent reads:
Queen of America: This is the follow-up novel to Hummingbird’s Daughter, written by Luis Alberto Urrea. HD is one of my favorite books in the last few years. Poetic writing about the desert southwest and Mexico grabs me every time. Queen is a great continuation of the story, but doesn’t quite grab the magic of the first book. All the same, if you love fiction set along the Arizona-Mexico border, or have a love of all things quirky Mexican (Nacho Libre, for example) — you’ll dig this. Read both. Three out of five bananas.
The White Tiger: I read this book on a flight across the country in a matter of hours. That isn’t to brag about my ability to read quickly, but at how funny and entertaining the book is. Aravind Adiga writes the story of a young chauffer living in India. The writing is sharp, funny and at times cruel. I really enjoyed this story and am looking forward to discussing it at the next book club. Four out of five bananas.
The Talented Mr. Ripley: this is the first of four books we are reading for the Lighthouse class, “Housewives and Evil Do-ers.” I liked the movie considerably more and found Tom Ripley as a character to be unbelievable. There was simply too much coincidence that went in his favor to make this story relevant today. The conversation we had last night about the book, however, was excellent. Have I mentioned how much I love Lighthouse? Too bad Mr. Ripley isn’t as entertaining. Two out of five bananas.
The Paris Wife — for fun
and, Mrs. Bridge for the next class.
What have you read lately that rocked?
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In Phoenix, I was a member of the “No Vampire, Anti-Suck bookclub.” This coven of librarians came together monthly to enjoy dinner and review a book of choice. The books we read were across the spectrum, introducing me to a variety of authors and topics. I’ve had a gaping intellectual void without this monthly meeting — and the challenge of finishing a book and being prepared with something mildly entertaining to add to the conversation.
Enter the “14ers Book Club.” We met for the first time this month to review “The Tiger’s Wife.” While just two of us finished the book, everyone had a strong opinion. The views varied from “fascinating” to “more dialog!” Most members agreed the author’s storytelling ability was unbelievably well-crafted, although at times the timeline was confusing.
Out of a scale of 1-14, the book ranked a 9.5. (I gave it an 11. I can’t wait to read what she writes next.)
Next month’s book: “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”
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