The truth is that I haven't been reading as much as usual lately. I mean, I am always reading something, but books take more brainpower than magazines and blogs. So I've been letting my pregnancy-addled brain take a rest.
(Except for the book that I just finished, which will get a post all on its own because it deserves it.)
Three things I've read over the past couple of months that are worth noting:
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.
I read this after it was mentioned by both Shauna Niequist and Nora Z., both reader-friends who I trust. The writing was excellent, the story humorous and somehow relatable even to a female non-Jewish reader. It felt very modern. Irreverant and angsty and funny. Like watching Garden State and Modern Family at the same time. I wonder if these things will feel dated eventually or just "2000's" in a good way?
This Is Where I Leave You was what I wanted The Corrections to be. I read The Corrections when it debuted a decade ago and I didn't connect to that particular dysfunctional family. I was also tainted by Franzen's Oprah debacle, so maybe I should give that one another whirl since I was pretty taken with his recent Freedom.
A notable warning: This Is Where I Leave You is pretty sexual. There are several scenes that had me blushing and looking over my shoulder to make sure no one saw the page. Though I mentioned that to a couple of people who had read it and that didn't stand out to them.
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat) was one of those books I picked up because it was sitting on the lake house bookshelf. The story is haunting and creepy. Harris is a beautifully poetic writer, but not in an annoying way. There is a definite narrative here. I liked the characters as much as possible, given that they're not meant to be lovable. Then again I've always appreciated difficult people.
This book was the opposite of the one above. It's not modern. I can see that some people might have trouble getting through it if you're not in the mood for an allegory or fairy-tale type of story. It may not seem like it, but I tend to read predictable stuff for my tastes, so every now and again it's good to push myself out of the box. Five Quarters was outside of my regular tastes, and it was nice to read a different style of writing.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has been on my radar for several years now, ever since I discovered her blog and marched right up to her and introduced myself at Blogher '10 in New York. I really appreciate what she does on her blog, so I don't know why it took me so long to pick up her book.
For those unfamiliar with the experiment, Rubin took a year to make tweaks in her life to see if they truly made a difference in her level of happiness. There was a different subject each month (health in one, marriage in another) and she relied upon expert, friendly, and traditional advice. What I liked most about the premise is that she wasn't coming from a place of despair. She wasn't trying to become happier because she was sunk in depression or going through a divorce or anything similarly drastic. She has a nice husband, charming children, and a job she loves. It was a fresh take on "I know I should feel happy and content, what is missing here?"
The Happiness Project is a quick and interesting read. I still think about a few of things she learned when they pop up in my day (it takes 6 seconds for a hug to genuinely connect, for example). I understand some of the criticisms of the project - that "happiness" is a western, frivolous idea - but I think that most of us are looking for the little things that make our lives better. Let's not pretend we're not all searching.
I need to get back in the reading groove. I'm happier when I read. But, like exercise (which I don't do), it's easy to get out of the habit when you're feeling lazy or stressed.
What are you reading or what have you read lately that you want to share? We're all ears here!