Reading Lately: May 2019
We've officially moved to Portland! I couldn't be happier to be back in my hometown - I missed my family and friends, I missed going into the office, and I missed the city itself. Eli and I have had a great time rediscovering the city and our neighborhood - so far we've gone to Cascade Brewery, Afuri, Smith Teamaker, and Books with Pictures. We haven't even made it back to my beloved Los Gorditos yet. Eli is loving his new job, and Luna has loved going in to the Puppet office. We're looking forward to a summer full of fun activities! In the meantime I've had a lot of time for reading (or listening) now that I'm commuting, so here's what I've been reading:
This was an endearing, heartwarming, unexpectedly melancholy novel. It follows an Indian widow - rid of her isolating, emotionally abusive husband - on her search for her gay son in America. The adventure of course goes sideways, and is full of cultural conflict, examining prejudices, and realizing that we're all similar. An uplifting read - but be prepared with tissues at the end!
My latest Nora Ephron, I found this one was hard to connect to. It's all about her experience of aging, and I felt the generational disconnect. I'd love to pick this up again when I'm 40 or 50, but for now it just felt melancholy and foreign, and made me afraid of getting older.
This one didn't quite do it for me either. It's about a 40-something Danish woman struggling to move on from a rough childhood. It's sparse on details though, and I found Sonja's anxieties and murky past hard to read about. It's simultaneous distressing and not terribly interesting, and felt weirdly empty of both plot and characters. In the end I moved on to more enjoyable reads.
Like a long-form podcast, this was a super interesting and well written book! It looks at swearing from every angle - why we do it, how it's changed over time, how it affects our brains. Everyone swears or has opinions on cussing, so it's definitely relevant to your life and makes for great conversations with just about anyone. It's scientific yet accessible - at one point the author even cites her own paper! Some of my favorite learnings are that monkeys will create new words from the words they know which resulted in them calling radishes "cry food", and that calling someone's mother a "das Schwein" (pig) in Germany is one of the most offensive curses (like, actually do not say it). If you listen to a lot of science podcasts or like nonfiction this is a great read!
Coming off of Happy City I wanted to know more about reducing the waste I produce - not just in trash, but in buying things I don't need or use. This ended up being too much preaching for me. Despite the authors helpful, actionable exercises, the well researched and planned solutions to the social problem of buying too much, I found I wasn't getting very much out of it. It was geared toward someone who was more skeptical and 'early' in their own-less journey, and honestly I also just didn't love the narrator of the audiobook.
This book was solidly fine. It's way too nostalgic, and heavy-handed in prescribing the kind of society we should live in. If you love reading articles about how millennials and cellphones are ruining everything, this is a great book for you!
I don't. That said, the characters are endearing and the plot is somewhat interesting. It's got a YA vibe in that every personality and event is heavily simplified (in fact it's more YA than a lot of the YA books I read...), and the whole book felt one-dimensional. But if you're looking for an easy, mostly-uplifting read, this'll do the trick :)
Aminah Mae Safi
I have mixed feelings about this one. It was more solidly YA than many of the "YA" novels I read, and it reminded me of all the best and worst parts of high school. Lulu is a biracial Arab-American Muslim teen (her mom is a white American Catholic, her dad an Iraqi Muslim) living in Texas, and it was interesting (and heartbreaking) to read about her experiences of racism and struggle with her own cultural identity. She has a wonderful and dramatic group of friends who have their own struggles - one Hispanic, one lesbian, one with helicopter parents - and while their fights felt petty they were also realistically high school. I love the perspective this book gave me and the complexity of the characters, if not the complexity of their boy problems.
Another true YA read, this had a similar vibe to the previous one - heavy on the boy troubles, but also on the well-written characters with interesting struggles. 'Tell Me Three Things' follows Jessie after her mom dies, and her dad moves her from Chicago to LA to live with his new wife (about 2 years after her mom dies). While the plot itself is predictable Jessie's grief and coping with the loss of her mom is palpable, and every character is dynamic and well-written.
I LOVED this book. After a lot of so-so books it's so refreshing to read a book that reminds you why you love to read. The book starts in modern day when 90-something Isabelle asks her close friend and hair dresser Dorrie to drive her to a funeral in Cincinnati from their home in east Texas. Isabelle tells Dorrie about falling in love with a black man in 1939 in Kentucky, in parallel talking about Dorrie's own modern life as a black single mom raising 2 kids and dating. The characters were so rich in this book, and before I knew it I felt so invested in knowing what would happen next. I laughed, I cried, I gained so much appreciation for the privilege I have as a white woman living in modern day. My first 5-star in a while.
This was some lovely lighter fare while I travelled to Budapest for work. It follows four women who, through a hilarious and unlikely series of events, find themselves in a book club together despite knowing very little about each other. From there the real antics start: accidental affairs (the affair part is accidental, not the sex), a bathtub falling through the ceiling, party favor vibrators, and a big secret. I liked the complex female friendships in this - how the 4 don't always get along but find that their lives are better together than apart, and how in the end they're there for each other. This is a fun and exciting beach read!