Yes, I do things other than read. I get my braces adjusted and eat Ibuprofin. I exercise, knit, crochet, talk, listen to podcasts and music, fix computer stuff, write reports, cook, fold laundry… well, you know, I do stuff. But for now, I am obsessed with that old PopSugar reading challenge and I’m sticking with that. And so, this week’s categories…..
A book based on a true story
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m quite sure this book does not fit the intention of this category; I suspect they were thinking more about a true crime, or some fictionalized version of something awesome, but I was reading this and I needed to finish it because it’s amazing and I need to bless someone else with it, so I’m saying this is where it fits. I am not actually going to review it, though. This book has been discussed and reviewed and lauded countless times and my little opinion will do nothing at all to change its greatness. I will share that Elizabeth Gilbert’s mad skillz extend past this book; The Signature of All Things is also amazing.
Instead, I’m going to encourage you to bask in Ms. Gilbert’s stunning awesomeness in another format: TED talks. Your Elusive Creative Genius is worthy of listening to over and over, especially if you find yourself in a writing slump (as I do, like now, which is why I have so much time to read). Creativity, though, is not limited to writing and I believe that everyone can find something that resonates in this talk. Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating, while shorter, is also a stunner. She’s just all around awesome, people. Believe me.
Dad is Fat by James Gaffigan
First, a confession: I was expecting something along the lines of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me or Shockaholic, two books that I love-love-love. I was disappointed. Instead, I got a series of essays about being a fat, pale father of five who doesn’t think he’s good enough for his wife. There were inconsistencies, there was redundancy. It was funny in places, don’t get me wrong, but his stand up is much funnier. I didn’t laugh out loud. I didn’t gasp. I barely finished it before OverDrive automatically returned it to the library. But I did finish.
I would say if you’re a tremendous fan of Jim Gaffigan or of self-deprecating humor, you might like this book. Otherwise, spend your time on something a bit more interesting.
A book originally written in a different language
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
Quick summary: Originally written in Spanish, this is the super awesome story of Eliza, an orphaned baby who is taken in by a family consisting of an old-maid sister and her two brothers who live in a British colony in Chile, set in the early to mid 1800s. Eliza has some odd talents: an amazing sense of smell, a very accurate memory, and the ability to make herself invisible. Her life and family are chock-full of half-truths, secrets, and lies; much of which she doesn’t find out about until after she’s traveled, unchaperoned, to try to track down her first love near San Francisco during the gold rush.
This book is just amazing. The characters are sometimes quirky, sometimes funny, often selfish, and very believable. The settings are gloriously, almost poetically, described. It doesn’t read like a translation, which is a great nod of respect to not only Isabel Allende, but also to the translator (whose name I cannot find now, and I’ve returned the book – sorry!). It’s very close to the top of my recent reads; probably a close second behind Life After Life (which is still staking a claim on space in my head).
A book you started but never finished
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
I can no longer say I never finished it. I also can’t remember why I put it down. I think I started it last summer, and it gets pretty heavy and dark in places. It’s not a summer read, not for me anyway. But it’s a gloriously fabulous book to devour with a cup of tea, in front of a fire. Review-wise, I suggest you read the one on Goodreads (the title’s hyperlink will take you there). Rather than breaking down the story, the characters, the what-not nuts and bolts, I want to talk about how it affected me.
Eggers and I are the same age. When he was being (to all intents and purposes) the single parent to his eight year-old brother Toph, I was in the Navy. It’s hard for me to imagine the GenX life he describes, although I have seen evidence of it in movies and TV shows, because I lived nothing even close to that. I don’t know how much different my life in the early 90s would have been had I stuck it out in college, but I’m guessing it would have been nowhere near as interesting as Dave’s. So there’s that side of things.
On another hand (be prepared for a many-handed creature here), I totally get his constant low-level worrying because I am also a worrier. I get the feeling that once a job feels like a job, you no longer want to do it. I get the horror of looking at a kid’s school pictures and thinking he (or she) looks lonely/scared/lost enough that someone at his (or her) school is going to report you to child protective services. I get the whole am I doing this right, is this how it’s done, is this all going to work sort of non-voice underlining absolutely everything I do (even typing this blog post). I heard something on the Books on the Nightstand podcast not long ago (an older episode because I’m behind) where Ann said she thought a particular author was living under her bed. Emotionally, worryingly, I feel the same about Eggers.
On yet another hand, this book is often hilarious. The conversations Dave has with his quasi-suicidal friend John, some of the material from the magazine he and a group of friends are starting, his quirky and off-the-wall self-talk – it was all crazy funny. Some of the things that were gut-splitting were also, oddly, some of the things that were also dark and weird. I must like dark and weird.
I could go on but I’m getting up to a simply ridiculous number of hands (no more than three, with a nod to Daughter of Fortune and the artist who charged by the number of hands in a portrait). Plus four books are more than enough for one post, right?
- One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
- The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
- The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction by Kate Chopin
- The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (hopefully – going to the library soon)
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (will move up or down based on the library haul)