Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a list of books I've read this summer

I don't really feel like talking about me today. I'd much rather talk about books, so I hope you guys are readers. (although the very fact that you are choosing to READ this blog right now, and furthermore that you are even a member of this website, suggest that you probably enjoy reading for pleasure, especially when that reading includes novels that are about 10,000 times better than the drivel I offer up here.)

These are books I have read this summer (some re-reads) and my thoughts on them:
  • This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. This is one of those books that is more of a testament to the talent of it's author than it is a great work of literature. Meaning that while I was duly impressed with the mastery of Jonathan Tropper's writing (and jealous!) the story itself didn't blow me away. Tropper is great, but his book is only good. It's an enjoyable read for sure, I think my expectations were just a little too high because family dysfunction is probably my favorite genre to read about. Tropper's a brilliant writer and his prose is a pleasure to read, and he is also very funny, bringing me to audible laughter at several points throughout. 
  • The History of Love by Nicole Kraus. A friend recently issued me a very serious tongue lashing because I had no familiarity with any of Kraus's work, and when I finished this little beauty her outrage seemed not only appropriate, but insufficient.*  I felt so moved when I was done with this book that it was literally as if someone had cracked my chest open so that every emotion inside of me could just pour our out onto the floor.**This book is absolutely wonderful, and lordy can this woman turn a phrase. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.Unfortunately, I am am halfway through my next Kraus book and I can not boast the same enthusiasm. So far I am teetering between indifference and lukewarm approval where Man Walks Into A Room is concerned. But, eh, we'll see.
  • Manhood for Amauteurs by Michael Chabon. You've seen the title and author of this book now, so there is nothing else for me to say, and only one thing for you to do; READ IT. Immediately. And then let's talk about how wondrous Michael Chabon is and how fantastic these essays are and how we totally understand why Ayelet Waldman loves him more than she loves their children. ***(read her essay!)
  • Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. A reread inspired by the above book of essays. Still brilliant, in case you were wondering.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Oh my god, you guys, oh my god. Brilliant. Wonderful. Beautiful. Sensational. This series is absolutely a shining example of what young adult fantasy (I avoid the term Sci-Fi, although that is probably the most appropriate label, because it grosses me out) should be. And I don't even like fantasy. Really, I don't. I love Harry Potter but that's it. THAT'S IT Couldn't get through one Chronicles of Narnia book, laughed at the idea of reading those mamoth Lord of The Rings novels with their tiny little type and weird-ass creature characters, and I adore Joss Whedon but Buffy is a ridiculous piece of crap. I hate fantasy. Don't like it, Don't get it, it's not for me. But this...THIS. This is beauty. This is wonderful. This kept me up for 24 hours because I couldn't put it down. This made me cry. This made me smile til my cheeks hurt. This made me insane with suspense but also left me goofily happy at the sweeter moments. Katniss Everdeen = walking awesomeness. I don't want to say a  single word about the plot, because I went into it knowing nothing and the results were incredibly satisfying. You need to read The Hunger Games trilogy. Need.  It's a fun, easy breezy read, but it's gold. GOLD.
  • Catching Fire (the sequel to the Hunger Games) I haven't officially decided but I may have loved this book even MORE than I loved the first. Which is to say, YOU NEED TO READ THIS SERIES! I will be waiting with baited breath for the release of the final chapter of this gorgeous saga, Mockingjay, on August 24th. Thank god that I got into this series late, because I am frantic over having to wait two weeks to find out what happens, I can't imagine what it would be like to have been waiting almost a year.
  • College Girl by Patricia Weitz. There were moments while I read this book that I was truly engrossed in it. For the most part I was just mildly interested, engaged, but only in a cursory sort of way, but there were segments that had me genuinely enraptured. And then I finished the book and realized that it was really no good at all. So yeah. That's that. It's not awful, but neither is it worth your time. Overachieving college girl with no social life gets her first boyfriend, he is a DOUCHE, and her life falls apart. I won't spoil the end...okay, yes  I will, she pulls it together in the end and is better for the struggle. Yawn.  You're bored already, aren't you?
  • Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by none other than my beloved Chelsea Handler. I bought just about the second that it was released but I didn't get around to reading it until about a month later and GOD is it wonderful. I loved both her previous books, feel no differently here. The tales of her various brazen, drunken, slutty escapades never fail to make me desperately long to be her friend. I think Chelsea is hilarious, and a damn good writer, and I would encourage anyone to pick up her books for a nice belly laugh.
