January Reviews

Favorite form of (temporary) escapism: reading.

Reasons why I need to escape right now: ugh.

Anyway, this month was such a solid month for reading and I am proud of the diversity. Nonfiction, contemporary literary fiction, feminism, a graphic novel, two classics... It was good. 

The Nix by Nathan Hill
640 pages
This lengthy novel is told from a few different time periods and perspectives. At the heart of it is Nathan Andersen-Anderson, a journalist turned disenchanted college English professor (and avid computer gamer), and his estranged mother, who is in quite a bit of trouble over throwing some rocks at a conservative politician. Nathan agrees to write a scandalous tell-all book about her, in order to make a pending unsatisfied book-deal lawsuit go away. In order to do this he needs to actually figure out what his mom has been up for the decades he hasn't seen her... and the decades before he was born that he knows very little about.

Verdict: If this book doesn't make my top ten list at the end of the year I will be really surprised. The writing is superb, some of the subject matter is timely, the characters (even minor ones) are developed, and the story is paced perfectly. Despite the length I was s disappointed to be done with it. 

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
52 pages
Gregor, a traveling salesman, wakes up one morning and is  bug. Cue family strife, existential crisis, and slow painful demise.

Verdict: This was a reread for work; this is the third time I have taught it and the fourth time I've read it. It really is a great little novella, full of thematic and symbolism to converse with teenagers about for days.

Kafka by Robert Crumb and David Zane Mairowitz
176 pages
This graphic novel highlights Franz Kafka's tortuous life while also providing brief summaries of his most famous works.

Verdict: I thought it was a great crash course in Kafka and recommended it to my students. The balance between written content and pictures is perfect and I thought both the tone and look captured the writer well.

How to Win at Feminism by the  Reductress
208 pages
The internet feminism magazine created this guidebook to teach you how to be a feminist- I plan on a more in-depth review soon. 

Verdict: A few times I thought it was maybe a tad over-the-top, but still I appreciated the satire and sentiment. It's definitely hardcore theory, by any means, but it's heart is in the right place.

A Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
220 pages
This is the story of a Beah's robbed childhood in Sierra Leone, where war destroys his family and innocence. He and his friends desperately try to avoid being captured, which would result in either death or being forced to join the military. Eventually he becomes a soldier, living off drugs and murdering others. He is taken for rehabilitation, but the process is challenging. 

Verdict- This was a really hard book to get through, especially as we are living in times of political and social unrest, granted nowhere near this degree. The horrific details were also hard to stomach. Nonetheless, it's an important book and it's good to be affected.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 
213 pages
Dorian Gray is painted by a friend Basil Hallward, all the while exploring the connections between mortality, youth, and beauty in long, philosophical discussions with other men that apparently don't have much to do. Eventually, it becomes apparent that the painting starts aging and he stops- what a horrible problem to have. Meanwhile, our friend Dorian starts to abandon morality and partake in some pretty scandalous activities that earn him quite the notorious reputation. 

Verdict- I read this in high school and college and have always been a fan of Wilde, despite the fact that I do enjoy poking fun at this book a little. I read this on the Serial App, which was awesome- every day a new installment that took 10-15 minutes or so to read was delivered to my phone. I would never read a book for the first time this way, but I think it's great for rereading classics. 

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
197 pages
Sometimes when you're little you overhear adults having conversations. You work hard to make sense of them, given your limited perception of the world. But you are smarter than they might think you are. Even if you're a fetus. And especially if your mom is sleeping with your uncle and they are plotting your father's murder (ohhhhhh Hamlet!). 

Verdict: I loved this book! I thought the narration was different and amusing, and I loved that McEwan doesn't try to over-explain the baby's intellect. The Hamlet angle was done well, and the balance between humor, drama and worldly-commentary was deliberate and well-done. As a mom, I do have to confess that the excessive amounts of alcohol consumed by the mother bothered me (the baby was quite the connoisseur), but, ya know, it's not real.

1706 pages 

1 comment:

  1. Awesome reading month! Too bad that there are so many reasons to need it.