Oh, July. You were so good to me, in so many ways. I got in some serious reading time yet again, and like June, got through seven books. Here's the quick lowdown on my thoughts (and I think four of them are by first time authors!):
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I wrote about this long, fantastic essay here.
Verdict: Everyone should read this, no matter what age, gender, race, or position on feminism.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
This non-fiction linguistic memoir, told in both English and Italian, is sort of Lahiri's love letter with the Italian language and her journey in trying to learn to speak and write it. In order to do so she immerses herself in the culture and language, even moving her family to Rome to do so.
Verdict: It's hard to describe this book; in a way it is sort of boring, but in a way it is wonderful and inspirational. She writes about something that sounds quite dull and, at moments, is. But the transformation and passion she writes about experiencing is anything but mundane. I really loved my trip to Italy several years ago and also feel draw to the country, so I guess on some level I was able to relate.
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
I wrote about this and the personal connections I have to the book here.
Verdict: It's very well-written, heartbreaking, and will for sure be on my top ten of the year list.
Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
I wanted something a little easier and possibly lighter after some of the heavier books I read, and this fit the bill. This novel is about a man who notices an "octopus" on his dog's head and must fight his beloved Lily's tumor and his own life as a middle-aged man with intimacy issues. The book floats between the past, present, and Teddy's imagination with ease and fluidity.
Verdict: This book will make you laugh and groan and cry all sorts of tears. It will make you give your pets some special attention, wonder if you need a therapist, and encourage your desire for another tattoo (or maybe that's just me...). It reminded of a similar sentiment of The Art of Racing in the Rain, so if that was your jam you'll like this one too.
Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
This is basically a novella and a few short stories and they were all strong. The title story (or novella, really) is about an older judge's murder and the different perspectives that come with solving it, showing us how our actions and behaviors aren't really just our own. The other short stories are just as strong, including one about a recently divorced woman who buys her adopted, deaf, son a wet suit for Christmas... [raises eyebrows].
Verdict: McCann's writing is always, heavy, thought-provoking, and basically perfection. I will say that while this was still powerful, I think his novels are actually what I prefer. This is probably for more selfish reasons, though, since I like seeing what a few hundred pages under one story arc transpires to.
The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church
Meridian must choose between love and her academic career, and, since it's the middle of the twentieth century, she chooses to follow her husband's path. She puts her promising career in ornithology on hold for Alden's career doing things like, oh, developing the nuclear bombs that would cause serious damage in Japan. Meri isn't content, though, and for that I give her credit. For years she wrestles with her position in her marriage, profession, and community, taking steps forward and steps back.
Verdict: As a whole, I really enjoyed this book. Without giving much away, I thought there were parts that led some of the characters down unrealistic paths, given the nature Church created for them, but I guess it is human nature to go off script at least occasionally. I also thought there were points where the bird metaphor was perhaps taken a bit too far, but nonetheless I would definitely read another novel by Church.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Tess moves to New York City as a recent college graduate looking for all that cliched crap everyone moving to the Big City always is (fresh start, opportunities, etc...). She gets a job with no experience at a famous, expensive restaurant (hmmmmm....) and becomes quickly tangled up in the various dramas that exist in most of these places, including love triangles, drug use, and alcohol abuse. Throw in a side of mentor-worship and you're set.
Verdict: I am a bit of a sucker for books set in restaurants, but I did have some issues. First of all, she would have never gotten hired at this place with her limited barista skills; the industry is too cut throat and they don't have time to deal with training someone who has never been in a kitchen before (even at the places I worked there was no way you could get a job doing anything but bussing tables or showing people where to sit with limited experience). The writing was a bit too forced at times, and the entire thing was just a bit melodramatic. Although, most things in your early twenties are a bit melodramatic, so I guess I can chalk that one up to being realistic... maybe. I don't think this is a bad book by any means, and would read her second novel, I just don't think this one was quite worth the hype it received.
1984 pages (ha!)