  • The Millenium Trilogy : Okay. I don't really know what to say about these books, because there were moments when I loved them and couldn't get enough, and then other moments when I had to literally force myself to get through the pages like I was reading from a textbook for some terribly boring class. I liked them overall, but I also wanted to take a serious red pen to them and cut out all the USELESS MIND NUMBINGLY DULL DRIVEL that was suffocating all the really great stuff. (That's probably rude to say since the author, Steig Larrson, is dead, but really it's his editor I have an issue with, not him. He's a great writer and REALLY great at characterization. Lisbeth Salander is a wonderful creation.) The middle part of the third book was such an absolute drag that I actually put it aside for a few days and haven't picked it up again yet. And that was two weeks ago! This is a series that I was frantically blowing through because the suspense was keeping me awake at night, roadblocked by so much dull, ridiculous, junk about Swedish mobsters and stuff that I just stopped caring. I want to know what happens to Lisbeth and Mikael, and okay yeah, I really, really want to know if they get together in the end. ( They've got to, right?) but not badly enough to wade through that crap.
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. This was the only Sedaris book I had yet to read and I devoured it just as merrily as I have any of this other works.This man has the most remarkable gift for taking everyday, run of the mill-type acendotes  and making them hysterical and gorgeous and tragic and sidesplitting and heartwarming all at once.
  • Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith. If you are a word kid like me, a lover of reading and writing, and an admirer of incredible talent and brilliance, then you're going to want to read this. And then every other word Zadie Smith has ever written. She is a sensation. She is also way too pretty to be so gifted. It's not fair.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A classic I am proud to have finally gotten to, but which I will say I was disappointed by. It's good and I cried and I liked-it-okay and all that but I wasn't blown away. I guess it's not fair to expect a book to amaze you just because it's hailed as a classic but whatever, life isn't fair.
  • Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters. I have become very fascinated by sociology lately (considering a double major in it) and I have been doing some research and self teaching on various topics within that large spectrum. I've read at least part of several books along those lines over the past couple months, but this is the best one.
  • Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher. Marya is a very talented, and heartwrenchingly honest writer, and her work is very engrossing. I've read this memoir many, many times. Too many, probably. Madness, the book in which she discusses her battle with bi-polar disorder is also riveting.
  • Harry Potter 1-3. I've been working on a reread since May but other new literary treats keep distracting me and slowing up the process.
 I think that covers all the reading I've done this summer and anyway if I have forgotten anything that it apparently didn't make very much of an impression on me so there is really no use in my telling you about it. I'm going to go now because I have a lovely friend here with me who has been very patient with my noisy typing as we watch episodes of Community, and now it is time for me to be more amusing company, and then soon, it will be time for my all time favorite thing - a night swim. Yay. Have a nice Wednesday, and I look forward to sharing another list with you tomorrow.

listfully yours.
xo tess

*Also, Nicole is married to the seriously gifted Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, two brilliant novels that both make my short list (which is actually extraodinarily long) of all time favorite novels, so there is no excuse for my never paying any attention to his wife's books before now. And ya, that's a fucking awesome couple.
**Except that if someone cracked my chest open the stuff that would pour out would not be feelings and emotions. It would be blood and guts and, like, my heart. And it would be gross.
*** jokes aside I really do understand what she is saying about loving her children but being IN LOVE with her husband, and why those two are different. I mean I guess I don't really understand, as I have neither a husband or children, but conceptually it seems logical to me.


  1. No fantasy!!?? I think I'll have to unsubscribe!

    ...jk. I understand it's not for everyone. I was surprised by how few authors or books I recognised from this list. I might have to try some of them!

  2. Yeeeaaah, I know it doesn't win me any points with most people, but fantasy just doesn't do it for me haha. And yes you definitely should try some of these books! I'm not sure which authors you did/did not recognize but I HIGHLY recommend Zadie Smith's work to anyone and everyone.And The History of Love. Read The History of Love. Read The History of Love. That is my advice haha