Friday, February 15, 2013

Reading List

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One thing I've been enjoying in my recent life shift has been the opportunity to read, for fun, again. I didn't read nearly as many books last year as I usually do and now I've been tearing through things and I'm anxious for advice on what to pick up next. Here's a quick round up of what I've loved and what left me wanting over the last several months.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers was my most recent read. An incredible book (and 2012 National Book Prize Winner) that chronicles the lives of an assortment of slum residents in Mumbai. Their dreams, their challenges and the unbelievable obstacles they face in a rapidly modernizing India. It's a very quick read that will leave you at times hopeful and at others hopeless. 

Garlic and Sapphires is such a great book. Nothing new, just new to me, a delightful collection of stories (and characters) created by Ruth Reichl while serving as New York's preeminent food critic. For more of Ruth's poetic musings, it's highly worth following her on Twitter.

So I have not seen the Halle Berry, Tom Hanks movie-version, that apparently no one else has seen either? Have you? But Cloud Atlas the book, is definitely worth your time. Give it a chance, you have to get past the first two chapters and soon you will be entangled in a series of narratives spread out across centuries and continents, but beautifully intertwined. Themes repeat, characters recur (in a way), and I think you will love it.

I started out loving In the Garden of Beasts, which tells a terrifying story of complacency in Berlin during the immediate lead up to World War II through the experience of American Ambassador, William Dodd and his family. Nazism creeps in slowly, bite by bite while socialites and diplomats remark on how pleasant the weather is, until they are swallowed whole along with the rest of the country. The story gradually builds and builds and then plateaus into chapters and chapters where far too many characters comment on the 'electric tension,' 'palpable tension,' or variations on seeing a 'storm growing on the horizon.' But the storm never really arrives, Ambassador Dodd is replaced and returns home with his family and I was left wanting more.

Oh my is 1Q84 one crazy read, and a very long one at that. You should probably read it at some point. It won't be like anything else you've read, unless you've read other Murakami books. I don't know how to even start a synopsis. There's a fiction contest, a young woman submits a bizarre story that once polished (secretively) wins. The book becomes a sensation and the story becomes real. Parallel universes, communes and a lot of looking at the moon. Did I enjoy reading it the entire time I was reading it? No. Did I put it down and read something else for a while before going back? Yes. Was I glad I read it in the end? Yes?  Someone else please read it so we can talk about it. 

I loved Eugenides' Pulitzer winner, Middlesex, but The Marriage Plot? Meh. Just meh. Does anyone else agree? Seemed like a lot of wallowing. Wallowing, wallowing, wallowing in bad relationships and self-pity. 

Oh this is a fun crazy book. No need to give you a summary, you can read the whole thing in that time. Gone Girl is a total guilty pleasure read, but not something I feel like you should actually be ashamed of (I'm looking at you 50 Shades fans) Bring it on your next vacation, but just be prepared to not put it down once you've picked it up.

What are your suggestions? What have you been reading and loving - or eyeing on the shelf? Also, did you read any of the above? What did you think?