books

Books, bitch! (v. 2014)

After spending the majority of 2013 at Hogwarts you’ll be happy to know that I stuck to books for people my own age in 2014. Here’s a list of the books I read over the course of the year and how they made me feel on the inside.

A Dance With Dragons – George R.R. Martin
4/5

Y’all know the deal. Swords, dragons, betrayals, very detailed descriptions of every meal and beverage. I’m not going to spoil anything here, except to say that Arya Stark is the queen of my heart.

Aleph – Paulo Coelho
2.5/5

I dunno, guys. I think I need to read this one again. I read it very early on in the year (important note: I have the memory of whatever creature on earth has the least amount of memory) but I do remember that while I was a little taken aback by the plot, I found many little nuggets of wisdom that led to brief moments of introspection.

Zeitoun – Dave Eggers
4/5

An incredibly sad (and infuriating) true story about a man’s wrongful arrest during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the affect it had on him and his family. Dave Eggers does a masterful job telling the story, weaving his journalistic abilities in perfectly with his knack for creating such compelling narratives. A warning: if you are interested in reading this book and don’t know anything about the story, just go pick up a copy and read it and then Google things about it. Afterwards. AFTERWARDS, okay guys?

Room – Emma Donoghue
4/5

Stories that are told from a ~unique~ perspective are always a welcome thing in my world. The narrator in “Room” is little 5-year-old Jack, who has been locked up in a room with his “Ma” by some psycho for his entire life. This perspective was perfect for conveying the heartbreakingly subtle details of the protective bubble that Jack’s mother has created around him, but I will admit the baby talk got tedious at times. Overall an easy and entertaining read. I blew through it in about two days.

You Shall Know Our Velocity! – Dave Eggers
3.5/5

Me starting this book: Yay! Dave Eggers! Me a quarter of the way through this book: Oohhh you silly Dave Eggers, this is why I read you! Me halfway through this book: DAVE, WHY? Me finished this book: ¯\_()_/¯

Democracy – Joan Didion
4.5/5

Joan Didion DA GAWD. Three years ago, I bought this book for $3 at a used bookstore, got about 12 pages into it, and then abandoned it. Sometimes you’re just meant to read a book at a different time. Thankfully I picked this one back up in 2014, because the structure of this story is mind-blowing. It’s as complex as it is elegant. It demands a second, third, fourth read, which I will be happy to oblige.

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
5/5

Second time reading this gem. Breaks my heart in different ways, every time.

The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons – Sam Kean
4/5

This was a cool non-fiction read about BRAIN STUFF. It’s a really entertaining combination of storytelling and science, which makes sense considering I was introduced to Sam Kean via multiple episodes of Radiolab. If you’re fascinated by how the brain works, this is a really accessible book to satiate those curiosities. SCIENCE, Y’ALL.

The Chairs Are Where the People Sit – Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti
2.5/5

This is a cute little book of ramblings (I mean that in a good way) from Misha Glouberman, a speaker/charades teacher/community activist/dude, and captured by his friend Sheila Heti who was responsible for one of my favourite 2013 reads, “How Should a Person Be?” Some of these little ramblings are great, others are tiring and mundane.

Bluets – Maggie Nelson
5/5 

FIVE BLUE STARS OUT OF FIVE BLUE STARS. This is a memoir, this is poetry, it’s part philosophy, part love letter, part confession, part therapy… but wholly, unequivocally one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a long time.

Am I A Redundant Human Being? – Mela Hartwig
3/5

I admittedly chose to read this book 100% based on the title alone. It turned out to be a trip down a Modernist lane of self-analysis that I wasn’t necessarily prepared to go down but went along with anyways.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
4.5/5

Oh, a dystopian novel about women’s rights? YES PLEASE. This book was written the year I was born, but it could have came out last week. It’s that relevant, that harrowing and that poignant.

