The End of Year Book Report (#5)

July through December 2018

 

Title: Still Alice

Author: Lisa Genova

Date Finished: 7/6 

Finished: Yes

Format: Kindle

Ranking Out of 10: 5 

Notes: I did not enjoy the style of writing. It felt pedantic, like a parable. The story was good but it was too obviously written to inform readers about a condition rather than letting the readers enjoy a novel and make conclusions for themselves.

 

Title: Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Date Finished: 7/15

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 8 

Notes: This recommendation came from one of the many places I get recommendations from and promptly forget about. So, when I started listening and discovered it was a post-apocalyptic story, I almost tuned out completely. Those stories generally don’t do it for me. But I’m glad I stuck with it. This book has a clever take on the tired post-apocalyptic narrative, one in which art and culture still have a place in a world where basic survival is difficult.

 

Title: Meet the Frugalwoods

Author: Elizabeth Willard Thames

Date Finished: 7/18

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 7

Notes: I heard myself in some of what this author said, particularly about how nature changed her life and made her feel small in the best way possible. I get her desire to move to the woods. But even though she was sometimes good about acknowledging that her situation is different from other people’s, I thought she was often really judgmental, as in, if you don’t live how she does, you’re just wrong. She has a tone that indicates she thinks everything she does is best and comes across as too extreme.

 

Title: People I’d Like to Punch in the Throat

Author: Jen Mann

Date Finished: 8/6

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 5

Notes: I was dying of laughter in the first few minutes and the first essay was fantastic. Then, the book became all about mommyhood. I’m not the target audience for this, and I can’t remember sure where I got the recommendation. I’m sure it’s all funny for those who are able to relate to it better. It was funny enough to finish, but I mostly had it on in the background while I was doing other things.

 

Title: Bait and Switch

Author: Barbara Ehrenreich

Date Finished: 8/9

Finished: Yes

Format: Hard cover

Ranking Out of 10: 7

Notes: I’ve always liked Ehrenreich’s style. This book reflects the sad state of affairs of employment in this county. Companies treat people terribly and get away with everything possible, like the just-in-time employment trend. The book also exposes a lot of the scams around the job search industry. It did drag on in some parts and I felt like the actions she took weren’t realistic for most job hunters, which lowered the rating for me bit.

 

Title: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Author: Jon Ronson

Date Finished: 8/12

Finished: Yes

Format: Kindle

Ranking Out of 10: 10

Notes: This book is a fascinating look at this societal problem we have of destroying people’s lives over stupid mistakes. So many things people do and say, especially on social media, are taken out of context, but society is happy to instantly drag the offender to the gallows. If we took the time to understand the whole picture, we’d realize how wrong we are and how little we understand the reality. And even if not, we’ve all done something similar and these offenses aren’t worth wrecking careers and families over. Ronson looks at a few interesting and well-known case studies.

 

Title: State of Wonder

Author: Ann Patchett

Date Finished: 8/17

Finished: Yes

Format: Paperback

Ranking Out of 10: 8

Notes: I felt slightly uncomfortable with the subject matter and stereotyping in this book. It felt a bit old fashioned and too colonial. But still, I love all Patchett’s work and this story is a good, enjoyable read.

 

Title: Squeezed

Author: Alissa Quart

Date Finished: 8/23

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 5

Notes: This book felt very bandwagony to me, touching on all the hot-button issues of the last year or two. But I suppose for people who aren’t as informed as me, this book is an excellent read. It is well researched and discusses important topics. But there was also too much focus on moms/parents and how hard it is for them to advance in careers and have to pay for child care. I don’t have to agree with everything a non-fiction author writes, but by the end of this, I was rolling my eyes a little too often. She’s really pie-in-sky and too obstinately, foolishly, anti-automation.

 

Title: Under the Banner of Heaven

Author: Jon Krakauer

Date Finished: 8/31

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 10

Notes: I never knew there was so much history of violence related to Mormons in the USA. Krakauer did an excellent job of weaving history and information with a main, running narrative. I love his use of vocabulary and description, and I was engaged throughout.  I feel like this is a must-read for anyone who really wants to understand our country.

 

Title: The Sacrifice

Author: Joyce Carol Oates

Date Finished: 9/3

Finished: Yes

Format: Paperback

Ranking Out of 10: 7

Notes: Another solid work from Oates. This book keeps you guessing about what actually happened and makes you mad. Sometimes it felt as if she was just copying real stories from the newspaper; the fictional characters were too like real players in the types of situations that this book depicts. But it’s a fast-moving and engaging story.

 

Title: Mrs. Fletcher

Author: Tom Perrotta

Date Finished: 9/24

Finished: Yes

Format: Hard Cover

Ranking Out of 10: 6

Notes: I breezed through this book in a few days for a book club without knowing what it was going to be about. There was lots of sex! I think it was unexpected because the jacket was cartoonish. The diversions into random POVs was weird to me and goes against everything we are told about writing. But it’s worth a read.

