This past weekend, I read a book by one of my favorite authors of all-time, Maria Semple. She wrote Where'd You Go, Bernadette, which is about the character we named our dog after. And she most recently published Today Will Be Different, which I loved just as much.
You could call this a book review of sorts, but it's not. This is about photos and our stories and how we choose to tell them.
I was a little confused as to why there were quite a few typos in this book. And then I realized that it was translated from French. So, there goes that criticism.
Overall, the author, Katherine Pancol writes characters that you really find yourself rooting for. They are ordinary enough to be relatable, but quirky enough to be endearing. I loved the process of the main character discovering her value and in turn, cutting out the toxins in her life. It's a story of becoming, albeit later in life.
I'm going to go ahead and say that this may not have been the best choice for a poolside day of reading. Don't get me wrong—this book was well-written, thought-provoking, and more than interesting. But it was sad. Very, very sad.
I completely forget who recommended this book. Which is probably good because, meh. And while it was a quick, easy read, I wouldn't say it was a favorite of mine. It was honestly quite depressing, albeit a good story. I think the characters were for the most part un-relatable, like exaggerations of real life people.
This was my second book in a row based on lies and secrets and how they affect us. Maybe the universe is telling me something? I was absolutely fascinated by this book from beginning to end. The way the author structured it kept your brain moving and wondering and guessing at the beginning and end of each chapter.
I'm not going to lie. I resisted reading this book. I was worried it was going to be like Eat, Pray, Love. Everyone loved that book and I didn't. But this was not the case with Big Magic. Everyone loves it and I love it. I finally read it when my dear friend Rachel handed me a hard copy and said, "Just trust me."
Everyone in the creative world talks about finding their tribe, and I'm wondering if it's because of Seth Godin. This book is by no means new (it came out in 2008), but considering how much of a buzzword "tribe" still is, I'm gonna say it's still pretty relevant.
I read this book with a pack of highlighters next to me. I wanted to absorb everything he was saying. Sometimes, his comments were so action-worthy that I would abandon reading for a little while just to get up and go work at my computer.
I will start by saying that I fell in love with Jonathan Franzen on a bus. Multiple buses actually. I read his novel, Freedom, just after moving to Denver. I took the bus to work each day and fell into his story and his intricately woven relational struggle. I loved him.
You may think this is veering off topic from my documentary month, but it actually fits right in. This book is a long-term documentary project. Author Suki Kim lived in North Korea for half a year. She was a journalist, undercover and posing as a devout Christian missionary, and teaching at a school with other Christian missionaries, who were posing as teachers.
At one point last year, I was complaining about how I was having a tough time figuring out the whole marketing game. My sister said to me, "Well, you follow Gary Vaynerchuk and read all his stuff, right?" As I shook my head no, she also began to shake her head, perhaps a bit ashamed of me. She simultaneously walked over to her bookshelf to hand me this book.
The Goldfinch has been on my list for a long, long time. This book won the Pulitzer. That means a lot of very important people who know a lot more about reading, writing, and books than I do thought this book was spectacular. Note-worthy. One in a million.
Jen Hatmaker has been on my list of favorites for a long time. She is irreverently in love with the capital C Church and with Jesus. But she doesn't take herself super seriously outside of her faith which is just my favorite kind of person. Her writing causes snort-inducing laughter and sometimes tears of feeling understood.
I wanted to like this book, especially after how much I enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars.But I read a bunch of reviews saying I would be disappointed. I should have known that it wasn't going to wow me simply by the $4.00 price on Amazon. But still, I stubbornly forged ahead, determined to like it.
My dear friend Katie gave me this book. And I trust Katie (and her husband Devin) when it comes to book recommendations almost more than anyone. They're the kind of brilliant people that make you want to read to get smarter, like they already are.
Fun sidebar: they were my social opposites in college. Me a jock and them, again, brilliant (not that those things are always mutually exclusive, just in my case). Just to give you an idea of the kind of person I was projecting myself to be: Katie once saw a photo of me from high school on Facebook and mentally created a "high school Rachel" character. High school Rachel's most famous line was, "Oh my God Britney Spears? I love her work."
The book is written from the perspective of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. I won't go into details, simply to avoid spoilers, but the real review is all about that perspective. We often read books about disease—surrounding it, the relationships it affects, how it changes someone's life. But I feel like it's rare to hear about this suffering from the actual sufferer. Particularly when it comes to a disease that deteriorates memory.
