June Reading Wrap Up

The month of June offered a pretty terrific mix of books to read, both in new releases and me finally settling down with some “meant to reads.” I spent time with two of my favorite authors, Jonathan Tropper and Dan Chaon, plus cemented my love for Ruth Ozeki. I found three new authors and started the beautiful Americanah, which I’ll undoubtedly review in July.

June 2014 Reads

Here’s my June reading list, best to worst.

My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki — already reviewed

We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride – already reviewed

Among the Missing by Dan Chaon

I love best Chaon’s ability to tap into our innermost insecurities for examination. From the insecure widow looking for comfort from an inflatable torso in “Safety Man,” to a survivor wracked with unspeakable guilt in the title story. He doesn’t cross the line into magical realism but his stories retain an other-worldliness that appeals to me. It’s the stuff of deepest fears and imaginings, our dreams and nightmares, and even our everyday weaknesses. All of these stories somehow hinge on a seemingly random twist of fate.

“It’s not like it ruined my life, I was going to say, but then I didn’t. Because it occurred to me that maybe it had ruined my life, in a kind of quiet way–a little lie, probably not so vital, insidiously separating me from everyone I loved. ”

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez — already reviewed

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement – already reviewed

Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper (audio)

Not his best work, but any Tropper is good reading. The story felt familiar — Zach is a 30-something Jewish guy with serious father issues who faces a life-altering crisis. Drama, humor and fist-fights follow. It’s the standard Tropper mix but I’m OK with that. Sometimes I want something familiar and not too challenging. I like that Tropper’s protagonists, for all their self-pity, are smart, acerbic and disarmingly self-aware. (Scott Brick is a great narrator for Tropper’s work.)

“Somewhere there’s a therapist alone in his office staring wistfully at the door, just waiting for a patient like you.”

China Dolls by Lisa See — already reviewed

The Last Days of California by Mary Miller

It’s a great premise — a family trapped in the car together as they drive from Alabama toward California to witness the Rapture, which is scheduled for Saturday. The narrator is a 15 year-old girl, insecure in comparison to her bombshell sister and in search of life’s meaning before it all ends. Religious fervor. Coming of age. Sexual awakening. Family drama. These are all components I love, but it never quite came together.

“Why didn’t I feel things the way others felt them? It wasn’t that I didn’t care about people. It was more like I couldn’t really believe they were real.”

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James – already reviewed

Bark by Lorrie Moore

I really did not like this story collection despite the quality of the writing, which is often brilliant. Once again, I have finished reading Lorrie Moore and wondered why her work does not appeal to me at all. Instead of feeling engaged and satisfied and moved, I feel like I’ve just gotten off a roller coaster. I went for a crazy ride, zig-zagged and looped, but in the end I got nowhere and have a slight headache. I know Moore has passionate fans, some of whom are my good friends, but I saw none of the humor or tenderness or truth they find in her work.

“Rage had its medicinal purposes, but she was not wired to sustain it, and when it tumbled away, loneliness engulfed her, grief burning at the center in a cold blue heat.”

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Best Book Quotes of the Week

Best Book Lines

I found it difficult to narrow my favorite quotes down this week. I was off of work for much of the week and had time to read some great stuff.

Stumbled upon a new-to-me blog Book Notes Plus and was reminded of the wisdom of Albert Einstein.

“Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

As the school year draws to a close, I try to keep this lesson in mind. The high school I work, even with its high college-prep standards, does a great job celebrating the individual genius of each student. I need to keep this in mind at all times with my three sons as they find their places in this world.

From Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

“The way I see it, nothing in life is a rehearsal. It’s not preparation for anything else. There’s no getting ready for it. There’s no waiting for the real part to begin. Not ever. This is it.”

I haven’t read this book yet, but based on the quotes friends are posting on blogs and Goodreads, I’m going to love it. A reminder to live each moment phrased in a way that appeals to my theater loving soul.

From Norman Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

“So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”

Related to the quotes above, a clever quote full of hope. This was my favorite Goodreads Quote of the Day this week and immediately took me back to when I taught this book to a gifted reader during my short grammar school stint. I somehow never read this book as a child and was completely charmed by Juster’s brilliance with satire that worked for both young readers and a jaded adult like me.

From Ruth Ozeki, My Year of Meats

“To a Japanese person, Wal-Mart is awesome, the capitalist equivalent of the wide open spaces and endless horizons of the American geographical frontier. All this for the taking!”

Ozeki has a marvelous way of making me look at modern life in a new way. I love the image of Wal-Mart as an endless horizon, all for our taking. In this book she is contrasting cultures (another thing she does so well), but also driving at simple human truths. I just love her writing…

…which led me to look back on quotes I loved from another of her books, A Tale for the Time Being.

 “Sometimes when she told stories about the past her eyes would get teary from all the memories she had, but they weren’t tears. She wasn’t crying. They were just the memories, leaking out. ”

From Mary Miller, The Last Days of California

“Why didn’t I feel things the way others felt them? It wasn’t that I didn’t care about people. It was more like I couldn’t really believe they were real.”

In this passage Miller cuts right to the heart of her character’s insecurities and reminded me so much of those teenage days when I believed I was so different from everyone else. The world, and the people in it, existed only in relation to me. I didn’t love this book as a whole, but I loved some of Miller’s observations about growing up.

 

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention.

W…W…W…Wednesday

I’ll tell you mine and you tell me yours. Happy to return to this meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading.

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I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

BarkWhat are you currently reading? Finally picked up Lorrie Moore’s short story collection, Bark. I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of The Gate at the Top of the Stairs, but wanted to give her another shot in story form. She’s a sharp writer, but I’m not loving it after the first two stories.

 

 

 

The Last Days of CaliforniaWhat did you recently finish reading? Just finished The Last Days of California by Mary Miller. There’s much to love in this southern, dysfunctional, road-trip novel. It’s a great premise — a family trapped in the car together as they drive from Alabama toward California to witness the Rapture. Religious fervor. Coming of age. Sexual awakening. Family drama. These are all components I love, but it never quite came together. The threads of this story could have been like the novels of Wiley Cash or Kevin Wilson, but it pales in comparison.

 

My Year of MeatsWhat do you think you’ll read next? My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. I absolutely loved A Tale for the Time Being so when I saw this title on the recommended shelf at my library, I had to pick it up.

What are your W…W…W… titles?