Every Book I’ve Read So Far This Year (And Whether Or Not You Should Read Them, Too), Part Three

I think the last time I wrote one of these, I was lamenting my lack of motivation to read anything. I’ve felt much more motivated during these past few months, though I continue to acquire more books than I can or am willing to get through. Since July, my life has been all peaks and valleys and nothing really in between. That sort of unsteadiness has not made reading easy, but I’ve been trying! I promise. (Not that literally anyone cares how many books I get through in a calendar year besides me.) Anyway, here are the books I’ve read during the last three months and why I think you might – or might not – like to read them too. 

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July

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

What’s it about?

A group of friends – “the Interestings” of the title – who meet at a summer camp for the arts in the seventies grow up. The novel follows them across decades, as their ambitions, talents, and class shape their lives and relationships with one another.

Did I like this book?

Yes. I thought some of the story was a bit clunky, but I generally found it hard to put down.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yeah! If you’re like me, someone who has been classified as “creative” since childhood, and have struggled with what you’re supposed to do with that creativity and the ambitions and expectations that go along with it, then I definitely think this is worth reading.

Friendship by Emily Gould 

What’s it about?

Two female friends in New York struggle with their relationship when one discovers that she’s pregnant. 

Did I like this book?

Yup! I remember reading it on the couch one afternoon, thinking about canceling plans because I didn’t want to stop reading. It also made me laugh out loud a few times, which is always a good sign.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

One thing I loved about Friendship was how well it portrayed modern female relationships within a certain demographic. Of course, that demographic happens to be my own, which is I’m sure why I related to it. I wouldn’t say you need to be a white, Brooklyn-dwelling woman in her late twenties to enjoy it, but it might appeal to you more if that is the case. 

Faithful Place by Tana French

What’s it about?

Detective Frank Mackey, who appeared in French’s The Likeness, discovers that the woman he thought might have run off on him years ago may never have left their poor Dublin neighborhood at all. When Rosie Daly’s suitcase is found in an abandoned house, Mackey returns to the neighborhood and the family he left behind decades ago to investigate her disappearance.

Did I like this book?

This one is definitely up there with The Likeness, which was previously my very favorite Tana French book.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes, definitely. I love this series and would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery. And in this case, a good family drama. 

Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich 

What’s it about?

Petrusich explores the small and fanatical community of 78 collectors and the stories behind the music they love. 

Did I like this book?

I loved it. I’ve been obsessed with reading about these collectors and famous 78s since I first discovered The Anthology of American Folk Music – compiled by Harry Smith, from his extensive collection of 78s – when I was in college.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Sure, if you’re big into American cultural history or the origins of American music or record collecting. Or if you just want to read some well-written creative non-fiction.

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August

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

What’s it about?

Everything you ever wanted to know about Scientology. From the story behind L. Ron Hubbard to Tom Cruise, Going Clear does not disappoint. 

Did I like it?

Yes. This book was completely impressive in its scope. And was extremely well-written. 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

If you’ve ever wondered about Scientology, are interested in belief systems and modern religion, or enjoy reading The New Yorker, yes.

*** 

September

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

What’s it about?

This ambition novel alternates between the stories of Marie-Laure, a blind Parisian girl, and Werner, a German orphan, in the years leading up to and during the Second World War. We learn at the beginning that both end up trapped on the French island of Saint-Malo while it’s under siege and it takes the rest of the book to find out how and why they got there.

Did I like it?

Oh my God, I loved it. So, so much. I’ve talked about my obsession with historical fiction here before, so this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes. This was one of my favorites – if not my favorite – this year. It’s cleverly crafted and the prose is gorgeous. I think the imagery from this book will stick with me for a long time.

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

What’s it about?

A group of children are kidnapped by pirates when their ship traveling from Jamaica to England is captured.

Did I like it?

This was a reread for me, so yes. I’m a big Richard Hughes fan. 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

This book isn’t for the faint of heart. Disasters, abuse, and murder abound. However, Hughes’ examination of the child’s psyche is, to me, incredible and makes A High Wind in Jamaica well-worth reading.

Things I Liked This Week

I got sorta tripped up while writing an essay yesterday, so there will be no real writing from me this week. But never fear! I’ve put together a big ol’ list of other stuff you can read:

- “A Blackbird in the Hand: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Kate Bush” by Iain Cook (TheTalkhouse)

- “‘Not to Put Too Fine a Point On It': How Dickens Helped Shape the Lexicon” by Ben Zimmer (Vocabulary.com)

- “Who Killed Adulthood?” by Sady Doyle (In These Times)

- “Europe’s Anti-Semitism Comes Out of the Shadows” by Jim Yardley (New York Times

- “Hunting For the Source of the World’s Most Beguiling Folk Music” by Amanda Petrusich (New York Times Magazine)

- “Who Is Su” by Dan P. Lee (New York Magazine)

- “A Cockroach Crawled On My Face And I’ll Never Be The Same” by Joanna Borns (Buzzfeed)

- “The End of the Mitford Sisters” by Michelle Dean (Gawker Review of Books)

- “The Last Amazon” by Jill Lepore (The New Yorker)

- “An Unlikely Ballerina” by Rivka Galchen (The New Yorker)

Until next week or whatever…

Things I Liked This Week

Another week, another edition of Things I Liked This Week, in which I share all the things I liked this week. So, here are some things I liked this week:

1. Wearing my jean jacket

2. Making this Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage and then eating it all week

(Tangentially, I was just reminded of this one time an old co-worker pronounced broccoli rabe “broccoli rob-ay” and I was embarrassed for them but then had to frantically google the proper pronunciation to make sure I wasn’t the person who should be embarrassed about my pronunciation of “broccoli rabe.”)

