Almost all of my reading time this month was eaten up by a single book. See if you can guess which one.
- The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt: When Theodore Decker survives the MET bombing that kills his mother, he takes a strange souvenir from the site of the blast. Over the next several years he shuffles between an affluent Upper East Side family and his drunk, get-rich-quick scheming father in Las Vegas. Theo eventually finds himself back in New York, with his souvenir still in tow, and attempts to carve out a life for himself among others with ties to the blast, where he accomplishes good things through bad means until his actions—including what happened long ago at the museum—catch up to him.
This 800-page behemoth has been straining my shelves since it first came out in 2013, but I never had the kick I needed to pick it up until my book club chose it for our August (and then September…and then October) book.
2. The Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll: Ani FaNelli vowed that her teenage private school humiliation would not define the rest of her life. She moved to New York, got a much-coveted job at a prestigious women’s magazine and landed a Wall Street fiancé from an old family. She’s just a breath away from her happily ever after, but all of it—the job, the painfully thin body, the bubbly personality—is a front, and keeping it up is becoming more and more difficult. When a camera crew asks to interview her about the events in her past, it will take everything Ani has to maintain her façade—if she even wants to anymore.
3. Across the Universe, by Beth Revis: Amy and her parents, along with one hundred others, agree to be frozen for three hundred years while a spaceship carries them to a newly discovered planet. Amy’s sleep is disturbed when someone tries to murder her and ends up waking her ninety years ahead of schedule. Now trapped with generations of people born on the ship and whoever tried to kill her, Amy must solve the mystery and protect the sleeping others, all while finding her place in the ship’s strange society.
This book is currently being made into the movie Passenger staring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, so it sounds like they made a few changes in the transition to film.
4. Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen: This is the memoir of Karen Blixen, a Danish Baroness who spent seventeen years in British East Africa (now Kenya) living on a coffee planation. She writes about Kenya the way you might remember a summer camp that you didn’t actually enjoy attending but look back on in a nostalgic fog. Certainly her glorification of colonialism is, for lack of a better term, not great, but I think you can find a lot worthwhile even in a book that presents a badly dated worldview. My grandmother gave me some of her old history and geography books last month, and I love reading them to see how we’ve restructured and rewritten things since then. I got the same effect from this book. It’s a snapshot of a time gone by, and if you can get past the offensive parts, there’s a lot to take away.
And the best thing I read this month…
5. Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers, by Mike Sacks: Just to be clear here: I like watching basketball; I am aware that I can’t play it. The same goes for this book—please don’t think that I think I’m going to go off and be a comedy writer now. I know I’m still not funny. But I did really enjoy reading about how so many different kinds of people in this world view their craft.
I was really impressed by the variety of interviews. Sacks spoke to sitcom writers, standups, showrunners, agents, cartoonists, actors, headline writers for The Onion, monologists for various late night programs, podcast creators, radio stars, professors, novelists and seemingly anyone else who has ever had a hand in creating something funny.
Since I like writing for young adults, I took particular note of the interview with Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. I’ll leave you with this quote, which provides some nice food for thought:
“It seems that children are one of the last minorities about whom you can make huge sweeping generalizations and no one will care. I see this everywhere. I recently read an interview with a woman who was writing about pre-teen culture, and she said that girls love to be pretty and want to grow up to be princesses and want to be rescued by boys and so on. And I thought, if you were to substitute any other minority for ‘girls,’ you’d never work in publishing again.” –pg. 356