the books of summer

It feels like each time I sit down to review a stack of books, I'm watching an awards show. In this case, it was the Emmys. I'll try not to let them influence me and severely depress you. 

Best audiobook

Where'd You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple

This book had my heart the moment it started. The narrator had the perfect quirky voice -- think Paula Poundstone or Joan Cusack -- to lead me on this weird, wonderful journey. I always find it refreshing when a book takes place in our actual, current universe, and this one references so many things that actually exist: Ted Talks,  Microsoft, etc.

"I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be."

Best memoir in essay form

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris

Sorry, Aisha Tyler. You just can't compete with David Sedaris. (Also, Aisha, real talk: I just couldn't finish your book.)

“Their house had real hard-cover books in it, and you often saw them lying open on the sofa, the words still warm from being read.” 

Best sequel

Revenge Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

I thought Revenge Wears Prada would be a quick palate cleanser and I would roll my eyes through most of it. Well... yeah, it was silly. And yeah, it was probably only written to  revive a cash cow. And yeah, there's a character named Clem. But, it made me smile. DEAL WITH IT. (Also, Meryl Streep was acting out the story in my head. Never a bad thing.)

Strangest biography

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953

I found out later that this glimpse into Sylvia Plath's year as a guest editor at Mademoiselle Magazine was written by a poet. THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. Because, nothing in this book made sense. It was basically a biography written in poetry. It was mildly interesting. And made me want to work at a magazine and re-read The Bell Jar. So there's that.

Best love story

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell.

A chubby redhead and a Korean kid who loves The Smiths fall in love. Hearts melt. 

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” 

Worth the slow beginning

The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan

For some reason, it took me a week and a half to get past page 7 of The Engagements. But I didn't give up, and by the end I was delighted and satisfied and slapping myself on the forehead for not figuring out how all the stories tied together (this book tells the story of several relationships and their corresponding diamond rings in, for lack of a better term, Love Actually style). The desire to slap yourself on the forehead is the sign of a fun read. 

Also, I appreciated the based-in-fact story arc about the "A Diamond is Forever" campaign. J. Courtney Sullivan (Dear J. Courtney, can I just call you Courtney?) is good at weaving in a bonus historical trivia lesson; in her last book, Maine, it was the Cocoanut Grove fire.  

Best overall

Open, Andre Agassi

YOU GUYS. I have never been quite so persistent about a book before, but ask my co-workers -- I could not stop talking about Open, Andre Agassi's autobiography. I'm not sure why it captivated me so much, but I have three theories. 

One: Hearing the behind the scenes of inspiring people -- even when you already know the ending -- is equal parts inspiring and infuriating (infuriating because I'm already past my prime to be a professional tennis player) 

Two: the constant, repetitive narrations of tennis matches was as soothing and pleasant as actually watching a tennis match. If you passed me in traffic while I was listening to this book, you may have seen me idly moving my head from side to side. 

Three: I hit the climax of the book the week I saw Hanson, so that may have activated the weird teenage obsessive part of my brain. There were about two days where I was completely swooning over vintage Andre. 

“Big dreams are so damn tiring.” 

Other notable positives:

Sisterland, Curtis Sittenfeld

You Are One of Them, Elliot Holt

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson

Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier

Notable negatives: 

Freud's Mistress, Karen Mack/Jennifer Kaufman

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, Elizabeth Silver

The Next Best Thing, Jennifer Weiner 

Another Piece of My Heart, Jane Green 

Notable mehs: 

The Smart One, Jennifer Close

books: my two cents

I'm watching the Golden Globes right now, so my Books of 2012 recap is bound to get a little awards-showy. Sadly, the internet hasn't created a Mel Gibson's Face During Jodie Foster's Speech gif, otherwise I would have pasted that here. Can someone get on that?

I don't know that you could really compare the two books that I read about presidents and their assassinations. 11/22/63 is a Stephen King epic time travel novel; The Destiny of the Republicis a non-fiction account of President Garfield's life and the life of his assassin. Oh, and Alexander Graham Bell.  I was a fan of both!

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

 I have a notebook where I write quotes that I love from books that I'm reading. I never really understood why I did this, and then I read an interview with David Sedaris in the New York Times, where he put it into words better than I ever could:

"whenever I read a passage that moves me, I transcribe it in my diary, hoping my fingers might learn what excellence feels like."

4 entire pages of my little notebook are filled with gems from Rules of Civility, a Gatsby-esque 1920s New York City story. I heard the author speak recently - he's a principal at an investment firm who has always wanted to write a book... so he did. And I loved it.

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

I read this book in January and haven't stopped thinking about it or recommending it to anyone who asks. Do yourself a favor and don't read anything about Louis Zamperini -- Olympic hopeful, WWII hero and the subject of Unbroken -- before you read this. It will just add to the suspense.

MWF Seeking BFFby Rachel Bertsche

As someone living in a new city, this book (which we read for book club back in Shreveport) is always in the back of my head. Rachel Bertsche, living across the country from all of her best friends, takes on the challenge of finding a new best friend by going on one "friend-date" per week. What she learns and encounters along the way, while not life-altering or anything, has definitely made me braver when it comes to making friends. 

The Tiger's Wifehad a chance to save the day. I was on my way to Boston, my Nook loaded up with books. Once we reached our cruising altitude, I turned on my Nook... and it was "locked". I still don't know what that means, but I couldn't access any of my books. I was beyond angry. 

With nothing to distract me from my hatred of flying except for my irrational anger, I whined to Y until we landed at our layover and I headed straight for the bookstore. Buying a new book is a treat for me, as I usually either borrow from the library or download e-books from the library. So I chose carefully, and came out with The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obrecht, which I had seen nothing but high praise for. 

But I just didn't get it. It didn't do anything for me. And basically my trip to Boston was ruined. 

Ready Player Oneby Ernest Kline

I was prepared to not be into this book, since it was about virtual reality and video games, which aren't exactly my thing. HOWEVER, I was wrong. 

Other notable positives:

The Innocents, Francesca Segal

This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper

Maine, Courtney Sullivan

Divergent, Veronica Roth

Spoiled, THE FUG GIRLS, if only for the Chanandler Bong reference.

Other notable negatives:

Night Road, Kristin Hannah (I cried though an entire plane ride to Amsterdam and hated every minute of it)

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, Kelly Cutrone (sorry Natalie!)

Big fat mehs:

State of Wonder, Anne Patchett

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin

Turn of Mind, Alice LaPlante

Wild, Cheryl Strayed