So February? Not the best month for books as far as I'm concerned. I struggled through a couple, finally putting them down, and read some that were only ok. In total, I started 6 books, but only completed 4. If you're counting, we're up to 12 books for the year -- not too shabby considering my goal of reading 50 by the end of the year. There was one gem, but it was a depressing topic, so all in all my feeling about my February reading: Meh. Let's hope for the best for March!
(Here is a reminder on how I evaluate books. Don't worry, it's not scientific, and doesn't even involve math!)
Let's start with the books I didn't finish as a little caveat:
Room by Emma Donoghue
I know internet, you will have to fire me again this month for hating a book EVERYONE loved.
Mostly the narrator didn't do it for me. I'm what you would call a Vanilla Reader. If the other is going to try something tricky or experimental or outside the box, I am always a bit skeptical. I like my books in the Missionary Position or else I will start reading with my stink eye on. Hey, at least I'll admit it. So this book? Begins kind of dark and twisted and weird, but IT'S NARRATED BY A 5 YEAR OLD. For me, it got old fast. Even though it was a storyline I wanted to know about, I couldn't get past the voice the story was being told in. Thumbs down. You may feel differently though. I hope we can still be friends?
Ok Writing. Somewhat Page Turning. Very Engaging Premise.
At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream by Wade Rouse
I picked up this book because of Jen Lancaster. I blame her, of course. Actually I could never be mad at Jen Lancaster because she writes some of my favorite humorous memoirs. I want to be her when I grow up, if we are speaking honestly. So she regularly posts seasonal book recommendations and on her winter list she recommended a book by Wade Rouse. Of course it hadn't been released yet so I thought maybe I would check out one of his older books. The premise is that Rouse, inspired by Thoreau's Walden, picks up his life with his partner and moves from The City to a farm in the middle of nowhere. And if you didn't get that he is inspired by Walden, don't worry because he will beat you over the head with it for the entire first half of the book. The quotes he discusses recalled the feeling of high school term paper where one must support their thesis. This is not my favorite way to read a memoir. It just felt a bit contrived to me and about halfway through it I just got that "Life is too short to read crappy books" stirring inside. Although I put this book down I will probably give him one more try because he was very funny.
Ok Writing. Not a page turner at all. Very Engaging Premise. (See? It was a pickle.)
An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination by Elizabeth McKracken
Best book I read all month, hands down. Too bad it is another memoir about dead babies. The thing is, this memoir is smart and funny, which is not what you would expect in a book about losing a child in the 9th month of pregnancy. Gah! Just thinking about parts of this book are so painful -- I was absolutely emotionally wrapped up in every page. But while it is sad, there is something so incredibly comforting about the way McKracken can put her pain into words without sounding at all trite or cliche. As someone who has experienced a devastating loss, I loved how she described the pain of grief. How it not only changes your heart, but it forever changes the landscape of your life. You learn to live with it just as you would another person. This book was amazing, sad, uplifting, and painful all at the same time. But it quenched my emotional thirst, and for that I give it the highest recommendation.
Phenomenal Writing. Shockingly Page Turning. Emotional but Engaging Premise.
Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times Edited by Kevin Smokler
Published in 2004, this book of essays about how the internet is affecting the way people read and how publishing is changing right before our eyes obviously felt dated in parts. But there was a charming time capsule type quality to it and the fact that it was essays strung together about reading and writing really made me quite happy. It also made me a little nostalgic for the internet back when people had blogs because they liked to write, not because they had found a niche where they could profit. I actually marinated quite a bit on this topic while reading this so it was great at sparking food for thought -- and I love books that do that! Consequently it also rekindled my love for books of essays because they are bite sized pieces that you can consume at your leisure, without feeling the weight of narrative arc on your shoulders. It led me to choose the next books of essays that I also really enjoyed. Essay Love: Rekindled.
Various Styles of Writing. Not Terribly Page Turning (compared to a novel). Super Engaging Premise.
Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby
I love to read and write, so I think there is a rule out there that I must also love Nick Hornby since he is such a witty, British, writerly darling. And mostly, I abide by that rule. I found this book during a shopping trip to Half Priced Books where I actually looked at the shelves categorized as "Essays" on purpose. (Thanks, Bookmark Now!) When I read the premise, I knew I had to have it. Billed as a "feverish survey of his swollen bookshelves" Hornby takes the reader, month by month, through the books he purchased as well as read. Being that I often purchase way more books than I read in any given month, I found the premise amusingly relatable. His reviews are funny, informative and seriously the guy can turn a sentence. I followed Garrett around reading out loud in many parts and you know this one of my major signs of good writing. An amusing, quick read.
Incredible Writing. Page Turning (due to structure of book and hilarity). Engaging Premise to me (though you may disagree.)
The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen
Where on earth did I hear of this book? Crap, I can't remember. It was billed as a wry narrative surrounding the life of a dying and bitter hermit. Engaging premise? I wasn't so sure. But when I got into the meat of the story -- which by the way has no chapters, but is separated into "notebooks" as to give you the idea you are reading from the narrator's journal -- I was really quite intrigued. The author is talented and the book was entertaining, and I found myself desiring a cigarette and some scotch with a giant steak on the side throughout most of the story. I love when the mood of a book carries over into real life. Parts of the book move slow, so I won't pretend it is the best book I've ever read, but I would definitely try this author again.
Good Writing. Mostly Page Turning. Not a Super Engaging Premise (but worth it in the end.)
What did you read this month? I am feeling a bit uninspired thus far.