I feel like I haven't been reading all that much recently, but I haven't been posting about books much, either, so there's still a lot to catch up on. For our Europe trip, I bought nothing short of 7 books on my kindle to devour on all the airplanes. I read exactly one. So I should probably temper my reading expectations, but I just get so excited when I hear about something wonderful to read.
Here's what I've been reading in the last few months:
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
This book has been on my To Read list for years. I think I finally snagged it when it came up as a daily deal on my paperwhite. I don't want to put too fine of a point on it, but this book is brilliant. You never really meet the narrator and yet it's not told in third person. Unlike any other book I've read, it feels like you (the reader) are actually one of the cubicle dwellers at an advertising firm in Chicago.
I thought maybe I would have missed the boat on this book. Although I sometimes catch episodes of The Office, I've never worked in a cubicle type job. I don't fully understand the tension that layoffs bring to a 21st floor. Still, I found this book to be amazing. Hilarious and depressing and even sort of scary. Every single character was flawed. No one was the hero. This is a great book.
The reader reviews on amazon and goodreads for this book are mixed. I totally get that this will not be everyone's style. But I loved Then We Came To The End, five years too late.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Oh, how I loved this book. I laughed inside from the first page. Written as a letter from a teenage girl going through her first big breakup, I can't even believe how much I enjoyed this as a 30-something housewife. It's funny and clever and angsty and funny. An easy read, Young Adult technically, though I'm not sure they would find it as great as I did. I enjoyed Why We Broke Up immensely.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Night Film is one of those books that everyone was talking about and that I kept seeing featured in airports. I got so angry at this book. There's one point about 3/4 of the way through where the story so entirely jumps the shark that I wondered if it had moved into parody territory. Still, I really liked the characters. They kept me guessing until the very last page. I kept thinking I had something figured out, and then I didn't. The twists got me, every time.
Night Film is a read for people who enjoy the suspense genre (Tana French is one of my favorites, I recommend her book The Likeness and Gillian Flynn can really craft a page-turner, Dark Places was great.) and are looking for something to be a little less invested in.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Another book that I just keep seeing referenced is Life After Life. I just finished this one and am still thinking about it. I started it lazily, I wasn't exactly prepared for how much you have to pay attention to this novel to keep the time frames and characters straight.
It's about a girl/woman who dies in a variety of ways and then lives her life again, changing the path so that this or that does or does not happen. It's a bit of a Sliding Doors scenario, where just one decision can change a life (and history) so entirely, only in Life After Life you sort of get to experience all of the different ways a life can pan out.
I felt really involved with Ursula, the main character, and thought it was really interesting the way that one event from her childhood shaped her personality, and ultimately who she married, where she did or did not travel, her chosen vocation. And then in the version of her life where that incident didn't happen, she made very different choices. And yet, there were things about her, about her life and about her soul (I suppose) that stayed the same no matter what. This was a more complex read than I was anticipating, and would be a great choice for a book club, because I think you could talk about this one a lot.
I also think Life After Life would make for a good holidays/end of the year novel, as it makes you a little reflective.
The Lost City of Z by David Grann
I'll be real honest here and say that I only read this because it was a book club pick. I knew next to nothing about the amazon jungle and the expeditions past and present, and didn't think I would be interested in such a thing. But like a good documentary, I got sucked in.
I kept complaining to my husband that I had to read a book about the jungle, and then I kept reading parts out loud about. It really is a fascinating part of the earth and I couldn't believe how many people have died trying to explore its depths.
The Lost City of Z isn't the type of book I would normally pick up, but if this subject interests you, the content is presented well and is interesting to even a casual reader.
Happy Happy Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander by Phil Robertson
I really, really like Duck Dynasty. It's so over-produced, but I can forgive that because they're funny. And funny trumps a lot of stuff, inlcuding ridiculous setups and occasional obvious acting. Also, they seem like good people. And funny + good people trumps just about everything, doesn't it?
If you're looking for some deep, dark secrets of the Robertson family or thoughtful analysis of family dynamics or even a formula for fame, this is not the book for you. This is a light read for anyone vaguely interested in the roots of the Robertson family. There's some blatant sexism in the beginning and some preaching at the end, but the middle part is an easy glossing over of Phil & Kay's young marriage and parenthood and Phil's struggle with drugs and alcohol before he became a Christian.
I understand why Happy Happy Happy isn't a tell-all. But I guess I was hoping for a deeper look into the people we've grown to love through their show. The most touching scene in the book describes an intervention with one of the sons, also struggling with alcohol, and that's what I liked seeing: a normal family doing the best they can.
There are a few other non-fictions that I've read recently that I'm going to lump together in a different post. Right now I'm reading Surprised by Oxford, with Leaving Church on my nightstand (gifts from my friend Leigh), both as a companion to When We Were On Fire, which I read last month. Reading spiritual memoir is making me feel less alone as I grapple with some of this faith stuff. But I'll also be sneaking in a novel or two soon.
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