books

on reading

2015 reading

Last year I read only ten books. Ten. You can see them up above. 2015 was my lowest read year in the last five, and I had no interest in reading so few books this year. Don’t get me wrong, though it was a low read year, I still think that the quality of what I read was good. I just hadn’t read enough. Why was that?, I often asked myself. Had I been too narrow-minded with my choices? Had I been bored? I still haven’t exactly pinned down the reason for the “great reading slump of 2015,” but I promised myself that 2016 would be a better reading year, and I set three goals to make it happen.

  1. I would read outside of my comfort zone, exploring new genres.
  2. I would read longer books.
  3. I wanted to read MORE books then I had in any previous year.

Here I am, roughly five months into the year, and I have already surpassed the number of books read from last year. I’m currently at twelve, and am showing no signs of slowing down. There have been many things that have helped, and I can’ believe I hadn’t incorporated them into my reading life sooner. Here are a few small easy changes that I incorporated into my routine:

  • I actually put down books that don’t catch my interest. If I’m not hooked by page 50, I put it down and walk a way, and I don’t feel bad about it. This is big for me. I’ve realized that just because a book gets rave reviews, or comes highly recommended, does not mean it’s for me. And, that’s OK!
  • I now read more than one book at the same time. I know that this is hard for people. It used to be impossible for me, or at least I thought it was. But, I realized that different books were more suited to different reading environments. A long, intense read may be more suited to the uninterrupted quiet of that 30-minutes before bed, allowing total focus. Whereas, had I tried to read that same book on a commute, it would have been a total fail. Books with short chapters, and lighter content I’ve found to be perfect reads for a quick, often loud, commute.  Recognizing this, has actually allowed me to log more reading time throughout the day.
  • No book shaming, and no embarrassment over what I actually enjoy reading. Here’s the thing, I think I’ve always been a book snob. And, it’s definitely limited what I let myself read. I always felt kind of bad reading “chick lit,” or popular mass market titles, for example. You know what? That was completely and totally ridiculous of me. Why would I feel bad about reading anything, as long as I enjoyed it?

There have been many more major changes that I’ve made that have also helped along the way, and I’ll explore those more in later posts. But for now, I just want to say that I’m loving reading right now more than I have in a long time, and I’m on track to have my best read year yet.

Here’s what I’ve read so far this year:

Reading 2016

Happy reading everyone!

My Summer Reading List

Today is the first day of summer! You wouldn’t know it though from the view out my window. It’s grey and a little chilly here in SF today. I thought I would put together a summer reading list of the books I want to read over the next few months. Who knows if I’ll actually read them all, but it’s only six books…totally doable.

summer reading list

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – I’m half way through this one now, and am finding it totally engrossing

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris – I’ve been wanting to read Sedaris for a long time. This seems like as good a place as any to start.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – I’ve read this before, back in school. I’ve been wanting to read it again.

One More Thing: Stories and other Stories by B.J. Novak – This is getting great reviews

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – I want to read this before delving in to her lates release, The Goldfinch (which won the Pulitzer).

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – I received this in my Powells Indiespensable shipment, and I’m excited to crack it open. It’s kind of a big book though, so it may be one I just read while at home.

What on your summer reading list?

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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This completes my reading of all three of Gillian Flynn’s novels.

When I was done reading Sharp Objects, I was left feeling almost exactly the same as I felt when I finished Flynn’s other stories; that there is something very, very unhealthy about this book. Her characters, these stories, they’re just so…wrong, in the best way possible.  They’re complex, real, and majorly f’ed up to the point where I wasn’t even sure I liked them…but I couldn’t stop reading. It was kind of like seeing an accident; you don’t want to look, but you can’t turn away.

This story’s main character, Camille, has a complex and disturbing background and an even more complex family. This book has a grizzly plot line where Camille travels back to her hometown to report on a string of murders of young girls. There are emotional demons to wrestle. There are skeletons in the closet brought to light, and there is an ending that is so mean and nasty that I felt a little unclean when it was all said and done. In other words, this book has everything a dark, psychological thriller should.

