Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Uncategorized

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I’m really loving Rowell’s books. This had all the readability of a great YA lit book but was about an adult relationship on the brink. It was smart and the characters were real, and I closed it feeling super-satisfied (and a little homesick for my husband.)

Read this when you want something quick and delightful that will grip your heart.

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Uncategorized

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Dietland was recommended to me by a colleague, Eve Vawter (she ended up doing an amaaazing interview with Walker, too.) “You are going to love this book,” she said. I’ve been pickier than usual with my reading lately, opting for fast-paced plot-driven books over the meandering literary stuff I sometimes enjoy.

“Is it a pretty easy read?” I asked

“Uh. I read it in one sitting.”

Well, that makes two of us. Sarai Walker has managed to blend fat positivity, anti-diet manifesto with a fun (radical?) feminist adventure.

Read this if you want a page turner that isn’t light on subject matter, if you’re over the diet industry machine, or if sometimes you fantasize about justice served with explosions. 

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Uncategorized

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

I was familiar with the comic but not a dedicated reader. This was fun to read, I laughed out loud several times. I continue to be a little perplexed by the blogs-into-books thing but this is the second one I’ve purchased (I also have Tiny Beautiful Things although I’d read every column before). 

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Uncategorized

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

This book was really powerful for me. It’s a series of essays that starts with the author describing her experience as a Medical Actor – someone who plays a patient with a script of symptoms and issues that a doctor in training must then diagnose. It continues on to tell stories of 100 mile hell marathons, Morgellons disease and the people who believe they have it, and more. 

Jamison does a really lovely job of blending philosophy and fact, being smart but accessible and really teasing out the ways in which we relate to each other – whether it’s our ideal selves or the reality of how we judge.

A few pieces that I underlined:

“This was the double blade of how I felt about anything that hurt: I wanted someone else to feel it with me, and also I wanted it entirely for myself.”

“Which is the sad half life of arguments – we usually remember our side better.”

“I needed people… to deliver my feelings back to me in a form that was legible. Which is a superlative kind of empathy to seek, or to supply: an empathy that rearticulates more clearly what it’s shown.”

“That the hardship facilitates a shared solitude, an utter isolation that has been experienced before, by others, and will be experienced again, that these others are present in spirit even if the wilds have tamed or aged or brutalized or otherwise removed their bodies.”

“I’m tired of female pain and also tired of people who are tired of it. I know the hurting woman is a cliche but I also know lots of women still hurt. I don’t like the proposition that female wounds have gotten old; I feel wounded by it.”

“We shouldn’t have to turn every scar into a joke. We shouldn’t have to be witty or backtrack or second-guess ourselves when we say, this shit hurt.

Read it if you want a good think about what it means to be a person trying to relate to other people… and someone to lead you through it.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Uncategorized

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Woman starts feeling strange, within a month she’s nearly catatonic with what the doctors are saying is schizo-affective disorder. Compelling book about the brain issue that caused this and how she is now.

That said, I think what was most compelling was her struggle to find her identity again as she recovered. The brain is who we are, what we are, it’s our observation and our conclusions. So what happens when for a month your brain is wrong? How do you trust yourself again? Who are you now, especially when everyone around you knows what has happened to you? It also has far-reaching implications for psychiatric disorders – how many, like this one, are actually a complication of a physical issue?

It’s a quick read and great if you want to dive in a life that is perhaps very different from yours and get a glimpse of what it means go mad for a month.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Uncategorized

image

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

You’ve probably already heard of this book, but. 

When I got it I was searching for a book about going into the wilderness since I was craving something like Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I was familiar with the story and had watched the documentary, but hadn’t ever read the book. I went to a big local chain used book store. When I asked for this book, they said, “Oh you mean the one with the boot on the front?” No…

When they took me to the travel section (Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I was annoyed to find out, was not placed in that section) I realized that 99% of the books there were written by men. Boo. I plan on making it a point to read some more books written by women who go on nature adventures, so if you have recommendations, let me know.

Anyway – the book was good. There’s an ongoing controversy about how Chris McCandless really dies, which I got sucked into an afternoon of reading about. I came away with the following feelings about him:

1) How sad that he died

2) I think there was a very real and particular reason that the author included so few of McCandless’s own words from his journals, being that he was very much a kid and I imagine his words were sort of self-indulgent and not conducive to the kind of picture Krakauer was trying to paint of him. Krakauer in certain places does state this, though I think he minimizes it. Which makes the controversy and arguments around his death so much more… confusing? Interesting? Shallow? This was a kid. A smart guy, so young… and the arguments range from “he was an idiot who didn’t respect the wilderness” to “he was a genius and died from something even a wilderness expert would have suspected” all of which seems beside the point to me.

3) McCandless made me think of my own brothers, where their lives will lead them. I thought of his indignation toward the hypocrisy of his parents – and the world – and I think there is a bit of that in everyone. What made him the one who tried to escape it by going into nature? By, in many ways, avoiding humanity altogether?

It’s a great book and will haunt you for a while, so if you haven’t read it yet, do. 

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Uncategorized

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Totally enjoyable. There was a little too much about the Upright Citizens Brigade that I didn’t feel I could relate to – it was a lot of name dropping, fun having, and stuff people who are into Improv would enjoy – but other than that, truly pleasant read. She’s personal but doesn’t divulge a bunch of secrets. There’s some solid advice but also some vulnerability and doubt, and that’s cool. 

Read if you want something breezy but pleasant and smart.

The Love Wife by Gish Jen

Uncategorized

The Love Wife by Gish Jen

Took me quite a long time to get through. Didn’t connect with these characters as much as I did in Typical American or Mona in the Promised Land. Still good. In a lot of ways this book is more about a well-meaning white lady trying to best care for her multiracial family and how the family reacts when a mother-figure Chinese woman starts living with them. It was also a little bit (a lot?) sad.

Read this for a fictional but serious look at the complications that multiracial families can face and the power of feeling that you are “like” someone else.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Uncategorized

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

So… confession. I also read her book An Untamed State and was not impressed. I wanted to be. I follow Gay on Twitter and tumblr and am an all-around fan, so I scooped up that novel with enthusiasm, but for me it just fell flat.

Another confession: I read this book a solid month ago and am just now typing this up. Fail.

That said, this is a really strong group of essays. There are a couple in the collection that felt so strongly academic-review-paper that I actually skipped them, but the rest were fantastic and I highly recommend the book. I do wish that, in some ways, she had gotten more intimate. Her style seems to be very matter-of-fact – she’ll give you details and will name her feelings but won’t encourage you to feel them with her so much as tell you about them. I’m not saying these to dissuade at all – again, highly recommend and I’ll be passing it to friends. Just thinking aloud.

Read this if you’re a feminist. Or not a feminist. Or (ha!) a bad feminist. I also recommend you get familiar with Roxane Gay on Twitter and tumblr for a taste of her musings. She is a true literary internet rockstar.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Uncategorized

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I really loved the beginning of this book. It felt raw and real and dealt with adult-type things in a teen-like way. It was great. The language was sharp and funny and insightful. Once you get about a quarter of the way in it starts becoming more cliche and forced. I figured out the plot pretty quickly, yet it continues to rely on that plot as if the reader doesn’t know what’s coming. It was enjoyable, and some of the images stuck with me, but generally something I’d skim instead of get deeply into.

Read it if you’re generally a fan of YA lit or if you are compelled by stories about artists.

P.S. I would be zero percent shocked if this gets made into a movie in a few years.