Monday, August 18, 2014

Books lately

For the past month or so I have been on a mediocre book streak. Nothing terrible (though I did absolutely hate The Goldfinch--which represents a week of my reading life I will never get back), but at the end of every book I felt... unsatisfied. 

Just when I was getting discouraged, my hold for Brigid Schulte's Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time became available. I desperately needed a dose of good writing and critical thinking, and it delivered. It is easily the best non-fiction book I have read all year. The quality of the research and writing reminds me of Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won't Stop Talking, which I have raved about before.  Neil's going to read it next so we can discuss it both in general, and which aspects we would like to apply to our lives, marriage, and family.

In addition to whatever books I pick up on my own, I am a member of two book clubs--one that meets locally and one that meets virtually.

The local book club just finished reading The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara and I am still not sure what I think about it. I would not say I highly recommend it, as I found the writing tedious at times and the plot dragged in the middle. That said, it did make me think and pushed me out of my comfort zone, which are marks of a good book. The novel dealt with themes of child sexual abuse, the role of science in society--particularly its potentially destructive nature in a cross-cultural context, and moral relativism. This New York Times review a fellow book clubber found may have said it best:
Provocative and bleak, “The People in the Trees” might leave readers conflicted. It is exhaustively inventive and almost defiant in its refusal to offer redemption or solace — but that is arguably one of its virtues. This is perhaps less a novel to love than to admire for its sheer audacity.
I love that book club challenges me to read books like The People in the Trees that I would not otherwise pick up. I always leave our meetings feeling differently about the book then when I walked in. Sometimes I end up liking the book more, as was the case with Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things, and other time I like it less, which happened with Maria Semple's Where'd You Go Bernadette? Either way, I come away with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the book.

Other good books from the summer that I would recommend:

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

And as always, please let me know if you are reading something excellent so I can read it, too.

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