I also found it interesting how well Flynn writes terrible women. Again, she has turned the stereotypes on their heads. In this novel, women are the bad guys, the villains, the perpetrators. Men are the bystanders, and at most their pawns. It certainly makes for an interesting and emotionally challenging read.

I’m sure this book will displease a lot of readers. But the point of a psychological thriller isn’t to make the reader comfortable. While reading this one you’ll want to squirm, and you’ll cringe a little. You’ll thank your lucky stars your life isn’t as messed up as Camille’s.

And, if you’re like me, you’ll also feel a little uncomfortable knowing that you liked reading it.

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Title: Sharp Objects  Author: Gillian Flynn

Pages: 254 (in paperback)

Read: mostly at home, in bed.

First Line: “My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly.”

Book Love: The Divergent series by Veronica Roth (all three books)

I’m a grown woman. But, it appears that at 33 years old I have become quite the teen literature junky. But here’s the thing…I blame it all on Hollywood. It seems lately that a large percentage of recent Hollywood movie productions have been based off of teen lit. So, naturally I have to read it all before I see the movies. The Twilight Series, the Hunger Games series, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Book Thief, The Giver, The Fault in our Stars, and now the Divergent Series. Yep, I’ve read them all, and they all have been, or are soon to be made for the big screen.  Anyway, that’s my excuse.

Rather then posting about each of the Divergent series books individually, I figured I’d save you the time and just post about them all at once (since I did read them back to back).

divergent series

Lets sum it up in a nutshell. I really liked Divergent. I didn’t think that Insurgent was as good as book one, but still enjoyed it. But, Allegiant? That’s a whole nother story. I hated that book. I mean…loathed it. The entire book was one giant WTF moment. Uggh.

Anyway.

Here’s the thing. Read the series if you liked Hunger Games. It has similar themes. Read the series for the likeable characters. Read it if you like utopian/dystopian fiction. Read it if you plan on watching the movies. But don’t read it if you are easily disappointed, because I’m warning you now: book three makes no sense at all.

Let me draw special attention to how book three ends. Big (I mean BIG!) spoiler alert ***stop reading now if you plan on reading these books, and don’t want me to spoil the movies or the ENTIRE series for you***

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Veronica Roth does something that is seldom ever done in literature? Why? Because it almost never works. Allegiant is no exception. What cardinal rule did she break? Well…she KILLS THE MAIN F’ING CHARACTER. Worse yet, it appears to have been done for no good reason at all. In fact it seems that the only motivating factor to killing Tris was for sheer shock value, because this twist sure doesn’t sit in line with the plot or character development.  I could go on and on about how and why this plot train wreck is so shockingly misplaced (or why this entire book is a disappointment) but this review over on Good Reads does a much better job. So you should probably just go read that.

*Sigh* I’ve got some time to get over it. The first movie comes out next month – which I’m looking forward to watching. I always enjoy seeing how characters translate to the big screen.  And,  I’ve got until 2016 (reportedly) to forget as much as I can about how the series ends before I find myself sitting in a movie theater watching Allegiant.

Dear Hollywood, you have my consent to take as much artistic license as you want with that one…

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Title: Divergent, Insurgent, & Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth

Pages: 1576 total

Read via: my Kindle

First Lines:  Divergent: “There is one mirror in my house.” Insurgent: “I wake with his name in my mouth.” Allegiant: I pace in our cell in Erudite headquarters, her words echoing in my mind.”