The Circle – Dave Eggers
3/5

I had no idea that I read three books by Dave Eggers this year. Totally unintentional. Anyways, this book is about a girl named Mae who starts a job at a company that is basically Facebook, if it bought Google and Twitter and expanded to engulf an entire Silicon Valley city. Which… y’know, is scary because it could totally happen. Much like any Dave Eggers book, there are things I loved about it (in this case: the idea, the philosophy, the ending) and things I didn’t enjoy (the pace, the character development). Spoiler alert: it will make you want to delete all of your social media accounts.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt
4/5

This book was recommended to me by a lovely lady who owns a bookstore near me. I forget her name, but she looks like a Susan so we’ll just roll with that. Donna Tartt’s most recent book “Goldfish” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 but before committing to that hardcover behemoth, Susan suggested I start with one of her previous books. This book has a lot of things I enjoy: arrogant academics, classical references, murder, mystery and strong characters. Solid.

The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
(I’m not rating this one because being judgemental is bad, namaste)

SOMETIMES WE JUST NEED TO BETTER OURSELVES, OKAY?

Leaf Storm – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(I can’t rate this one because Gabo Bias)

When I got the news that my beloved Gabo died in April, I was in a gourmet burger lounge with my boyfriend and I immediately started crying. In public. Over an author. It took me until the end of the year to be able to pick up a book of his again, but I will forever need his magic in my life.

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour – Ori Brafman & Rom Brafman
3.5/5

Another easy (and interesting) non-fiction book about why humans sometimes defy all logic and do stupid shit. Worth it.

Love Me Back – Merritt Tierce
5/5

The last book I read in 2014, and undoubtedly my favourite. This book doesn’t care if you like it. This book is so viscerally raw, it stings you deep down on some secret level where you thought books couldn’t reach. Read it if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, read it if you’ve ever used sex to feel better about yourself, read it if sex has ever made you feel worse about yourself. This book will sink its teeth into you, and it doesn’t care how you feel about it.

BONUS! So far in 2015, I’ve read “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz (4.5/5), “Bad Feminist” by Roxanne Gay (3.5/5) and have just started “Living to Tell the Tale” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Later, bookworms. Feel free to leave any recommendations in the comments!

S.

Books, bitch! (Round 2013)

Another year gone, another mountain of books added to the floor of my bedroom like literary lava, forcing me to Frogger-hop my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night every time I have to get up to go pee. In 2102 I had a thing for dystopian teen fiction and in 2013 my life revolved around Harry Potter. I realize I’m over a DECADE late on this and I’m not sorry at all about it. I will take this moment to publicly acknowledge the fact that K. has long been ranting and raving about the magical world of Hogwarts and not only did I not take her seriously, I’m pretty sure I openly mocked her for it on more than one occasion. Still not sorry. But in 2013 I moved in with a new roommate, thereby gaining access to an entire new library of possibilities and thus, my journey at Hogwarts began. I didn’t read all seven books in a row, though. I mean… c’mon. I’m an adult.

Anyways, here’s a recap of everything I read (in order) in 2013 and whether or not YOU should do the same:

Black Swan Green – David Mitchell 

David Mitchell is a popular and critically acclaimed author and yet I haven’t read either one of his most famous novels (Cloud Atlas and number9dream). Up until this point, the only book of his I had read was The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and I loved it so much I will probably read it again this year. Black Swan Green was recommended to me by a friend and I really owe him a high five for it. It’s a beautiful (semi-autobiographical) story about a young boy with a stammer coming of age in England during the early 1980s and even though I have zero in common with that, it stole my heart nonetheless.

Ghostwritten – David Mitchell 

I bought this book at the same time as Black Swan Green because when I decide to do something, I fucking COMMIT to it. And I’m happy I did, because this is a stunning book. It has nine narrators (NINE!) from across the globe whose stories and lives all intersect in some way. If that doesn’t hook you right there, then I have absolutely no way of connecting with you as a human. Goodbye.

Bone Black – bell hooks 

Every human being should read bell hooks. That’s all I have the capacity to say about her and this book.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry – Jon Ronson

I’ve always been fascinated (obsessed?) with the fine line between genius and madness and this book just fuelled that fire. This was by no means an academic read and it obviously trivialized some really complex issues of mental health and the societal institutions surrounding it, but I’m no scientist and I found it pretty interesting. I also became convinced that 90% of the people around me are psychopaths which then made me question whether or not it’s ME who is actually the psychopath and then I didn’t leave my house for a few days, so COOL STORY, BRO.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn 

Meh. I mean, it was interesting. There aren’t many books like this out there. If you like plot twists and suspense and sexy times – pick this one up. It’s entertaining. But I didn’t seem to like it as much as I feel I was supposed to. They’re making this into a movie with Ben Affleck, and I’m already prepared for it to be fucking terrible.

