Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Some Good Reads for May

Miraculously, I am finally out of my reading rut. For months it seemed liked every book I started sucked and I couldn't get into anything. It was pure misery, especially since several of my favorite authors had new books out this year.

Thank you, David Sedaris, for breaking the losing streak. Anxiously having awaited his new book  Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. I went into it with some trepidation. I really wanted to like it and I can assure you, it's safe to read. I liked most of it quite a bit although I'd heard some of the stories on NPR and read others in The New Yorker already, so it wasn't all totally new to me. He adds in a few fictional monologuey kind of things without warning, explaining that he imagines high school forensics students reciting them (which I could definitely imagine) and these were tossed in without warning so I'd get a page into them before I realized they weren't true and then I ended up skipping them. The idea didn't work for me. Got on my nerves. But the essays were by and large pretty great, although I missed stories about his brother Paul. Diabetes is no Naked, but I was entertained and that's all I really wanted.

I just joined Goodreads. You can be my friend on there and share your book ideas with me. I joined because I saw a lot of my friends were already on it and because I wanted a way to see what books other people liked. I ended up rating a bunch of books I'd already read to see what the site's recommendations were for me and I was glad because they were pretty good. Goodreads actually did a bit better than Amazon's "If you like X you'll like Y" thing that it does. The Kindle Store, by comparison, has no idea what I like. So thanks to Goodreads I was able to find a bunch of new memoirs to read, which also helped break my losing streak. THANK GOD.

I tend to mostly read nonfiction because I mostly write nonfiction and I was in such a rut. It was depressing. I felt like I'd read everything already, but no, I had not. 

I love crazy experiment memoirs where the authors will go undercover or commit to some rigid nuttery for a set period of time to see what happens and then write about it. One of my favorite crazy experiment memoirs was AJ Jacob's The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. During that year, he took a "slave" (more of an intern actually) and his slave, a Brown student named Kevin Roose now has his own crazy experiment/ Bible memoir. In,The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University liberal Roose goes undercover as a Christian conservative student at Liberty University (Jerry Falwell's school). What I liked about this book was that Roose was fair and honest. In the beginning he even explains that this isn't a book designed to make fun of Christians because that's trite and too easy and he keeps his word. Roose writes well, is honorable and is really interesting and engaging. I enjoyed his experiment a lot. Read it. Thanks, Goodreads for this recommendation.

I also love memoirs that talk about all the crazy things that happen at people's jobs and naturally someone who delivers babies is going to have some tales to tell, especially after fifty years of doing it. I knew Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife  by Peggy Vincent was going to be something I'd be interested in and I was right. I was instantly hooked. Riveted. Vincent begins her story as a young nursing student in the early 60s in the Deep South, so you know the story is going to get good and it does and just gets better as she chronicles her career as a midwife. You will LOVE this book. I'm almost done with it now and I'm trying to drag it out because I'm enjoying it so much.

I do read fiction. A few months ago I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and liked it and if you enjoyed that book or the movie of it, you'll also like the book ,Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. It's a spare, sweet, high school love story set in the late 80s with a nice, John Hughesy vibe. I thought it was pretty good, but I love that sort of non-schlocky, more realistic kind of adolescent tale. 

So after I read the book of Perks of Being a Wallflower, I decided to see the movie on Netflix and ugh, I hated it. This generally always happens to me. I have this neurosis where I can't see a movie unless I've read the book first and then every single, freaking time I end up hating the movie because it doesn't look like I imagined it should or they change something or even if all the other stuff is right, as with the Swedish version of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I already know what's going to happen and so the movie is boring and I feel like there's no point in watching it, which is why I didn't bother with the American version because after not even being able to sit through the Swedish I felt that dead horse was sufficiently beaten. That was essentially my main complaint with Perks. Also why I haven't seen Silver Linings Playbook. I just finished the book.

Did you know thatThe Silver Linings Playbook, is a book by Matthew Quick? I didn't and I almost saw the movie, but luckily my neurosis was saved and I found out about the book in time. I shudder to think about what might have happened if I hadn't. Anyway, I liked this book, although I know already that they changed a lot about it in the movie and after reading the book I don't know how I'd feel about it translated into film, so ehn. I don't know. I liked the book because its characters were truly unique, often unlikable and weird and totally unreliable, pretty much like actual people and something about the story felt very fresh to me. I'd recommend reading the book, especially if you didn't see the movie.

I have quite a few books on my "To Read" list at the moment and am looking for more. What do you guys recommend? I really feel like I might like the TV show Game of Thrones but I can't allow myself to watch it without reading the books first and I'm not sure how I'd feel about the books because, oh my God, those thousands of pages upon thousands of pages of fantasy epic, Jesus Christ. It's overwhelming for me to even think about. What do you say? Read the books first? Skip the books and watch the show already? Skip both? What? Help a sister out.


Michelle said...

Read My Year with Eleanor. It's a memoir about a woman trying to overcome her own fears. Very powerful read.

Anonymous said...

If you like memoirs you must read Island of the Lost by Joan Druett. It's about two different ships at the end of the age of sail, both shipwrecked on the same island south of New Zealand at the same time. It was riveting. The author draws from contemporaneous diaries and news accounts and gives the historical context and epilogue.

Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

You always give the best book recommendations! I love reading about birth stories, so I put Baby Catcher on my (already too big) list.

Christian said...

I am totally addicted to Game of Thrones. Most of the actors are excellent and the story line is very engaging. I tried reading a chapter of the Song of Fire and Ice series on my kindle and I just could not get into it. I'm not into fantasy fiction at all so it was laborious reading for me.

If you haven't read Cheryl Strayed yet, I recommend her. "Tiny Beautiful Things" is excellent and I enjoyed that more than her popular "Wild".

Nicole said...

Definitely watch Game of Thrones. I haven't read the books either (and like you the thousands of pages scares me cos I hate fantasy books) and I found myself totally immersed in the series. I bought the first two seasons on DVD and have not regretted it.

Saffron said...

It depends on whether you enjoy reading snippets about a cast of hundreds of characters. I've read each of the books in the GoT series at least twice and other than the main characters, I had a lot of trouble remembering who they were and down the line some minor characters become major characters so it can be confusing (and I have an awesome memory for details). There is also an inordinate amount of food porn in the books, GRRM loves his food. I enjoy the books but I read more Sci Fi/Fantasy than anything else. I would describe his writing as a combination of the Bible, Tolkien and a trashy novel with Fabio on the cover.

Vic said...

Both. Either. Game of Thrones is not to be missed.

Emily said...

My biggest disappointment recently was The Hobbit. I read the book as a kid, and my memory of the story is thus: Dwarfs, Trolls, Gollum, Ring, DRAGON DRAGON DRAGON!! Go Home, The End.

Then I watched the movie and it was Talk Talk Talk Sing Talk Trolls Talk Talk Talk Gollum Talk Ring Talk. BAH Where was my dragon, dammit?!

I loved Great Gatsby, though. Maybe because I loathed all the characters in the book? Or because Leo did such a good job?

Mrs. Gumby said...

I just finished the 'Call the Midwife' books by Jennifer Worth. The BBC series with same name is wonderful and very faithful to the book.

Elle said...

Everyone says that the Game of Thrones tv show is way better than the books. Apparently he's super long winded in his writing. I can't say for sure as I haven't read the books, only watched the show (normally I'm like you and need to read before watching but I too got stuck on the amount of material I'd have to get through first).

My book recs for you would be anything by Sarah Addison Allen, though starting with her first novel Garden Spells is probably best. I think she'd really appeal to you as each of her novels have a strong sense of family and community with a dash of unexpected magic and inspiration.

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