I feel like I've read quite a few novels lately that have been organized in very nontraditional, creative ways. Different voices for different chapters, writing the book in non-chronological ways, and in this one: introducing characters for only a few pages to give a more complete picture of immigrant life. I love it when an author sees the structure as a book as another way to build story. It shows that the words aren't everything and the thread of a story isn't always singular or continuous.
I'm just going to say it. This book was a real downer. Poetic, certainly. But mostly very sad. I read sad books occasionally, just like I watch sad documentaries sometimes. Because the world is sad and I don't think it's necessarily healthy to shield ourselves from all the hurt out there.
There was no release from the sadness here though. I'm sure this book has been reviewed a hundred times by people saying they identified with the struggles of some or all of the characters.
I read this book mostly on a plane ride back from Seattle and in my bed before I feel asleep for a couple nights. This led to many, many dreams about Germany.
I loved this story. I knew absolutely nothing about rowing going into it, but the author didn't require previous understanding of the sport. He explained everything in way that I'm sure excited rowers but also informed less knowledgeable readers. In fact, he made me deeply appreciate the sport.
This was my first experience with Jesmyn Ward's work. And it was heartbreaking. She wrote with a sadness that was past the point of anger (or so it seemed). She lost five men in her life and she writes about her relationship with them and what took them from this world.
Some of the hurts and struggles she wrote about were foreign to me—things I never think about in my life, but I know others deal with on a daily basis. But she brought me in, made me feel them if only for the time it took me to read the pages. I felt like I was walking next to her through each and every party, gathering, conversation.
I was #376 on the library list for this book. 376! That is a lot of people in one city waiting for a book. I squealed when my Kindle told me it was my turn (and I am just not the squealing type).
This is the kind of book where you get sad as you go through each page because you know it's going to end. It's a small glimpse at a celebrity life, one that feels so mysterious to us small people. But Amy (she just seems like a first-name author) is so accessible. She knows that we little people want to know juicy stuff and indulges but also gives practical, memoir-ish advice.
I love chick-lit. Wikipedia defines it as "genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly." Authors I shamelessly read that fall into this category: Helen Fielding, Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Piccoult, Kirstin Hannah, the list goes on...
I'm not particularly proud of my love for this kind of book, but I definitely don't shy away from conversations about it. At a recent baby shower, I was chatting with a friend about how much we love these easy reads and she took me to her bookshelf so I could borrow something.
We had an impossibly gorgeous day last week. A few of them actually, but Monday especially. I had a photo shoot get cancelled (boo) and then rescheduled (woo!), but it left me with an entire afternoon to read.
I started this book two weeks ago and was slowly getting into it. But Monday pushed me from semi-interested into enthralled. The writing was great from the beginning, but I couldn't quite catch the storyline. It seemed too separate for me, as it switches back and forth each chapter to a different person and perspective. But there was a moment, when my Kindle told me I was 40% through, that made the rest of the book soar.
Saroo Brierley's story seems like it should be heart-breaking. Like, sobbing through it heart-breaking. But the way he writes it almost feels distant, as if he is writing about someone else. I'm not sure if this adds to the overall appeal or makes it seem like something was missing.
The gist: he got lost in India, his home country when he was five years old. He somehow made it all the way to [then] Calcutta, where he lived on the streets for weeks by himself until eventually making his way to an orphanage. He gets adopted by a family in Australia and the book details that experience.
Some women at my church started a book club last month and I'm just so happy about it I could cry. I feel like I'm constantly consuming information: books, blogs, business tips, media, etc. It's exhausting. So I am elated to have a small group of women to sit down with and actually process through some of what I'm inputting each month.
The first book was The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. I really did not want to read this book. At all.
Whenever I watch the show Girls (written by Lena Dunham), I always giggle and think, Oh my goodness, I'm so glad I'm watching it alone. It's horrifying, embarrassing and funny. Honest, but to the point where you think, She knows this is available to THE WORLD, right?!I had a very similar feeling while I read this entire book.
Dunham is funny, but tender. She seems desperate to be liked by everyone, but intimidated by no one. I was impressed with her vulnerability, especially when talking about difficult things that have happened to her.
We all have a wild Aunt Nancy, right? I mean wild in the most endearing sense of the word ... mine happens to send me books on my reading list and send me vulgar jokes that make me laugh out loud via Facebook. I like her brand of crazy.
Mine sent me Tiny Beautiful Things after I read Cheryl Strayed's Wild. This one was more up my alley than a book about hiking. In it, Cheryl reveals herself as the infamous Sugar, an advice columnist that people have been writing to for years. This book holds some of her favorite and most important letters.