This Month in Reading – August 2016

This is probably the last month where most of the books featured here are books read strictly for pleasure. Even so, it was an interesting reading month for me.

As I mentioned in July, I gave up on Telegraph Ave because of it’s snobbish overtures and prickly style. I got a third of the way through and decided life was too short to waste time reading books you don’t enjoy. I can see people gravitating to the book due to the many textures are specific nuances described in every line. I failed to relish most of the creativity though, since most of the regional and cultural references were lost on me. Maybe I was just too young for this one.

Once I set that down, I moved on to the next library book I checked out from SF Public

At Night We Walk in Circles cover

Image courtesy of Washington Post

Library – At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón. I loved this book. It was about a young man who falls in love, joins a traveling theater troupe, pretends to be someone he isn’t, and goes to jail. The other two central characters, fellow actors from the theater troupe, are also quite lovable with their own flaws and fallacies. But the best part is definitely the twist at the end. The book will leave you daydreaming on your morning commute about Ixta and wondering where the other characters are now – it feels that real. This was an enjoyable read, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so, since the book was a PEN/Faulkner award finalist in 2014.

I am currently reading Isabelle Allende’s The Japanese Lover on audiobook. I am loving it, although I don’t believe Allende could ever produce a bad novel. This one is a beautiful reflection on secret love and growing old. I want to read this one again in print at some point.

I read part of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The book was suggested to me by a few friends and family members. Kondo describes what she calls “the KonMari” method as a way of keeping your life in order. You don’t really have to read the book in order to understand what the method is about – get rid of any object (clothes, papers, trinkets, etc.) that doesn’t move you or isn’t necessary. Just toss it. That’s the whole idea. She even instructs you to toss the book once you are done reading it. While this wasn’t a necessary read, I feel like it sparked some personal ruminations on how Western culture encourages us to value material objects to the point of not being able to discern what is really important to us. Hence, hoarders. But that is a post for another time.

9780316334372_custom-c126fb3c61bce3c48ec388c38388df9737583c96-s300-c85

Image courtesy of NPR.org

I just finished up The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea after the poll suggested I should read this next. A book of short stories, the variety of the characters and settings is both my favorite and least favorite thing about this book. I found it hard to trace a theme that wove all of these stories together. Once I set the book down and let it marinate a bit I realized that most, if not all of the stories had to do with people who were, in some way, out of place. “Out of place” being used here as a very subjective term: some stories featured characters that were out of place in regards to age or maturity, some were out of place in terms of location (Urrea deals with themes of immigration in at least two of his stories & themes of isolation in quite a few of his stories).

The title story left me with one particular image that I found to be moving. The story takes place during the course of a massive drought and is from the perspective of an elementary school child.

“Chemicals, Billy thought. They’d pretty much all gone back to using outhouses because there wasn’t enough water to flush the toilets or bathe…more trucks came and dumped chemicals in the outhouse poo-holes — smelled like cherries. Big crazy cherry Life Savers with that dull stink beneath” (218-219).

Highlights of the month:

That time Daniel Jose Older (author of Shadowshaper) responded to my tweet and then gave me my next YA book recommendation! So cool.

Te-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me – I know I’m late with this one. Most of the hype regarding this book has subsided, but it is still a very relevant book, especially in light of #BlackLivesMatter and the numerous police shootings the nation witness post-4th of July. This. Is. A. Great. Read. There is no doubt in my mind that Coates’ book, essentially a memoir set in the format of a letter to his son, will go down in the black literary Canaan as a required read. The book belongs alongside the great black authors of the United States. There were so many great lines, so many points that moved me, that any attempt to give you the highlights will be futile. This is necessary reading in order to understand what it is like to be black in America in the 21st century. I will be buying my own hard copy.

 

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