December Reviews

December is a month filled with excessive craziness and relaxation. Lucky for me, I've used a lot of the relaxation time and an opportunity to read. 

Great House by Nicole Krauss
289 pages
I had high hopes for this book; Krauss is my beloved Jonathan Safran Foer's wife and the premise for the story seemed interesting (basically, she aimed to follow this incredible desk back through time, and then back to the present). Unfortunately, it fell a little short of my lofty expectations. Her writing is pretty damn awesome; it was the story that prevented the book as a whole from being better. Her plan for the book was great, the execution in terms of story line was weak, though. 

Verdict: With great pain, I have to say I'd pass (sorry, Jonathan). 

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
256 pages
I read this book with my CAHSEE prep students after they took the test in November (they were all test-prepped out, and so was I). They appreciated the story of a (possibly) wrongly accused southern African American man who is sentenced to death by electric chair. They were even more appreciative of the sex and alcohol... The story tells about a teacher, Grant, also black, who ends up being forced into a relationship with Jefferson and how this experience impacts him.

Verdict: Not bad, not great. It's a quick read that will tug at the heart strings a bit towards the end. If you are a fan of the south, though, or social justice issues go for it.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
320 pages
This is one of those books that I strongly disliked but understand why others like it and why it's become such an epic story. I did appreciate Tolkien's ability to build an episodic narrative but it just wasn't for me. For your viewing pleasure I've included the trailer to the cartoon version back from the late seventies, a movie we watched several times growing up.

Verdict: I'm sure you've already read it, since I was the last person on this planet to.  Let's just say this will be the first, and last, Tolkien book I read...

The Darlings by Cristina Algers
352 pages
I already wrote on this for a review I did a week ago, so you can check out the specifics here if you're interested.

Verdict: Entertaining and interesting take on how the Crisis on Wall Street effected the rich and famous. Her newbie writing style was a bit obvious, though. 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
207 pages
I posted on this as well, so I'll spare you with the repetitive information.

Verdict: If you like outdoorsy adventure stories then definitely check this out. If you read Into Thin Air and enjoyed Krakauer's style you'd probably enjoy this as well.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
180 pages
I plan to post on this tomorrow, but basically this a memoir that marries Murakami's life as writer and runner. As someone who has had various aspirations in both fields I greatly appreciated his humble narrative highlighting his trials and tribulations. It's not often you find a well-written running book.

Verdict: If you're a runner or fan or Murakami then I would pick this up.

More Baths Less Taking by Nick Hornby
135 pages
I really had very little knowledge of this book besides that it was a collection of essays- I skipped out on a reading through Writer's Bloc but had paid for the book so they sent it to me (signed, which was a nice surprise). Turns out it's the essays he does for a magazine that simply details what he's read that month. I loved that he started off each column with a list of books he had bought and what he had read- it's nice to see someone who buys and reads at basically the same pace (ahem). Many of the books I had never heard of, and, frankly, are ones I won't ever read. All in all a nice idea.

Verdict: If you like Hornby or like reading about reading you'll like it. 


  1. Aha, I was holding "Great House" in my hand today, wondering wether that would be my next read. I think for now I´ll wait a little bit though! :-)

  2. I also am not a fan of The Hobbit. I dislike the narrative voice, in particular, because it feels like someone talking down to the audience -- like a grown-up humoring some nice little boys and girls by telling them a little story, a story he himself is really above.

    Also, it's kinda boring.

    However, I love and adore The Lord of the Rings. It's so very different. It's serious, it's deep, it's rich, and it definitely has no condescending tone to it. Don't let your dislike of The Hobbit hold you back -- I read TH in high school and wanted nothing to do with LOTR, but eventually gave it a try in college, and wow, it's like the difference between comfy jeans you can wear anywhere and an itchy, frilly dress you're forced to wear by your mom when you're four.