3. “A Portrait of the Alt-Bro as a Young Dumbass” by Gavin Tomson (The Awl)

This was probably my favorite thing that I read all week.

4. “Exile On North Seventh Street” by Jason Horowitz (New York Times)

There are some really fantastic lines in this profile of Georgia’s ex-president.

5. A bunch of songs, which I’ve collected in one playlist:

6. Everything about the vote for Scottish independence

7. The recipe for Hangman’s Blood

(I’m currently rereading A High Wind in Jamaica.)

Two Rabbits

Skaneateles Lake, August 31, 2014It was Labor Day and we were getting ready to leave the lake house. My dad was outside in the driveway, which is really just a hill with some tire tracks, looking out at the lake below us, which was all sparkly in the sun. “I always hate to leave,” he said. “Yeah,” I said, pausing because I felt a lump forming in my throat. “Me too.”

I never go up there anymore, to the lake house. I’m “too busy” now, which I know isn’t really true. It’s just that I fear missing something new happening in my own world. And nothing changes at the lake. Or not too much, anyway. My family has owned the land since the 1920s and my great-grandfather and grandfather built the house together after my grandfather returned from World War II. The sailfish that my great-grandfather – allegedly – caught in Florida is still mounted on the wall in the living room. Mass market mystery paperbacks are still stockpiled in one of the first floor bedrooms where my uncle Jim, now dead ten years, used to sleep. The boat house has the same splintery planks on the floor and the same tangled collection of fishing poles that were there when I was a kid. The dock, which has been updated more than once during my lifetime, once again is threatening to fall apart completely.

I used to be up there a lot. When I was younger, when I had to do whatever my family was doing, I spent summer weekends and, sometimes, weeks at a time on Skaneateles. More often than not, those weeks were the last few of August, through Labor Day weekend, after which we’d go home to start school. At the beginning, I would complain about being away from home for so long. By the time we packed our car to leave, I would be fighting back tears as I walked around the lakefront, saying goodbye to practically everything I had touched during my time there. The tree swing, the rusty refrigerator, my uncle’s canoe. I hated to leave the lake as much as I hated to leave home.

One summer, our neighbor who lived there year-round gave me two rabbits to care for while I was there for our extended end-of-summer stay. Clarkie was friends with my mom’s brothers, who all spent more time at the lake than we did. He was six-foot-five, wore cutoff tanktops with cutoff jean shorts that he cinched with a rope belt, and got around the lake on a pontoon boat that he built himself. Clarkie raised rabbits at his house down the road and I was pleased that he’d entrusted me with two of them. One was black and white and the other was brown and I kept them in a cage. I fed them and would let them out to pet them and “get exercise,” which was mostly hopping around the grass near the house. At the end of the summer, I returned them to Clarkie. I’d wanted to keep them, but my parents said no. We had just gotten a dog and it would have been too much for nine-year-old me – not to mention my parents – to take care of a black lab puppy and two rabbits.

Months later, I asked one of my uncles what had happened to the rabbits.

“He probably sold ‘em,” he said to me, matter-of-factly.

“Why?” I asked, shuddering to think that a person who wasn’t me was keeping them as pets.

“For rabbit stew!” my uncle said. “They kill them and then they eat them.”

Of course, I thought. This made sense. People who live out in the country would eat rabbits for dinner. But this didn’t make me feel any better. My rabbits were dead.

I thought of the rabbits a few weeks ago, when I was standing in the driveway with my dad, saying that I always hated to leave the lake. I remembered squatting down to open their cage, coaxing them out to enjoy the grass on our hillside. I tried to remember their names, but I couldn’t. At least at first. I pictured the black and white one. I remembered that his name had been Oreo, at least for the three weeks I was taking care of him (or her). But the other one. The brown one. I couldn’t remember its name. I don’t even remember if it was actually brown or if that’s just how I decided to remember it. And that made me sad all over again. Skaneateles Lake, August 31, 2014

Things I Liked This Week

I liked so many things this week. Here they are, in no particular order:

“Into the Trenches in Red and Blue” by Adam Hochschild (New York Review of Books

A review of a book of WWI color photography. Includes some very pretty pictures.

“The Reinvention of Taylor Swift” by Josh Eells (Rolling Stone)

A very interesting (I thought) profile of Taylor Swift.

“Not Like Most Girls” by Anna Fitzpatrick (The Hairpin)

“I’m not like most girls. I’m three kids in a trench coat.”

“If I Knew You Were the One” by Richard Twice

via

“42 Crosby Street, New York City” by John Herrman (The Awl)

A history in newspaper articles.

“The Death of Adulthood in American Culture” by A.O. Scott (New York Times)

The title pretty much explains what it’s about.

“If Pokemon Were Named By British People” by Robin Edds (Buzzfeed)

“Cockwomble”

My brother Dayton’s standup performance from last week.

There are 3 videos. This is just the first one.

“Call Across Rooms” by Grouper