20 June 2012

Recent Reads: a 7 Book Review

Okay, folks, I did it. I joined GoodreadsElizabeth kind of talked me into it. I'm sorry to all who have invited me to join via Facebook and were cruelly rejected. I think I assumed it was akin to Farmville, and I didn't need it in my life. (For the record, I still am refusing to play Words with Friends. As a dyslexic kid, I can tell you right now that it would not be fun for me.)

I'm still not convinced I need Goodreads in my life, but I'm willing to give it a whirl. I'll admit I can be slow to adopt to new social media. I'm wary, people. I just joined Twitter. That's right, in my world, it's 2008. How you like me now?

Back to books. One of the few perks of insanely long international flight times is the chance to do some reading. On my last trip to the US, the one where I went from Nagoya-Chicago-South Carolina-Chicago-St. Louis-Chicago-Japan, I read seven books. Yes, seven. In two weeks. 

Thank goodness for the Kindle. Wait -- before you bibliophiles cast your stones -- let me explain. I live abroad. I can find English books, but the selection isn't great. There is no 'local' bookstore I can support here. When I read books, I'm usually in transit. Airports, train stations, subways. The whole living abroad thing, coupled with a propensity to read while in transit and to read rather quickly lead me to really enjoy a light, wirelessly connected e-book. I still like regular books, don't get me wrong. I just hate moving them. Until we buy a permanent place, in an English speaking country, the Kindle has won. Stop judging, Judgey McJudgerson.

About those seven books I read: Let me fill you in, in order of my favorite to least. In return, I'm needing some recommendations, or at least the link to your Goodreads account. Pass along already!

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
I bought this one not knowing what to expect and then was instantly filled with buyer's remorse. I expected it to be slow, sappy, and drab. Boy, was I wrong. It was a beautiful fairy-tale, a story within a story, told as a daughter journeys to find her father. Huh, yup, even that seems slow, sappy, and drab. But it's not. It's poignant and tragic... but sweetly tragic. I breaks your heart, very gently and very slowly, in such a fashion that you can't help but give a deep sigh when you finally finish it.

The Family Fang: A Novel by Kevin Wilson 
Okay, you caught me (again). The only real reason I bought this book was because Ann Patchett highly recommended it. Her Bel Canto ranks as one of my favorite books of all time, so I blindly bought The Family Fang on her suggestion. I had no idea what to expect, and it was fantastic. Fanciful, surreal, charming, and dark. I couldn't put it down and found myself relating to and enjoying the characters so much, even though they were weird and twisted. It's about dysfunction, yes, but surprising, complicated, endearing dysfunction, which is the best kind.

Sleepwalk with Me, and Other Painfully True Stories by Mike Birbiglia
“First, know that this book is well written and funny. Now, know that I hate cynicism. Hate it. This book is the opposite of cynicism.” —Jeff Garlin, Co-creator and Co-star of Curb Your Enthusiasm

So funny. Like really, really funny. I bought this book after hearing Birbiglia on
This American Life, and reading it was even better then hearing him on the program. This is a cut above the standard comedian-writes-book. It's more like writer-who-is-sidesplitting-funny-tells-relatable-tales-from-his-life. When I was reading it, I kept hearing it in Louis C.K.'s voice... which was weird, but awesome. 

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, and Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling
We have now entered the books that were okay. Not amazing, just not great. I probably would have liked Kaling's book more had I not read it right after Birbiglia's. It's cute, and funny in a "twittering as opposed to a big belly laugh" type of way. However, I've read it since then, liked it more on the second go round, and I still want Mindy Kaling to be my friend. I also want her life. Man, her life is awesome.

A Bad Idea I'm About to Do: True Tales of Seriously Poor Judgement and Stunningly Awkward Adventure by Chris Gethard
I dunno. Maybe I didn't like this book because I wanted it to be a continuation of Sleepwalk with Me, which a terribly unfair thing to ask. I mean, it was funny, but it seemed a bit cynical to me. A bit depressing. I've thought of it in the past couple weeks, however, and chucked to myself while remembering some of the stories. So maybe I was just jaded. I did read it on the Amtrak, so I might have just been a sourpuss. It's a toss up.

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided To Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage
I'm going to just come out and say it: I like 2012 Dan Savage much better then 2000 Dan Savage. He's grown up. Been challenged in his views. Gotten married. Has a kid. So... skip this book and read Committed instead. It's better. Unless you're looking to do an open adoption. Then I think this book would be a great read. I'm not that target market.

Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer
I tend to read really fast. My dubious and unscientific opinion is that it's a nice side effect of my dyslexia. I usually tend to only read the first parts of words, fill in the blanks, and move on. It's a coping strategy that makes reading fast, comprehension questionable, and spelling atrocious. Usually, I think its fine for me, but on certain occasions, like reading this book, it fails. You guys, I couldn't even really remember what this book was about. (This could also have been because I finished it on the plane, under the influence of sleeping pills and a gin and tonic, which everyone Stateside seemed to think was terrible and every expat I knew what like, 'No, that's how you handle coach middle-seats on a trans-Pacific United Airlines flight.') I looked up Man in the Woods up on Amazon, and it all came back to me. It was okay. Bland enough I didn't really remember it later. It almost worked, except it just... didn't. I think. I don't really remember.


  1. Thanks for the reviews! I really want to read the Sleep Walk With Me now!

  2. I just re-read Mindy Kalling and definitely liked it better the second time. I think it might have been because the first time I read after Tina Fey's? Something about that book means you have to read it when you haven't had any other comedy writing in a while.

    Can't wait to read "Sleepwalk with Me"! That one's been on my list for a while. Last thing from bookclub I was really all about was "What Alice Forgot". It's a fun one; perfect for summer.

    1. Can I join your bookclub? For reals....

    2. Oh, and I think Birbiglia's book really makes other comedic books seem a bit formulaic, which is good, but kind of annoying when you also own other comedians' books you planned to read.


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