Reading Lately: August 2019


August was a busy month for us. We visited friends in Corvallis, and my extended family in Bend, OR. We celebrated a one year anniversary with a big backyard barbecue, and a birthday with a hike and picnic brunch. Literarily the month was less great - I chose what I thought would be fun and easy, summery books many of which just turned out to be plain bad. If there's one thing I've learned from reading so much this year, it's that there are a lot of bad books that get published. I guess 'bad' is too generic a term though, and who am I to say a book is bad? I suppose it's better to say books I can't appreciate.

Here's what I read in August:

Fleishman Is in Trouble

Taffy Brodesser-Akner

After listening to an interview with the author I was overly hyped about this book (which I guess is the point of interviews). The protagonist, Toby Fleishman, is bizarrely (though apparently not overtly) reminiscent of Toby Flenderson from "The Office". He's limp and pitiable, and seems to know it. His noodleness is directed not just outward but inward too - he doesn't like himself, but is too noodly to do anything about it. Being on the opposite side of marriage I can't bear to read about bad experiences with it - I'm too jealous that they even got married in the first place, and mad that they've gone and fucked it up. It's irrational, but between that and an intentionally not-quite-likeable protagonist, I just couldn't power through. I think if you're interested in interpersonal relationships, or are going through divorce, this will resonate with you. Otherwise I don't think the book quite stands on it's own.

Juliet's School of Possibilities

This was overall a nice book, if heavy-handed with the parable. The book follows Riley Jenkins, who starts out struggling to hold together her job and relationships. She attends the 'school' of Martha Stewart-esque homemaker / life coach, who tells Riley:

 Expectations are infinite.
 Time is finite.
 You are always choosing.
 Choose well.

I liked the moral of the story, though can't say it's changed my life since
finishing the book. Riley's whole life turns around the course of a few pages
after beginning to implement this lesson, which I think is just a concession
you have to make to the book. The author explains in a post-script that she's
a time management coach who had so many conversations with people like Riley,
and wrote the book to spread the same message she tells her clients. A quick
and healthy dose of self-help, but not a must-read.

Naturally Tan

Tan France

Yes! The "Queer Eye" fashion expert you know and love wrote a book, in case you didn't love him enough already. Tan (are we on a first name basis? I hope so) is such a gem. His narration is so sassy, and his book balances serious stories with fun and funny moments. The book reads like a conversation, and it was fun to get to know Tan better as a human. His perspectives on fame, culture, and of course fashion all gave me new ways of seeing the world. It broke my heart hearing about his childhood as a Pakistani in England, and how he was bullied and beaten up regularly just for being brown. Even today TSA regularly pulls him aside for 'random search', and he has to represent all of southeast asia in the media because that group is so underrepresented on TV. If you love "Queer Eye", this is a must read!

PS I highly recommend the audiobook - there's a special guest appearance in the middle of the book and that's all I'll say!

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune

Roselle Lim

Oof. This was too YA to even be a YA book. The book was mostly the narration of the protagonist telling us about her feelings, instead of expressing them or showing them. She comes to realizations - sometimes the wrong realizations - without any prompting or events to help her realize them. The book and narrator have a flat worldview where everything is good or bad and way oversimplified, making it intolerably unrealistic and uninteresting. I gave up halfway through, and don't regret it.

Meet Cute

Helena Hunting

Aggressively generic and flat story - which didn't even have a good meet cute! This PG-13 romance stars 2 lawyers, at first rivals from law school who then become friends and then lovers all while she is a conservateur for his little sister in a custody battle with his aunt. The characters were one-note and remarkably dumb, and read more like the exaggerated characters from a kids movie than adults. The plot was slightly better though the pacing was jerky, spending lots of pages on the boring parts then wrapping up the interesting bits in only a dozen pages. In hindsight I should have given up halfway through on this one as well.

Hello Sunshine

Laura Dave

This was a sweet and satisfying book. It follows youtube cooking celebrity Sunshine Mackenzie's (real surname: Stevens) fall from grace, which forces her to move back home and realize what she sacrificed for fame. I love that it focused on a woman's career, and was filled with strong women who weren't talking about who to marry. It was an interesting plot, and while the instagram-is-terrible 'moral' was a little heavy-handed it made sense narratively. This was a great chick lit, summer read!