05 May 2008

Books I've read in the past month, with short reviews

Let me just preface this with the following disclaimer:  I read.  A lot.  Probably too much.  When I was in elementary school, and we were instructed to write about our hobbies (sports we played or things we collected), the only thing I could ever come up with was reading.  Which didn't make my 9-year-old self any new friends, but does go a long way in explaining the degrees in linguistics and library science.
Oh, and I do not exaggerate the number of time I have read a book.  

What Is The What?  I bought this when I was stranded in the Seattle Airport.  I didn't get around to reading until right before I left for Philadelphia, but once I started I couldn't put it down and read it in about three days.  It is the fictionalized memoir of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the lost boys of Sudan, written by Dave Eggers.  It is gripping, moving, educational and inspiring.  Highly recommend.

The Moorchild  Wanting something light (having just finished What Is The What, which is not light AT ALL), I grabbed this book to read on my way to Molly's wedding, and finished it on the plane.  It's a YA book, and a fast read, but I really REALLY liked it.  When I got home, I was talking to my mom about it, and she pointed out that Eloise Jarvis McGraw had written one of my favorites from childhood, 

Mara, Daughter of the Nile, about 40 years earlier.  I have read this book no less than 15 times.  I just read it again. It remains everything that the perfect young adult novel can be.  Good setting, good plot, good romance, not too cheesy, can be read in 12 hours or less.

Because I was feeling sentimental about books I read when I was 10, I finished Mara and immediately picked up Blood and Chocolate, for what was probably my third or fourth read.  This book is admittedly not great; it's one of those books written about teenagers by someone who obviously has no idea what teenagers are like.  But it IS about werewolves, and has a pretty good romantic element, and it's not poorly written per se.  I just recommend skimming the beginning and ALL of the dialogue.

Ready for a slightly more respectable book, I grabbed Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld.  This book is a painfully realistic, cringe-like look at what it's like to be a teenager.  I literally kept putting the book down because I was too embarrassed for the main character.  But I was unable to actually put it down, and would come back about 2.4 minutes later.  This was one of those books where I don't particularly like the main character, or how it all turns out, but I couldn't bare to put it down, and was obsessively recounting my teen years in my head for a couple hours.

I finished that book Saturday afternoon.  Then I found A Tree Grows In Brooklyn on my mom's shelves.  This is possibly my all-time, favorite book ever.  I kid you not, I have read this book well over 50, and probably more like 100 times.  I read it again on Saturday.  If you haven't read it, you should.

Yesterday morning, I picked up Jesus Land.  It's a gripping and painful memoir, and I keep hating because I know it's true, and wishing that I could reach back in time to save this girl.  Then I tell myself it's okay because she made it out and wrote this book.  I have about 50 pages left, but I don't anticipate disappointment. 

Over this whole month, I've been plodding away with Snow.  It's so far a beautiful book to read, but it IS slow.

What are you reading?

Do you have recommendations?


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  1. I'm a little over halfway through with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (who also wrote the Virgin Suicides). I'm enjoying it; though I feel that the action and dialogue to description ratio is a bit off. So it can drag a bit. But it's enjoyable and from Oprah's Book Club so I recommend it. And actually after I started Middlesex I took a lil break from it to read A Thousand Splendid Suns which I really liked. Similar to the Kite Runner because it's by the same guy and also set in Afghanistan, but different enough so you don't feel like it's the same book.

    On a sidenote, I also read Prep and felt the exact same way you did.

  2. Good grief! I wish I had your reading stamina. I'm such a slow reader. I takes me a month (or 2 or 3) to get through 1 book :(

    I bought Water for Elephants a few months back. Still on page 10.

  3. Jesus Land was fantastic! loved it.

  4. If you haven't already, I recommend "The Time Traveller's Wife" by Audrey Niffenberg (something like that for the last name). I loved it.

    I read Prep (or my younger cousins copy of it ;) and felt the exact same way. Totally cringeworthy and embarassing. Another book where I didn't really like the characters but liked the book was, The Poisonwood Bible and The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

    P.S. Thanks for your sweet compliments on my drawing :)

  5. Wanna hear somethin' funny? I found my way to your site by way of DGM. I am a health educator and my DREAM JOB OF ALL TIME is to be a sex ed guru. So I click on your blog link and .... MY PARENTS LIVE IN SANTA CRUZ!! Holy shitballs, totally weird, right? At any rate ... in reference to this specific post, in case you don't know of it ... check out shelfari.com. It's a book-lovers wet dream. I won't explain, but go look. You'll get sucked in!
    Middlesex is one of my favorite books of all times.
    I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
    Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracey Kidder (those last 2 are non-fiction)
    The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie McDonald (soooo good!!, even if it's long)
    Trans-sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
    Frisco Pigeon Mambo by CD Payne (I PROMISE YOU'VE READ NOTHING LIKE THIS!!!! A book written from the perspective of pigeons living in the Bay Area. I promise you Book Shop Santa Cruz has it!)