Fun Note: I’ve been getting a lot of reading done. My goal is to read 50 books this year, and, after four months, I’m already at 27, so, yeah, kudos to me, or something.
1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (5.0/5): Pretty much everyone knows the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, but I hadn’t ever read the books. We, of course, have a child coming and have been on a Pooh kick lately, so I picked it up. They are wonderful little stories. Not much happens, but it doesn’t happen so gently and with such humor. It’s impossible not to like these.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (5.0/5): Taught this to my sophomores. They struggled with it a bit (my students don’t take to homework), but I, as always, loved it. I am beginning to find that this book improves substantially with additional readings. This says something as it starts out so fantastic it is a wonder that it could seem any better. Every father should strive to be Atticus Finch.
3. Drown by Junot Diaz (3.5/5): This book gets a lot of hype, and when he is writing from the perspective of boys, I buy it. However, once his characters hit puberty, they become so loathsome that I find it almost impossible to care about them at all. His best stories are tender and brutal at the sometime. His worst are brutal only and in a way that seems gratuitous.
4. Girl in Landscape by Jonathan Lethem (4.5/5): Very, very good. There’s just a tiny something missing that keeps it from being fantastic. I don’t even know what it is, but that’s not the point. When he decides to do it, Jonathan Lethem is a very good genre writer. He does what the best genre writers do, I think, which is to use the bizarre to enhance the story rather than having the story for the sake of the strange setting. It’s a wonderful book and I’d recommend it heartily to anyone with even a mild interest in good writing or science fiction.
5. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (5.0/5): I love Margaret Atwood, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared to death about this enormous volume about a 19th century Canadian murder. I could easily imagine myself hating this book, but I loved it. The research was so thorough and there were tons of wonderful details. I’ve yet to read any Atwood that wasn’t fantastic (though she’s written a lot, so who knows), and this novel did something extra-special. It was ambiguous without being dissatisfying. That is all I will say (I don’t want to give it away).
6. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (5.0/5): This is my favorite Sedaris now. The writing is tight and mature and funny and rarely self-indulgent. I laughed out loud often while reading this, and I hardly ever laugh out loud while reading. As I said elsewhere, Sedaris is like a delicate French dessert: satisfying and delicious without being obtrusive and there’s no aftertaste.
7. The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin (3.5/5): Totally fine. i did not read this for entertainment but because my wife will be giving birth soon. A little new-agey for my taste and poorly organized in places. Good information, though.
8. Night Train by William Loran Smith (4.0/5): I go this a long time ago at a reading at a coffee shop. Smith read, and I told him I liked it and he gave me a book. And then it sat on my shelf. I don’t know what the hell is the matter with me. I’m glad I finally read it though. It’s very dark and sad and trippy in places. I really enjoyed even if it did creep me out in a few places.
Book Queue Update:
Note: I hope to finish up this queue in the next month or so and then create a new one. Also, I’m counting Girl in Landscape for Gun with Occasional Music because I can’t find the latter anywhere.
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
The World According to Garp by John Irving Drown by Junot Diaz
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Girl in Landscape by Jonathan Lethem Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren