This summer I embarked on a “10 Book Challenge” and I am proud to announce that on September 1st I completed the challenge, just in time to meet my deadline. For those of you out in the world who are readers you are probably thinking that 10 books in one summer is a pretty pathetic goal. It might be, but this summer 10 books are all I could handle.
August 12, 2012: Rainy Day Reading
In general, I read books like I watch movies… rarely. The bright side of being a late adopter when it comes to pop culture and entertainment is that the world has already judged what is junk and what is worth my time. For this summer’s reading challenge that really worked out in my favor. I read 8 AMAZING books this summer, one disappointment, and one dud.
I’ll spare you a full blog about each book, but here is a quick review. I read a few that are definitely worth checking out and have graded them based on my level of enjoyment (yes, I am provided you my unsolicited opinion whether you want it or not). In order of completion…
1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: B
This is Gilbert’s memoir of her year-long journey around the world to find herself and happiness. This book received rave reviews and was even made into a movie. For me, it was just a solid book, nothing life changing. I very much appreciated the author’s openness about her personal struggles. Depending on where you are in life and what you are going through, the impact this book has on you could vary significantly. I read it while traveling, so the part that resonated with me the most was the excitement of her physical journey across the world and how that changed her physically, mentally, and emotionally.
2. Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer: D+ [this was the disappointment]
This book was a roller coaster of emotions for me. Initially I gave the book a B+. That all changed at the end of July. Lehrer admitted to making up quotes in the book, which makes me question what other parts of the book are fabricated or embellished. It’s the little, nuanced aspects of a book that take it over the top for me and I question if Lehrer made up some of those nuanced aspects. I can’t support plagiarism, so I don’t support this book.
3. Zeitoun by Dave Eggars: C
This historical nonfiction is the story of Zeitoun, a man who stays behind during hurricane Katrina to watch over his properties, only to find himself falsely imprisoned by the U.S. government over unfounded suspicion that he is a terrorist. If I had read this book two years ago I probably would have been raving about it. Unfortunately, the main character in this book, who was celebrated in initial book reviews as a man of compassion, was arrested last year for assault and battery on his wife. Knowing this it is hard to see Zeitoun as a man filled with compassion and love, the basis of much of the storyline.
4. The Submission by Amy Walden: A
If you are looking for a book that will really make you think and reflect, this is the one for you. While this book is fiction it is based on what could be the very real story of building a memorial in New York City in honor of the victims of 9/11. Walden does an amazing job intertwining the stories of all the characters in the book in a way that is just magnificent. The ending is also top notch. If you let yourself, you will spend the whole book reflecting on how you would react and what you would do. The end will keep you thinking long after you enjoy the final sentence.
5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel: A+ [Winner of the “Becca’s Favorite Book of the Summer Award”]
This is the perfect summer read. Martel knows just how to keep a reader hooked, he uses short chapters and every page is action-packed. You will find yourself imagining that you are lost at sea sharing a lifeboat with a Siberian tiger, just like Pi, the main character in this book.
July 23, 2012: Started East of Eden
6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck: A
There is definitely good reason why this book makes it on many “best of all time” book lists. Steinbeck is a master. The Biblical parallels in this book really make you think. All characters and aspects of this novel are also interwoven beautifully. Steinbeck has also mastered the short chapter. After my summer reading I’ve concluded that the best authors know that a chapter should never exceed 10 pages. This book is a monster of a read at 600+ pages though. My only concern with this book is that you can get addicted to it quickly and then you realize you have another 525 pages to go!
7. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: C- [this was the dud]
I just never got into this book. This memoir is a graphic novel about growing up in Iran during the revolution and Satrapi’s journey to find her identity and find herself. It took a lot of effort to get through the first 154 pages, luckily things pick up a bit in pages 155-341. Honestly, I’m not a fan of graphic novels so I’m 90% confident that is why the overall allure of the book was lost on me. The book is also a movie; I might suggest watching that instead.
8. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: B+
This is the first book about running that I’ve ever read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I gave it a B+ because the first 50 pages are a little slow and if you are not a runner I don’t know if you will appreciate it as much as I did. Essentially, this book will give you a thousand reasons to be a runner and love running. Here are a few of my favorite quotes/bits of wisdom from the book… “You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running” and “If you don’t think you were born to run you’re not only denying history. You’re denying who you are.” This book’s mantra is that running makes you a better person, I couldn’t agree more.
9. Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas: A-
I loved this book, probably because the author writes like I think. I would never have picked this book up on my own, but since Dumas is speaking at UWM in September I felt obligated to read it. I’m glad I did. Every chapter is a short comedy, like the one where Dumas, at the age of 7, moves from Iran to Whittier, California and is subsequently asked by her new classmates to teach them swear words in Persian. She teaches them to say, “I am an idiot” but tells them that what they are actually saying is the foulest Persian word you can imagine. She then proceeds to listen to them run around the school yard yelling, “I am an idiot.” Her last chapter of the book is also a statement about how she believes that everyone’s story counts and you don’t need to win a Nobel Prize before you can share your story. I guess that’s the reason why I blog.
10. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: B+
Some books are hard to read, this is one of those books. Not because it’s boring or has an underdeveloped plot, or isn’t thoughtful. The book is brilliant, but some parts are so hard and sad and tragic you just need to stop, put it down, and cry a little.
July 1, 2012: Making Progress
Unfortunately I still have 7 books on my “Books I Want to Read” list and I’ve been told they are all amazing: 1,000 Splendid Suns, Bossypants, The Immortal Life of Herietta Lacks, Devil in the White City, The Happiness Project, The Secret Life of Bees, and Brain Rules. I was 100% ready to take a long break from reading and spend some time watching TV and letting my brain atrophy. Then God played a nice little joke on me. Two of the books on my list that I had put on my library request list earlier in the summer both came in on August 30th. One of the books, Bossypants, has a waitlist that goes on for what feels like years.
I guess I need to head back under the covers and read a few more books before summer officially ends. I am still considering this accomplishment crossed off my summer bucket list.