Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Reading Update

I have been devouring books lately.  Just swallowing them whole.  Kindle Unlimited definitely loses money on me.  $9.99 a month for all the books that you want to read (within their Unlimited collection)?  I think for me at the pace I'm setting it comes out to less than $0.66 a book.

What have I been reading?  A mix of high brow and low brow, fiction and non fiction, with a memoir or two thrown in.  There were quite a few in this mix that took me by surprise by how gripping, how readable, and how interesting/relevant I found the stories.  I think it's fair to say that there might be nothing more I love more in life than to be caught up in the clutches of a book that I cannot put down.

Redployment, by Phil Klay.  A whole series of short stories strung together to form a cohesive picture of the damaging and damning emotions, effect and aftermath of war.   I found the stories incredibly compelling, mainly because it is a very honest portrayal of what it's like to be a soldier.  The images, the pain, the fear, the guilt, the shock, the horror... all of those things that we citizens pack neatly away and pretend do not exist, this book describes very well. 

Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham.  I see why she is a lightning rod for debate among critics and women and men.  I have never watched Girls and I honestly don't think I care to, however I was intrigued enough to pick up her book.  She is a much better writer than I would have expected.  Her stories speak to loneliness and unhappiness and the struggles of body image, self confidence, esteem...trying to find and be her own person... and a lot of those themes are wrapped up in sex.  There are some mental images that this book has given me that I'm not sure I ever wanted.

Soy Sauce For Beginners, by Kristen Chen.  I had seen this book a while ago but did not pick it up because I was worried it would be full of Asian stereotypes or just annoying bit characters.  I shouldn't have been worried.  This book was a fast read and I found a lot of familiarity in her descriptions of the family dynamics. It also makes me think of soy sauce in a new light!

Coming Clean, by Kimberly Rae Miller.  I read this book in one sitting in one night.  That's probably enough said.  It's a memoir of a young woman growing up in a household with a father who is a hoarder.  It's painful and honest and made more so by the fact that her love for her parents is obvious and shines off the page - but the book also portrays her anger and shame and the debilitating aftermaths of growing up in this kind of household.

My Year With Eleanor, by Noelle Hancock.  Ok, so I know this was on my list next when I posted this but now I've read it so I figured I'd update the post.  This book is in the navel gazing self-discovery and "me me me" self indulgent vein of "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Julie and Julia" (full disclosure: both of which I have read), but I still raced through it nonetheless.  I guess I have a high tolerance for people who think that they have enough interesting things in their lives to make a book.  While it was a bit annoying at times (I found myself rolling my eyes at her justifications of her fears or paralysis given that she had lost her job - get over yourself lady, you're not that special!) I also knew I was being harsh.  I liked the quotations of Eleanor and the bits of history interspersed within the narrative.  She does do a pretty funny stand up comedy bit.  Mostly though I now want to try the trapeze and go skydiving.  And hike Mt. Kilimanjaro (maybe).

I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai.  So yeah, I finished another book last night.  This one was a pretty quick read.  The book starts with her being shot by the Taliban, then goes back to the beginning to trace how she became the mature, insightful, eloquent young adult that she is today, championing the cause of women's rights and women's right to education. Her story is especially staggering when you consider that she is a first born girl in a country (Pakistan) with horrific statistics for women in every respect, and her mother is illiterate.  She is not yet twenty and has published a book, addressed the UN, been on countless news channels, met with so many diplomats, and still maintains a very levelheaded and humble exterior.  Color me impressed.  Talk about living a full life!  I will note, though, that the book makes clear that the unsung hero of the story is her father.  (Are you realizing, as I am constantly realizing, what an essential relationship and connection fathers and daughters have?)  Without her father's activism, she would likely never have gotten into education and policy issues in the first place.  But without his unwavering support and pride, there is no way the incredible person she is today would ever have emerged in the first place.

[Still] on my list next:

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown.

In the Kingdom of Ice, the Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage, by Hampton Sides.

Peony, A Novel of China, by Pearl S. Buck.

King Leopold's Ghost, A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism, by Adam Hochschild. 

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