Harry Potter + The Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter + The Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling 

ALL HAIL HARRY POTTER. These first two books were written for 11 year olds and they’re fucking great. I read them both in one weekend which made me feel a lot better about the fact that they’re books for 11 year olds.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames – David Sedaris 

Sometimes you need to take a break from Hogwarts and when you need to take a break from anything in life, reading David Sedaris is undoubtedly the perfect way to do that. He’s a pretty funny dude and his writing is razor-sharp. If you like authors like Chuck Klosterman, or Dave Eggers and you haven’t read any Sedaris, don’t even finish reading this blog post and go start.

Harry Potter + The Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter + The Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling 

I read these on an overnight Greyhound bus ride to New York City. WORST DECISION EVER. Great books, though. 

Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer 

Whether you eat meat or not – read this book. Period.

On Writing – Stephen King 

This book changed my life. It’s also the first book I’ve ever read by Stephen King.

Harry Potter + The Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling 

Yo, shit starts to get REAL in this book. First of all, it’s like 800 pages. That means it was way too big for me to carry around in my purse and whip out on the subway.

Bag of Bones – Stephen King 

The second book I’ve ever read by Stephen King, and I fucking FLEW through it. So good, in that Stephen King kinda way.

Downtown Owl – Chuck Klosterman 

Klosterman, man. He’s hit or miss for me but this one was a hit, folks. I read it in one sitting.

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold 

This is one of those books that people who don’t read a lot of books consistently bring up in conversation when they’re trying to bond with you and I figured I should read it so that I can be better in social situations. It’s also the only book my mom has read in like 8 years. It’s a good book, though.

Harry Potter + The Half Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling 

This is the point at which Harry Potter begins to give me nightmares. WHY IS HARRY POTTER GIVING ME NIGHTMARES.

This Is How You Lose Her – Junot Díaz 

This was my favourite read of 2013 (sorry Harry) and it has been sitting in a deep and hidden corner of my heart ever since.

Harry Potter + The Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling 

After reading every other Harry Potter book, reading this one is like a family reunion, a going away party and graduation all wrapped into one. And if you thought that a children’s fiction series couldn’t have a long-lasting impact on you as a fully grown adult with her shit together than BOY WERE YOU EVER WRONG. I’m now that person who drops Harry Potter references into everyday conversation and what makes it even more annoying is that I’m SEVEN YEARS LATE in doing it. I’m a really big hit at parties.

That’s it for 2013. Now it’s time for you to tell me what to read in 2014.

GO.

S.

Books, bitch!

Sweet, sweet books. People often see me reading a different one every few weeks and ask me for recommendations. Well, you’re all in luck! It just so happens that I keep a detailed list of every book I read because I am insane. Here is a list of what I read in 2012 and whether or not YOU should read it.

A Clash of Kings – George R.R. Martin
A Storm of Swords – George R.R. Martin
A Feast for Crows – George R.R. Martin

These are books 2 through 4, respectively, in the series “A Song of Fire and Ice” – the first one being (of course) Game of Thrones. I’ve had to physically stop myself from buying the fifth one, A Dance With Dragons, until it comes out on paperback because, hi, these books are all over 1000 pages. Fuck a hardcover. Read these if you a) really love the Game of Thrones television series and can’t wait to see what happens next and b) you really love reading. You have to invest a serious amount of time and energy into the narrative but gawd DAMMIT it is worth every second.

The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson

This was an entertaining read. Two souls traveling over different time periods, finding each other again and again. If you don’t believe in that kinda shit, then maybe it isn’t for you. But hey, the main character is a crude atheist and a former porn star who gets badly burned in a car crash. He didn’t believe either. I’m just saying.

