My book list is pathetically short this quarter. I have finally embraced the quitting of books that I don’t like, and boy howdy did I give up on books this time around.
Like the WWII historical fiction where in the first scene, a family in this small French town jumped into the bed of someone’s red Ford pickup truck and took a detour through the countryside to avoid the line of red tail lights in front of them. Red Ford pickup truck in 1940 France? Red tail lights? Maybe possible – a stretch – according to my quickie internet research. But I don’t want to be SO distracted by trivial details that I feel compelled to look them up before I can finish the first chapter. Done.
Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom? I slogged through half of it and then it dawned on me that not only did I dislike the characters (which is sort of his trademark, no?), I felt no curiosity about the rest of the story either. Done. Audio books where the narrators’ voices make me cringe? Done.
So what did I make it through, you ask?
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell (3 stars) (nonfiction) (audio) – Not my favorite Sarah Vowell book, but anything by Sarah Vowell is worth your time. Here, she’s delving into the history of Hawaii with her usual combination of snark and history-geek excitement. I always listen to Sarah Vowell’s books because her deadpan delivery makes them even funnier; she gets bonus points in this one for her ability to say “Queen Liluokalani” so many times without stumbling.
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (fiction) (5 stars) (audio book) – I liked this movie but I LOVED THIS BOOK. My memory of the movie is admittedly poor, but the book seemed… darker. Better. Like the main character actually suffered from a mental illness and wasn’t just a hot guy pretending to be mentally ill. No offense, Bradley Cooper. The movie was up for, like, eight Oscars, so I suppose the problem is me and not him.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (fiction) (4 stars) – A young woman looks back at the grisly murder of the rest of her family when she was a child. Typical dark twisty Gillian Flynn. This one had the added intrigue of a small-town obsession with high school Satanists in the 80s, and I grew up in a small town under siege by high school Satanists in the 80s (really, they just spray painted everything in sight with their Satanic catch phrase, but for me it gave the book a nice authentic vibe).
The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam (nonfiction) (4 stars) – This is a book about obsessive compulsive disorder written by someone with obsessive compulsive disorder. He researches the disorder exhaustively but also intersperses the facts with anecdotes about his own obsession, AIDS. He discusses the history of the disorder, causes, treatments, and, for example, how he called an AIDS hotline with questions so often that he knew all the workers’ voices and they knew his.
Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho (fiction) (4 stars) – A novel about a twenty-four-year-old woman who, for no particular reason, attempts suicide and awakens in a mental institution where she awaits death again. Parts of the book are based on the author’s experiences being institutionalized as a young man. The book is poetic and philosophical.
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (fiction) (4 stars) – This book is probably best classified as fantasy, which is not my usual genre. The plot jumps to new characters as time advances, and each time I resented it, a little – having to adjust to a new storyteller when I’d grown fond of the prior one. At first, the threads of fantasy are less frequent – just enough to create a sense of intrigue. By the end, the threads come together in a cataclysmic battle between good and evil.
What have you been reading?