Books: A reading challenge and three short reviews

I’ve decided to take on this year’s PopSugar reading challenge. Some self-imposed rules: I can only use a book for one entry and I have to share what I’ve read. This seems like a great forum to share! Feel free to play along. The first three books on my list all fit into more than one category on the reading challenge; I’m sharing the one I chose for each.

A funny book

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. This book made it onto my “to read” list from a recommendation from my favorite podcasters, Barb and Tracie, the 2 Knitlit Chicks (I found them recently and am trying to catch up – I’m somewhere around September 2012 currently). I read this on my Kindle, checked out from the library. It’s a quick, light read and hilarious. I highly recommend not reading this book in public because you will laugh out loud and people will think you’re crazy.

The book is a sort of memoir that reads like a series of essays and doesn’t always proceed chronologically, a format that works really well. Sedaris is just so funny that I’d read his description of a phone book. When he’s talking about his French class trying to describe Easter in French, I laughed so hard I had to dance to the bathroom. I very highly recommend this book and will read anything else by David Sedaris that I can get my grubby, reading eyes on.

A book with magic

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This was another library check-out on the Kindle, and it wasn’t on my reading list. I sometimes log into the library’s e-book site and just browse, and this one was picked because of its cover. I know! It’s funny how often this works out.

The Night Circus is just that – a circus that’s only open a night. It pulls people in, develops its own special followers who go all over the world to visit. No one except the people in the circus troupe knows where it will go next. It appears in an empty field outside a city or town, already set up, as if by magic.

What no one outside of the troupe, and even some people who are actively associated with the circus, knows is that the circus really is magical. It is the forum for a battle between two illusionists, who use it to create more and more elaborate illusions, and who end up falling in love with each other. What happens to Celia and Marco after they find out the true nature of their battle is, in my opinion, the true magic in this story. And I won’t tell you because I won’t give it away.

Again, excellent book. It’s one I would read again. Its many layers of meaning and the wonderfully developed characters felt like they would grow deeper and more complicated on re-reads. And I read so much that reading a book again is a gigantic compliment.

A book set in a different country

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I read this in actual paper form (right?), checked out from the library. It’s been on my reading list for a while. I finished it a couple weeks ago. Since then, I’ve finished three others and am currently reading three more. And it is still stuck in my heart like a burr. This could very likely be one of the best books I have ever read. Ever.

The story follows the life of Ursula Todd, who dies the second she’s born in a small village outside London. She is immediately rebooted and gets to start over. She starts over every time, in fact. What she does with this ability, how it affects her and her family, the things she lives through (over and over again); it is all just amazing. Sometimes Ursula’s choices made me laugh. Sometimes they made me cry. Sometimes I had to tell her aloud what to do (she almost never listened). It drilled into me so deeply that I just had to discuss it with Wayne, who, not reading the book, was also so pulled into the story that he would ask me random questions about Ursula and her lives.

Kate Atkinson picked the perfect time period for Ursula’s lives. She gets to die during and live through the 1918 flu epidemic, the bombings in London during World War II, an abusive husband, and so much more. She is an amazing character with an interesting supporting cast. One of my favorite things about this book (there are many) is the way those supporting characters change when Ursula’s choices change. For them, though, they are living a straight-line life and whatever the current incarnation is, they know of no others.

This book. I can’t say enough good about it. READ IT. I promise you will not be sorry.

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