Bookworm: August/September 2017

I completely forgot to post a reading roundup in August, which is a crying shame because I have been on an excessively good reading kick in the last several months! In case you couldn't tell from my crowdsourcing of recommendations back in July, my rapidly-growing list of books to read is filling up and improving in both quality and quantity. 

IMG_2354.JPG

Loved:

Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari: Dave let me borrow this in August and it was such a great surprise to enjoy it as much as I did! I expected some kind of comedy-heavy, intellect-light book about the traps and pitfalls of modern dating, but Aziz's legit scientific research approach added an entirely unexpected depth to the book. Definitely recommend for anyone currently fighting his or her way through the world of falling in/staying in/getting over love!

Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead: This was on several reading lists of people whose taste I really enjoy, and it did not let me down. I'd previously read Shipstead's debut, "Astonish Me," and enjoyed it, but this was a much more mature, darker take on interpersonal relationships and the foibles and weaknesses of very flawed characters. Set at a wedding weekend in the wealthy enclave of Nantucket, I genuinely disliked and pitied most of the characters simultaneously - a coup for the author.

Eight Hundred Grapes, Laura Dave: Not going to lie, I mostly picked this up because the author's name is my roommates' names combined, and because the book I was looking for wasn't in stock at Barnes and Noble...that said, I fell HARD for the story of an unraveling vineyard family in Sonoma County. Had it not been set in one of my favorite places in the world, I think this would have gone in the "enjoyed" bucket - but it would be a great poolside read regardless!

The Hopefuls, Jennifer Close: I read this while I was in D.C. for training, kind of on purpose...after a weekend with Kaitlin in the capital, I was fascinated by the culture of the city. I loved the dramatic unraveling of two marriages and two friendships set against the ruthless, cut-throat, demanding world of major politics...a perfect "beach"/chick-lit read, but one that was well-written enough to transcend the genre a bit. (Side note: I ardently disliked Close's first novel, "Girls in White Dresses," so enjoying this so much more was a pleasant surprise!)

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande: Oh my goodness I chowed through this like a hangover cheeseburger. Gawande, a renowned surgeon and gifted writer, explores the American approach to aging, death, and end-of-life care in exquisitely sensitive, thoughtful depth throughout this book. I couldn't put it down - it truly changed how I think about elder care, nursing homes, hospice, resuscitation, a whole gamut of issues I had very little knowledge of or desire to research. I SO recommend this for a meatier, enriching read. 

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi: This is another one that I just couldn't put down...it's been on so many bestseller/must-read lists, and it completely deserves that spot. The story starts off with two half-sisters in Ghana in the 1700s - one of whom is sold into slavery, and one of whom lives a life of relative privilege married to a white Englishman. The story then splits and follows their family trees down through the generations to present day. The writing is stunning and the story is gut-wrenching in a completely visceral, intense way. 

IMG_2361.JPG

Enjoyed:

Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling: My first foray into audio books, mostly to use up Scribd credits, was charming and fun. Laura mentioned listening to comedians' audio books, so I've been doing that on the way to work. Kaling's narration was fun to listen to, but I just don't love the audio book format. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had actually read it? 

The Girl With the Lower-Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer: Another audio book by a female comedian, one that I enjoyed a bit more than Mindy Kaling's, if I'm being perfectly honest. What made this a better experience, I think, was that it went a lot more in depth on very serious issues...sexual assault, body positivity, aging/dying parents, crises of faith in modern love...and Schumer's narration had a soulful, almost mournful quality that I found really engaging. 

A Little Bit Wicked, Kristin Chenoweth: Kristin Chenoweth is a soapy little bubble of light and fun, and that is exactly what this autobiography is. It's frothy and a little Jesus-y and occasionally veers into excessive self-praise, but I love Broadway and I love her, so I enjoyed it all things considered. 

IMG_2598.JPG

Tolerated:

Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance: I picked this up primarily because the whole world seemed to be freaking out about it, and I was sorely underwhelmed (as was Dave, who read it at the same time I did). While the story offered a few new insights into the common tropes of lower-class/blue-collar/suburban poor America, the writing style was so simplistic it left me bored. I set this one down for other books and picked it back up again three separate times before I finished it. Eh. 

Option B, Sheryl Sandberg: I know I should have liked this book, hypothetically speaking. And not adoring Sheryl Sandberg in the cradle of Silicon Valley Lean In Culture might actually put me on the fast train out of here. But I genuinely didn't like this book and thought it could have gone a lot deeper into the act of grieving, into the power of interpersonal relationships, and into the resilience that has led Sandberg back to the top after an unspeakable personal tragedy. 

Sourdough, Robin Sloan: Another one that I feel like I should have liked better than I did! Boooo! This was a science-fictiony, sort of dystopian riff on San Francisco startup culture in which a woman dissatisfied with her tech job, where her company is literally attempting to automate all human-driven processes, finds herself oddly drawn into the world of making sourdough bread. A bizarre underground farmer's market, a sourdough culture with a mind of its own, and a mysterious benefactor behind the scenes all just added to the weirdness, and I never really felt like I got invested in anything or figured out who anyone was in the entire novel.

Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate, and the Throne, Christopher Andersen: THIS WAS SO EGREGIOUSLY TERRIBLE. Anyone who knows me knows I'm an ardent royals-watcher, and I was intrigued by the idea of discussing how women shape the behind-the-scenes power of the British throne. Instead, this was a gossipy, almost gross imagination of false rivalries in the British royal family, and it at times promulgated such glaring inaccuracies that I found myself audibly expressing my general disgust. Do not recommend. 

Re-reads: 

It's Okay To Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too), Nora McInerny Purmort: This collection of essays by a Twin Cities woman who lost her husband to a brain tumor a few years ago is raw, heartwarming, and refreshingly honest at every turn. Nora doesn't sugarcoat, doesn't make light of anything, and doesn't fall into the all-too-easy trap of triteness. I absolutely adore this book, even on the third or fourth read. 

The Taming of the Queen, Philippa Gregory: Not much to say about this one - it's a classic Gregory "Henry VIII bodice-ripper sex intrigue novel" and I had it on my phone on a day when I needed something to read between appointments. It follows Katherine Parr, his last wife, and also gets into the Protestant-Catholic thing quite a bit. A good read if you're into old-timey sex and power.