Dietland by Sarai Walker

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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. 

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Euphoria by Lily King

This book was such a pleasure to read. Equal parts travel exploration and love story. It’s the kind of book you get lost in, the descriptions of New Guinea, the intrigue of anthropological studies and theory, the intensity of the relationships between the three main characters. It’s also probably the smartest love triangle – although in some ways I hesitate to call it that – that I’ve ever read.

Nell and Fen are a newly married couple who have just come away from an exhausting study of a cruel tribe. They are about to leave the country when they meet thoughtful, empathic Bankson who is desperate for their company and decide to stay and study another group in Bankson’s territory.

Read this when you want to disappear into a book for a while. I didn’t want to put it down.

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The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Well, this book just about tore my heart open. Most of the book is a very balanced, paced exploration of one family’s life after moving to the U.S. so their daughter, who is suffering from a brain injury, can get better education, as well as the lives of the other immigrants living in their apartment complex. But as the book gets to it’s apex, it really sucker punches you with it’s sweetness and sadness.

Read this if you need something that is easy to read in small sections, if you want to meet a family making the best of a bad situation, if you need a story that gives you a little hope in love.

Ruby by Cynthia Brown

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Ruby by Cynthia Bond

I picked this book up after both Oprah and Ann Friedman highly recommended it. 

The book tells the story of Ruby Bell, a young girl who experiences horrific acts – physical abuse, rape, human trafficking – and it drives her to madness, and the love story/redemption story between her and a man name Ephram Jennings.

It was really rather difficult to read some of the descriptions of the cruelty against Ruby, and generally against the women in Liberty, the town she’s from. I also found myself interested in the magical realism in the book, which primarily focuses on an evil spirit that inhabits the powerful men in Liberty and seeks to destroy Ruby. Everything else seems secondary to that – the friend-turned-crow would not need to exist were it not for that evil, the dead child spirits Ruby seeks to protect would need no protection in the absence of the Dybou, the man who subjected Ruby to human trafficking was a man-incarnate of the evil spirit. I wonder what the broader implication of that is – are we dismissing the evil actions of individuals by blaming it on the Dybou? Is the Dybou in all of us?

The book is an illuminating work. Read if you’re looking for a challenging read, magical realism, or a love story that looks a lot like a redemption story.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

A favorite daughter dies, and her family reels from the loss. A beautiful portrait of grief told in a compelling, page-turning manner. From a craft perspective, I love that each and every character detail in this book helps to answer the question, What happened to Lydia? Even the details of her parents’ past helps to illuminate how the family got to where it was and how it led to Lydia’s disappearance.

Read when you want a really deep portrait of people, or if you’re in the mood for something literary that still pulls you along with plot.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

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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 Love Wife by Gish Jen

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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.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

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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.

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun

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A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun

This was one weird book. Basically a tale of good vs. evil with a little bit of poverty and race politics. It was OK. I didn’t feel compelled enough the unfurling evil to put up with the flowery, detailed language and ended up flipping through the last 30 pages or so.

Read this if you really like good/evil stories and long descriptions.