I’ve been a lazy reader in the past year or so. A coworker asked me a few weeks ago what I was reading, and I told him Keith Richards’ autobiography, “Life”. That was mostly a lie. I hadn’t actually picked up the book in over a month, (maybe 3, because honesty). I took this chat as a sign from the Literary Gods and dove back into a constant state of reading. Since then, I’ve had either a physical book or an audiobook going non-stop and my life is significantly better. (You can check out my Goodreads at the bottom of the site.)
Here’s my progress so far: 13/52
1. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah: 5+ Stars
I got the audiobook on Audible and have listened to it twice. It is so freaking good. I’ve read/listened to many comedians’ memoirs and this is my favorite (except maybe Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please). Trevor Noah writes about growing up in South Africa and his family and his career with humor, love, and poignancy. I feel a visceral pain in my heart that we’re not friends in real life.
2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley: 4 stars
I’m a sucker for a good mystery and grew up reading murder-y novels and watching murder-y shows, so take any mystery review I give with a grain of salt. This murder mystery takes place in 1950s’ rural England. I enjoyed the main character, Flavia, more than the story itself. She is a child fascinated with chemistry and poisons, with a quick wit and a spiteful attitude. Flavia is the fierce little girl I always wanted to be, kicking ass and solving crimes. Apparently it’s a series, so expect to see 2 through 9 in future posts.
3. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling (story) and Jack Thorne and John Tiffany (adaptation): 1.5/2 Stars
Just don’t do it. This play was infuriating. I bought it in Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I was so excited to be living out my adolescent fantasy of buying a book in Diagon Alley. The story itself was “meh”: Harry’s son goes to Hogwarts and has emotions. Mini-Harry and his only friend, Mini-Malfoy, discover a Time Turner and just keep undoing every single thing from the first seven books. It’s also mostly about his crappy relationship with Harry, who has become kind of a jerk. In fact, the main reason I didn’t like it is because of what they did to our trio: Harry is a disconnected father, Ron is a hokey buffoon, and Hermione is shrewish. Apparently though, seeing it on stage is awesome and they do a really good job.
4. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: 4 Stars
I had already seen the TV show, so I knew the Who, What, and Why from the beginning, but I still loved the book. The story revolves around three mothers in an affluent Australian beach town and the events leading up to a death at a school event. Although there are fluffy bits about wealthy community gossip (“It’s just SO difficult having a gifted child”, some dad sleeping with the nanny, etc.), Liane Moriarty explored abuse and the characters’ lives in a way that was thoughtful and nuanced. I won’t give any spoilers, but I liked the book better than the show (and the show had Reese Witherspoon, so…).
5. Stardust by Neil Gaiman: 3.5/4 Stars
Neil Gaiman is one of the greats when it comes to fantasy writing. It’s a short one and a pleasant read. Tristran Thorne is a young man who crosses a wall to magical land on a quest to retrieve a fallen star for Victoria, an awful human he thinks he loves. Adventure happens. Despite that this book has all the things I like (magic, sexiness, realms, etc), Gaiman’s wordy descriptions had me drifting a bit and I found the ending anti-climatic. Still worth the read.
6. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: 2 Stars
This self help book has a cult following as being the “anti-self help” book. While Mark Manson had some good (although not new) ideas, I found myself bored for most of it. Manson was frat bro-y and seemed like a “fuckboy”. I think I was the wrong audience for this one.
7. Waking Up White by Debby Irving: 3.5/4 Stars
Debby Irving is a white woman from an affluent town in Massachusetts. This book traces her unflinching exploration of race and privilege. It took me a while to get into it, as I found Debby-at-the-start-of-her-journey was incredibly disconnected and felt a slight revulsion at her ignorance and gaffes. However, as I kept reading, I saw some of myself in the pages and am using what I have taken from this book to, hopefully, be a more thoughtful ally in racial justice.
8. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling): 3 Stars
The pseudonym isn’t fooling anyone, Joanne. I can recognize your glorious voice from a mile away.
Well, the murderer wasn’t who I thought it was. A very wealthy and beautiful supermodel is found dead, apparently suicide-via-window. The whole world seems to believe that it is suicide, except her adoptive brother, who seeks out our hero, PI Comoran Strike, a down-on-his-luck military vet. With the help of his busty assistant, Robin, he unravels the whodunnit. This story is not as salacious as the book jacket paints it, nor is the mystery as compelling, but it’s not bad.
9. The Lover’s Dictionary: A Novel by David Leviathan: 2.5/3 Stars
If you like RomComs, this is probably for you. David Leviathan picks words from the dictionary and writes small vignettes that give you a peek into the ups and downs of a relationship. Cool premise, and I found myself taking photos of some pages and texting them to my boyfriend saying, “Hey! That’s us!”. However, for the most part, I felt that I would have loved this book in high school.
10. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 5 Stars
Incredibly short book, maybe 60 pages, but worth the read. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s friend was having a baby girl and asked for suggestions on how to raise a baby feminist. This was her reply. I loved this book, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately how feminism (at least on the internet) gets bogged down in cosmetic or inconsequential bickering. Adichie cuts through the noise and gets to the meat of what it means to be a feminist. I stood a little bit straighter and held my head a little bit higher after finishing this book. #girlboss
11. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty: 3/3.5 Stars
Similar to Big Little Lies, but not as good. Speedy read, sad ending.
12. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn: 3.5/4 Stars
This book is just the goddamn creepiest thing to happen to me in a while. While I like Gillian Flynn’s writing, I never want to meet her. Her brain is horrifying. This book just crawls under your skin (no pun intended) and settles. Camille is a reporter who JUST got out of the hospital for severe self harm and is sent to her hometown to report on the gruesome murders of little girls. I can’t say anything else without spoilers, but holy hell. Be prepared to not sleep for a week.
13. The Nix by Nathan Hill: 5 Stars
The Nix is the best book I’ve read in a long time. Once you’ve finished, it feels like the end of Thanksgiving dinner; just satisfied and very full. This book is part satire, part social commentary, part coming-of-age, part family dynamics, part mystery, part love letter to America, with just a pinch of meta at the end. No jokes here, go read this book right now.