Book Love: Inferno by Dan Brown

I start every year reviewing my list of what I read the previous year, with the ultimate goal of reading more total pages then the year prior. 2013 is long gone, and with it a read count of 3632 pages. Broken down it was twelve books, twelve different authors, one book of poetry, two young-adult novels, two mystery/suspense, a ton of good ole regular fiction, two books that I absolutely loved (book1/book2.), and one that everyone else loved but which I loathed. Though it was by no means my best read year, it was still a good year. And though having a running list to look back on is nice, I haven’t kept an up to date record of what I actually thought of any of these books. So, this year my goal is to actually document/review all the books I read.

It took me three weeks to finish book one of 2014, and it was in the form of very popular fiction. I read Dan Brown’s Inferno. We’ve had this book sitting on our bookshelf for a long time. In fact, Tim read it first, almost as soon as it came out. I held off, not because I didn’t think I’d like it, but because of its sheer size. It’s 462 pages… in hardback. It’s a big book, and for a commuter, is a lot to schlep to and from the office every day. And then Christmas came around, and Amazon’s super good Kindle e-book sale happened, and I snatched up a digital copy of it for something like $2.99. Granted, I recognize buying a digital copy of a book I already own in physical form is a blatant waste of money. But it cost me less than my coffee, so don’t judge…

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So, what did I think of it? While I was in no way expecting a literary masterpiece (it is after all popular fiction), I was more than a bit disappointed by it. In a nutshell, it was slow going for most of the book, and a bit tedious. This was unexpected, since my experience with Dan Brown’s previous books is that they’ve  been far more entertaining, quick reads. It does pick up towards the very end, but for me that was just too long to wait.

The subject matter was intriguing, as were the ethical questions which the plot raised, and it was a nice introduction to Dante’s “Inferno” for those without prior knowledge of that text. But the characters were flat. It was hard to get invested. It was a page turner, but only in the sence that I kept turning pages wondering when it was going to end. If you’re new to Dan Brown, or just looking for an entertaining read, I suggest sticking to the originals and picking up The Divinci Code, or Angels & Demons.

On to the next.

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Title: Inferno   Author: Dan Brown

Pages: 462 (in hardback)

Read: mostly on BART while commuting

First Line: “I am the Shade.”

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Let me start by admitting that I missed the boat when it came to jumping on The Office bandwagon. I have probably seen only two or three episodes from the entire series (gasp!).  It’s not because I don’t think the show is funny, because I do, really! It’s that I didn’t realize the show was funny until probably season three or four. I’m also not one to start in the middle. I equate that to opening up a book to page 100 and reading onward from there, hoping you’ll just put the pieces together. Now that just doesn’t make sense, does it? Also, I recognize that Netflix or Hulu would have solved this problem rather efficiently. However, my queue is too full of romantic comedies and discs of Downton Abbey to justify adding eight more seasons to the list.

All that is a lead in to me saying that I kind of regret not watching The Office. Why? Because I didn’t realize until now (and completely by chance, I might add) how damn funny Mindy Kaling is. Not only is she a comedically gifted actress, but she also writes for the show. Did you know she writes for the show?  I sure didn’t, at least until I read her book.

I had passed Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  on the bookstore shelves a number of times. At one point I even stopped to comment to myself on the cleverness of the title. It did make me want to at least pick up the book. But, based on my unawareness of who Mindy Kaling was I never actually did. Then, one day last month the stars seemed to align for this little gem of a book. I found myself the recipient of a gift card to my favorite independent bookstore, which was at that same time having a buy two get one free sale.  So this book found its way to my online shopping cart, and a few days later onto the “to read” section of my bookshelf.  I’m glad it did.

It really is a funny book, and I shouldn’t have been surprised by this. I mean, The New York Times in review of it said “[Kaling is] like Tina Fey’s cool little sister. Or perhaps…the next Nora Ephron.”  Shouldn’t that have been a good enough indicator that I might like it? I think what I find so likeable about it is that Kaling comes off as a regular person, who happened to find a lot of success. She’s not stuck up, or seemingly high maintenance.  It’s a funny, and refreshing read.

Perhaps you too should stop passing it by, and actually buy a copy.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fast you read it, and by how much you liked it.