Quotes: He was a bouquet of red flags…the exact type of guy she’d sworn to avoid. But it didn’t matter; her heart did its usual, incorrigible somersault and gave the middle finger to her brain. It amazed her how weak she was.

I had a slight queasy feeling walking into town—the same feeling I got in airports and train stations—like there were way too many people in the world and none of them gave a shit about me.

 

Title: Little Paris Bookshop

Author: Nina George

Date Finished: 9/25

Finished: No

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 4

Notes: I couldn’t get into this book. It felt like it was about the 1800s, but little bits and pieces kept coming up that reminded me it was modern, like references to Facebook. It was hard to figure out the plot at first; things were happening, but I couldn’t follow. Maybe it’s because the audio book voices had heavy French accents, but I watch foreign films all the time and don’t have a problem with that.

 

Title: The Immortalists

Author: Chloe Benjamin

Date Finished: 10/5 

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 8

Notes: This story was highly engaging. I wanted to keep going and was invested in the characters and their lives. Yet, it wasn’t remarkable. I guess that’s okay. Sometimes a good story is just that and doesn’t have to be more.

 

Title: Bad Blood

Author: John Carreyrou

Date Finished: 10/7

Finished: Yes

Format: Hard cover

Ranking Out of 10: 9

Notes: What, what, what? This book is insane and aggravating and unreal. How did this lady get away with everything for so long? She duped so many important, intelligent, and influential people. Her terrible management style, deception, falsifying of results, litigiousness, culture of fear, lack of cooperation, outright lying, and putting people’s lives at risk. It goes on and on and on. How did the company even get as far as it did? It’s unreal beyond anything imaginable. There’s something deeply wrong with Elizabeth Holmes and I hope she goes to prison for a long, long time. The story is gripping, but the book is slightly repetitive, which is why it didn’t get a perfect score. The author could have shortened some of the chapters.

 

Title: The Stranger in the Woods

Author: Michael Finkel

Date Finished: 10/11

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 10

Notes: This is a tale of a modern day hermit, a man who disappeared into the woods for 27 years just because. He is the focus, but the reporter gives the views of others (his victims) who admired him, feared him, sympathized with him, hated him. Everyone had their own interpretation of why he did what he did, and many were searching for meaning in his actions, meaning that wasn’t there. Imagine the horrible, incredible cold he dealt with in 27 winters outdoors in Maine. Imagine how hard it was to reintegrate into society. The hermit was definitely no Emerson or Thoreau. Neither he nor the author offers an overt lesson. It’s up to you to decide what to take from this story.

Quotes: Life isn’t about searching endlessly to find what’s missing. It’s about learning to live with the missing parts.

We live orphaned on a tiny rock in the immense vastness of space with no hint of of even the simplest form of life anywhere around us for billions upon billions of miles, alone beyond all imagining. We live locked in our own heads and can never entirely know the experience of another person. Even if we are surrounded by family and friends, we journey into death completely alone.

 

Title: Less

Author: Andrew Sean Greer

Date Finished: 10/30

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 5

Notes: This book was everything they tell writers not to do. More than 50 percent of it was backstory. I didn’t make it very far before I was about to give up on, but then came what was supposed to be the plot, which really interested me. But then there was more backstory. And some stupid breaking the third wall devices with the narrator. Some bits and pieces, interested me but a lot of this book bored me.

 

Title: Sabrina

Author: Nick Drnaso

Date Finished: 11/1

Finished: Yes

Format: Hard cover

Ranking Out of 10: 6

Notes: This is a graphic novel. I read it because I had heard from reviews about it and it sounded different, but I guess it got good reviews only because the subject matter is timely. Mass shootings, 9/11, murders, and the conspiracy theorists that come along with it and harass the victim’s families. The ending was unsatisfying, but what was unexpectedly satisfying was being able to get through a novel in an hour. There is a complete story that without the pictures, would have taken a lot more words to explain.  But a lot is left up to the reader. I enjoyed the experience of trying something different, but I’m not clamoring to read another graphic novel any time soon. I think it’s been a few years since the last one I tried and that’s just fine.

 

Title: The Opposite of Loneliness

Author: Marina Keegan

Date Finished: 11/9 

Finished: Yes

Format: Hard cover

Ranking Out of 10: 6 

Notes: This collection of fiction and non-fiction from a Yale undergrad was hit and miss for me. I wish there hadn’t been so much preamble to it, because knowing that her college professors were pushing this book because Keegan died young and they thought it was shame she never had the chance to come into her own as a writer kind of biased me against it. It made me automatically view the writing as a bit immature, though there were definitely plenty of parts that I enjoyed.