Just Kids – Patti Smith

ALL HAIL QUEEN PATTI. This memoir details her early life and subsequent relationship with the renowned photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. If you are drawn to photography, art, New York, the 60s/70s, good music or ALL OF THEM, COMBINED, ALWAYS  – then this is a book for you.

Innocent Erendira: And Other Stories – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabo is my favourite author, period. He does the most delicious things with language and touches my heart in ways no one else ever has. That is all.

Strange Pilgrims – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

See above.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

I wish I had read these books before I saw the movie. They actually weren’t too bad, considering they’re “teen fiction.” Not good enough for me to pick up the third one, but still. I really like dystopian science-fiction, even ESPECIALLY when it involves children fighting to the death.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Classic. I read this back in school but had a whole new appreciation for it upon reading again, decades later. I thoroughly suggest you do the same. (Also, could I be more excited for the movie coming out this Christmas? Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby? Jay-Z doing the musical score? SEE YA.)

This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Also a classic. I enjoyed this one in a very different way than I did Gatsby. There were some paragraphs I just read over and over. Recommended especially if you’re into the mentalities of post-war generations.

Imagine – Jonah Lehrer

This fucking guy. Okay. So Jonah Lehrer has written more than a few books and contributes regularly to my favourite podcast of all time, Radiolab. So imagine my delight upon realizing he has published a book about ~CrEaTiViTy~ right? The book itself was  great, repetitive in some places, but overall it really got me thinking about my own creative process and work environment, blah blah. Super. TURNS OUT… this guy fabricated more than one quote from Bob Dylan in the book. Fabricated, as in, faked. Quotes. From BOB. DYLAN. The book was taken off shelves (I wonder if mine will one day be worth anything??) and resigned from his post at The New Yorker. Not cool, Jonah. You were my hero! How could you do this to me?! Still though, if you feel like you’re in a creative slump, it might be worth reading. If you can find a copy. You can’t borrow mine, sorry.

When She Woke – Hillary Jordan

More dystopian teen science-fiction. Criminals have their entire bodies dyed a certain colour to reflect their crime. This girl gets dyed completely red, from head to toe, for having an abortion (aka “murder” which is funny because SO MANY PLACES ACTUALLY THINK THIS RIGHT NOW, LIKE IN 2013). One of those books you can’t put down, even if you want to. Worth it.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera

Amazing. Heart warming. Heartbreaking. Will probably read it again this year.

How Should a Person Be? – Sheila Heti

So good. Almost a painfully relevant book for me at this point in my life. I read this book ignorant to the fact that the narrator (aka the author) and her best friend/muse Margaux ARE REAL PEOPLE WHO EXIST IN LIFE and not only that, they’re from the city I live in. Mind blown. I must stop myself from stalking them on a regular basis. Although I totally read a blog that Margaux contributes to on a regular basis. That’s not stalking, right? If it is… you are all in so much trouble right now.

Bossypants – Tina Fey

I don’t even need to write anything here. Tina is funnier than you will ever be. Deal with it.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling

Not as good as Tina’s book, but totally worth it.

Nymphs of the Valley – Khalil Gibran

If you’re a fan of The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, I highly recommend you read this as well. It’s short and sweet, but filled with more spirit and soul than probably anything else on my bookshelf.

The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides

Author of The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex (both amazing, go read right now) Jeffrey Eugenides is really turning out to be one of my favourites. I really enjoy the way he writes and the way he puts a plot together. This novel deals with love and manic depressive disorder and it is equal parts fascinating and heartbreaking.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Dave Eggers, man. I read McSweeney’s Internet Tendency all the time (McSweeney’s is the publishing house that Dave Eggers founded)  and I can’t believe it took me this long to begin diving into his novels. This one, though… shit. This is a memoir of his childhood and adolescence and let’s just put it out there — Dave Eggers had a REALLY fucked up childhood and adolescence.  It’s a bit of a tough read, if you’re not used to his style… but it’s gut-wrenching and hilarious and so good.

THAT’S IT! Go! Be merry! Read books! Tell me what you think! (And just for curiosity’s sake, right now I’m reading Black Swan Green by David Mitchell who wrote one of my favourite books of 2010, The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet. I even bought that bitch in hardcover.)

S.