May Reviews- FYI: I Have a Life

I'd like to take a second to address something I think some of you might be concerned about: I have a life. I know, for some reason I've been finishing a lot of books lately, but, rest assured, I'm not buried in a cave with a book light and supply of canned goods. I go out with friends, run, go to yoga, cook, play with the dogs, and hang with my husband. I probably read about 10-12 hours a week; at 50-60 pages an hour that's a book or two a week. And I really don't watch TV (we watch Mad Men on Sundays and then one or two episodes of whatever old series we're watching at the time, like Chuck right now), so that frees up quite a bit of time. Anyway, just remember that. This month:

Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
336 pages
I've already put this quirky novel on a few lists this past month because it's a really good read. The Fang family spent years causing social chaos for art, only to result in their two children growing up to be pretty screwed up adults. Various unfortunate events result in the two grown kids coming home and becoming involved in yet another Fang family scenario, one much more complicated than past ones. The book's narration alternates between the past and present for most, which I normally don't love, but for this novel it worked well. 

Verdict: Read it! Just remember it's a satire of art, the typical family, and celebrity status; don't take it too seriously. If you like Wes Anderson films you'll appreciate this.

Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
272 pages
Scott Jurek is a successful, amazing ultra runner (basically this means races that are longer than 26.2 miles, but most of his tend to be in the 50-100 mile range) who also happens to be a vegan. His book describes his journey from childhood to the present, explaining how he slowly changed his eating habits and the effects it had on his performance (read more from my Nonfiction Nagging post). 

Verdict: If you aren't interested in extreme running or a diet makeover this book may not be for you (I really liked it). I appreciated the fact that Jurek doesn't get preachy or cocky, which some runners tend to.

Habibi by Craig Thomspon
672 pages
Yes this is a pretty long book, but remember it's a graphic novel- definitely more picture heavy than word heavy. This novel is set in the Middle East and describes a relationship between a young girl who runs away from her captors with a toddler- together they live in a boat (int the desert) and grow up together. Eventually they are separated and must endure many, many struggles alone.

Verdict: If you are interested in trying out a graphic novel I think this is a great one, especially if you fear a lack of substance in the genre. Thompson's words and pictures are rich with character development, symbolism, and thematic elements. 

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
224 pages
I read this novel at the end of the year with my sophomores- all the other typical tenth grade novels were tied up and I wanted something the guys would hopefully buy into. As a whole this kept the kids' interest and I got some really good feedback- apparently they're drawn to outdoor latrines, bombardments, and dismemberment. 

Verdict: If you're a history buff or like war novels go for it! I didn't love it when I read it in high school but actually really enjoyed teaching it (which is also how I feel about Julius Caesar).

The Red House by Mark Haddon
 272 pages
I wrote on how disappointing this novel was a few weeks ago- Haddon's first novel was great, the second mediocre at best, and this one an overall disappointment. The premise is decent- two different family's on a vacation together in the country, all with some pretty serious secrets. The execution just wasn't what it should have been and certain aspects should have been explored more.

Verdict: Skip. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
299 pages
I actually assigned this to some of my students to read over the summer for next year and wasn't planning on reading it until July (it has been assigned to this level in past years by past teachers who I trust). Then a student who started reading it earlier asked me what the word "phallic" meant and I decided I should probably read it to make sure I hadn't accidentally assigned erotica (kidding, kidding). I really didn't learn anything new from the text, as the concepts it goes over are ones I learned in high school myself (symbolism, religion in texts, irony, etc...), but I thought it was a nice little review that was enough to make me miss college, 

Verdict: If you feel the urge to brush up before book club than give it a whirl (or I can just send you my notes).

In One Person by John Irving
448 pages
This hurts my heart a little, but I really think Irving's earlier work will forever be his strongest- his last three just haven't quite been what A Prayer for Owen Meaning, The World According to Garp, and Cider House Rules were. This novel isn't bad, it's just not what it could have been. The story centers around Will, a bisexual who grows up in a small, colorful town on the East Coast (his mom's a homohobe yet his grandpa is a cross-dresser). He must learn to navigate his sexual identity during the 1950s and 60s, and then cope with so many deaths as a result of AIDS in the 80s. It has a good message behind it (tolerance for those that are LGBT), but I am definitely feeling the urge to do some research about how the gay community is receiving it (a quick Google search yielded things that weren't quite on topic...). At the end I was ready for it to be over- not necessarily a great sign. No matter what, I'm still excited to attend his reading in June.

Verdict: If you're a fan of Irving read it, if not it really just depends. It's liberal, at times sexually graphic, but still an overall good story.


  1. I agree with you about John Irving. I'm a big fan of his early work. I just picked up Last Night at Twisted River at the library book sale. I figured for $1 I could give it a try. Hope I'm not disappointed. I think The Family Fang sounds like fun. I'm on the look out for it!

  2. I like how you did this! A quick wrap up and review of the books you have read for the month. Habibi sounds interesting! That word will forever be linked to our trip to Cairo where the tour guide keep saying 'Ya Habibi' - we figured she was calling us all jerks in another language, but it seemed she really was using a term of endearment! :D

  3. Sounds like you've had a pretty successful month. My reading habits are very similar to yours and I read at about the same speed. And I'm glad you did a quick summary and advised readers whether to read or skip a book. I'm going to incorporate this approach into my month-end summary so people don't have to go back and re-read the entire review.

  4. I love when you post these reviews! It gives me ideas of books to read. *Scurries off to add Habibi to reading list*

  5. I've seen the movie "All Quiet on the Western Front" but I have yet to read the book. I might make that one of my summer reads.*

  6. Hi! So I found your blog through some corridor that I can't remember, but came across your two mentions of the Family Fang and picked it up (I think I first heard a review of it on Fresh Air, but forgot about it). Anyway, I just finished it - like, 20 minutes ago - and wanted to thank you for the recommendation. How terrific was that book? So good, although I'm not sure how much I support it as a Nicole Kidman project. Still, thanks!

    1. I am so glad you liked it! It makes me so happy that people actually pay attention to my recommendations- you seriously made my night!