 

Title: Asymmetry

Author: Lisa Halliday

Date Finished: 12/2

Finished: Yes

Format: Hard cover

Ranking Out of 10: 9

Notes: I loved the first novella. I loved parts of the second – where he was in the airport, but not his real story. The short ending, I skimmed through. This book was a bit over my head but once it was explained to me, I realized that it is brilliant, and now I need to read it again. Halliday is a prodigy whose talent could only hope to someday come close to emulating.

Quotes: Love is volatile. Recalcitrant. Irrepressible. We do our best to tame it, to name it and plan for it, and maybe even to contain it between the hours of six and twelve, or if you’re Parisian five and seven, but like much of what is adorable and irresistible in this world it eventually tears free of you and yes, sometimes you get scratched up in the process. It’s human nature to try to impose order and form on even the most chaotic and amorphous stuff of life. Some of us do it by drafting laws, or by painting lines on the road, or by damming rivers or isolating isotopes or building a better bra. Some of us wage wars. Other write books. The most delusional ones write books. We have very little choice other than to spend our waking hours trying to sort out and make sense of the perennial pandemonium. To forge patterns and proportions where they don’t actually exist. And it is this same urge, this mania to tame and possess—this necessary folly—that sparks and sustains love.

 

Title: My Family Divided

Author: Diane Guerrero

Date Finished: 12/16

Finished: Yes

Format: Kindle

Ranking Out of 10: 6

Notes: I have to differentiate here between style of writing and the person/message. I didn’t care for the way the books was written. It was trying to hard to be trendy and hip and appeal to a young audience. And the writing was really simplistic. However, the book got the message across and made me feel a lot of sympathy for the author, happiness for her success, and pride in how she’s getting involved with other people in her situation. The book was effective in that way, which definitely counts for something.

 

Title: Civilwarland in Bad Decline

Author: George Saunders

Date Finished: 12/24

Finished: Yes

Format: Paperback

Ranking Out of 10: 8

Notes: This is a collection of short stories of exactly the style that I love – they are not exactly surreal or a magical realism, but there’s just a little bit of twist to each story that makes it not quite plausible. And yet, the stories are completely plausible and realistic and you get pulled into them. Saunders has an amazing way of making you deeply care about the most bizarre characters. I didn’t love all the stories – that’s impossible in a collection – but of particular note I strongly recommend Isabelle, The Wavemaker Falters, and The 400 Pound CEO.
Title: Dancing After Hours

Author: Andre Debus

Date Finished: 12/30

Finished: Yes

Format: Paperback

Ranking Out of 10: 7

Notes: Another solid collection of short stories, these all about love and relationships. I enjoyed many of them, although often times the endings were not satisfying. The endings were more like the main character’s thoughts just trickling off instead of an end to the story. It also pissed me off that Debus often wrote from the female character’s perspective. I don’t know if that annoyed me because of the times we’re living in or because of having read his son’s memoir and that not giving me a great impression of Andre Debus as a person. But the perspective pissing me off doesn’t change the fact that the emotions portrayed are accurate and real.
Books I Started But Didn’t Get Far Enough Into to Rate Before I Quit: The Psychopath Test (Jon Ronson), Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey), Black Square (Sophie Pinkham), Niagara (Joyce Carol Oates), On Reading Well (Karen Swallow Prior), Exit West (Moshin Hamid)

Books I Read for Work/Professional Development: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy At Work (Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson), The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande), Spunk & Bite (Arthur Plotnik)

Books I Read for YA Research: 16 Things I Thought Were True (Janet Gurtler), A Study in Charlotte (Brittany Cavallero), Little White Lies (Jennifer Lynn Barnes)

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for putting (some ;)) of these books on my radar. You might find it surprising that, even though I’m child-free by choice, I’m kind of interested in People I’d Like to Punch in the Throat, mainly because of how funny you said it was. I loved the book Bringing up Bebe because it was a fascinating glimpse into the French way of raising children and – gasp! – I actually have opinions on childrearing, which really pisses some moms off. Being a teacher of school-age children gives me some cred, but not much, apparently. I could go on and on about which of your books interest me, but the groceries are melting by the front door, so I’ll just say thank you for the thorough, honest reviews. When next I feel that tug of war between “should I read or should I blog,” I’ll think of you.

    Like

    Reply

    1. Ah yes, the idea of “you can’t have an opinion if you aren’t directly involved” is nonsense. Sports fans who have never played a day in their lives scream at coaches and refs from the stands all the time. Everyone comments on what politicians should do. Non-creative types critique art, movies, books, etc. Non-parents can absolutely have valid and useful opinions on child-rearing. OK, rant over. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post and hope you enjoy some of the books too!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s