This year I’m doing a 50 book challenge! I think this is a thing from all the “BookTube” videos I watch when I’m bored at work. Anyways, it’s good because since I noticed the reading challenges on Goodreads last year I’ve really noticed how many books I read in a year. Last year my goal was 30 and I ended up reading 38! I was thinking only reading 2 more was too easy so here we are at 50.
Luckily, I’ve been ambitious so far this year! Here’s what I read in February:
Just Kids by Patti Smith
One sentence summary: Patti Smith regales her life with Robert Mapplethorpe in New York in the 70s.
When I first started reading this, I wasn’t sure that I’d like it. Patti Smith’s writing is very dreamy and you can feel the nostalgia that she felt while writing it. I got much more into it when she moves to New York. She actually lived not far from where I do when she first moved here and so I could easily picture all the places she was referring to. I love seeing a glimpse into how New York used to be and that’s more of what appealed to me than Patti’s life. It definitely reads like a novel and not a biography which I definitely appreciate.
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
One sentence summary: Ben is young black kid from the UES who spends his summer in Sag Harbor and sees his perspective change as he gets older.
My grandma actually gave me this book. She must have picked it up because she came to visit me last September and we took a trip out to the Hamptons and stayed in Sag Harbor. It took me a long time to get around to reading it because I wasn’t all that interested but for some reason the feeling seized me that I had to finish this before I read another book that I was more excited about. In the end, I can say that, you can tell Colson Whitehead is a great writer but I couldn’t really relate to the book much, I’m definitely not a black male teen in the 80’s who goes to prep school in Manhattan and lives out in Sag in the summer. I saw a review on Goodreads that simply says “Colson Whitehead is one shit-describing motherf**ker”, which is so accurate. There was 5 pages of tangent on the different types of people who come into the ice cream shop where Benji works, which got a little old at times.
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
One sentence summary: Billie is hired at Delicious! magazine and finds letters from Lulu to James Beard written during WWII.
This is another book recommended to me by my grandma. I have to start off a review of this with a quick mention to Ruth Reichl’s autobiography Tender At The Bone. I really loved Tender At The Bone when I read it last December. First of all, Ruth Reichl is an amazing writer, especially when it comes to food. When she describes the taste of something, she somehow finds just the right words to make you taste it too. Secondly, I think I liked it because three of the main settings are New York, Ann Arbor, and Berkeley, all of which I have been to/have a strong connection to. So coming off Tender At The Bone, I went into Delicious!. The main difference is that Delicious! is a novel. It still has Ruth Reichl’s amazing writing and the story contains some great characters. My only complaint is that is pretty cheesy. What’s a novel without a romance subplot right? So while it didn’t inspire me to think or anything, this still a great read but I’d start with Tender At The Bone if I was you.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
One sentence summary: Gogol Ganguli is named in and for a twist of fate and that and his cultural identity follows him through his life.
There’s this Buzzfeed list of Books to Read in Your Twentys and when I saw it, I decided they were probably some good suggestions, as many of my favorite books were already on there (The Secret History, Lunar Park) and that’s where I found this book. I can’t think of anything interesting to say about it. The cover makes it look really boring but it’s not. You could say it’s about the child of an immigrant in the United States but I think it’s really just about what it’s like to grow up in a different time or place than your parents. It’s just a solid novel.
We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson
One sentence summary: Merricat and Constance live a sheltered life with their dying Uncle Julian in their dead parent’s big house, tucked away in the woods until Cousin Charles shows up.
So wow, this book is so weird but so good. In the introduction by Jonathan Lethem, he mentions that Merricat is 18 but seems like a small child. This is what makes everything that happens so much weirder, she’s very superstitious and when one of her charms falls, her cousin Charles appears to “help” the sisters (or just take their money). Merricat “knows” he’s a demon so she has to drive him out. I like a good unreliable narrator and Merricat is crazy enough to fit the bill. The interaction of the Blackwood sisters and the villagers is what defines this book. You feel bad for the sisters even though they really are the crazy ones. This is a short read and fascinating book.
I’ve also been reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and I read The Valley of Fear and some stories this month! At this rate, I’ll be easily BEATING the 50 book challenge! Whoo hoo, I can always use more excuses to read 🙂