Reading Lately: September 2019
J. Ryan Stradal
While not quite as enjoyable as Stradal's prior novel, `Kitchens of the Great Midwest`_, this book shares many of it's wonderful, warm, quirky, and serendipitous qualities. I loved each of the main characters, who are lovely and kind Midwesterners but also complex and layered people. I love how slowly their stories unfold, taking time to include important and character-defining details and telling the story right. I loved the themes and plot, and the general world that Stradal creates. I highly recommend!
The Bride Test: 4/5
I still haven't read the The Kiss Quotient, Hoang's acclaimed first novel, but somehow this second in the series found it's way to my library playlist first. I see now why The Kiss Quotient was talked about for months! The Bride Test follows Esme Tran as she leaves her mother and small daughter in Ho Chi Minh city for the opportunity to travel to America to go on a blind date with a wealthy woman's son. Khai has high-functioning autism, and is initially cold to Esme's attempts to win his heart. But over the summer, in a sudden plot twist, they gasp fall for each other. Though predictable this book was charming, and I loved both characters. They were genuinely annoying at times in a way that was refreshing - they weren't coyly avoiding each other, and there were no plot devices super obvious plot devices to drive them apart. Their strife was genuine, and so their affection felt more genuine. I already have The Kiss Quotient on hold as well, and can't wait to read more in this wonderful series.
This hit home just how uncool I was in high school. The book centers on three teenagers, two who are Pakistani Muslim and one who is Indian-Pakistani. The book explores complex issues in a way that respects their complexity, looking at it from multiple sides and trying to understand the layers and opinions of each player. For example one teenager is closeted gay and Muslim, with devout parents. He grapples with his religion, hating it for making his parents hate gays but also loving God and finding comfort in the rituals and community. What I liked most about this book was the perspective it gave me, living the world of southeast-asian teenagers in the modern age, and the constant daily expectations and judgments they face from the public and their own community. It was also a relatively light and fun read, and the friendship between protagonists is wonderful. An excellent teen adventure book with a little more weight to it.
Perhaps this book was always ill-fated for me since...I don't love Tom Hanks. He's a great actor! And I love Forrest Gump. I have nothing against the man personally. But when I think of my favorite actors, particularly those I lust after, Tom Hanks is pretty low on the list.
Maybe it was Annie's pining for Hanks that felt unbelievable then. Or the fact that a movie star would fall for a lamer version of Bella Swan, if such a thing is possible. In the end I only made it maybe 1/3 of the way through before giving up. It wasn't among the worst books I've ever read, but definitely wasn't worth my time.
I Might Regret This: 3/5
Having just watched all of "Broad City" this summer, I had no idea Abbi had written a book until I came across it at Powell's. I liked the book because I love Abbi, and already care about her as a person. But I don't know that on it's own it would be a great read. The memoir follows Abbi on a road trip she took between the 4th and 5th seasons of the show. It's full of classic Abbi Jacobson humor and overthinking, while also being vulnerable and talking about her insecurities and fears. It was, on reflection, an excellent balance of reality and humor, of candor and levity, but for some reason it just didn't resonate with me. I think I don't empathize with a lot of Abbi's fears, and so they felt sad and pitying rather than joyous in finding I wasn't alone in those fears. That said, the book is very well written, and if you do share her tribulations and enjoy her humor it will be a fantastic read.
The Bell Jar: 4.5/5
In this research heavy book, Prinstein advocates that feeling accepted and acknolwedged by your peers has a lot of positive outcomes, including longer lifespan, greater professional success, higher reported happiness, etc. He describes 5 categories of popularity that people fall into: average, accepted, neglected, rejected, and controversial. While where you fall on this spectrum is largely based in genetics and early childhood, Prinstein suggests that we have more control over our standing on the spectrum than we may realize. He argues that trying to become more likable, as opposed to gaining status via wealth or power, will win you friends. This was like a very research driven version of How to Win Friends and Influence People, and while it was interesting I'm not sure I'll remember very much of the book a month from now.