Books read in August

Probably the best month of fiction reading I’ve had all year long. The nonfiction was good too.

Read

Manhood for Amateurs
Michael Chabon
It was interesting reading this directly after finishing Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed. I love Michael Chabon’s writing just as much as I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s. His paragraph-long sentences are delightful and most of this book I wanted to read out loud to someone. The opening essay “The Loser’s Club” was heartbreaking, and the rest was gleefully, beautifully written. When Ira Glass talks about us living in a time of “giants” of nonfiction storytelling, he is talking about Michael Chabon. I want to photocopy some of the essay just to possess them.

A Drink Before the War.
Dennis Lehane
New book in the series coming out November 30th. Time for a re-read.

Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure
Matthew Algeo
True story of Harry Truman’s post-Presidency road trip from Independence Missouri to the East Coast. The author retraces the route and discusses the original trip and how the sites have changed. This was a somewhat interesting book, though in places I felt it was not very well written.

Faithful Place
Tana French
After really loving Tana French’s previous books, I was excited to read this one. Like the other two I shirked responsibilities to tear through this one. Unlike the other two I figured out the “who” and they “why” about a quarter of the way through the book. As I am generally very slow on the uptake with mysteries, I would guess that this was a pretty obvious plot, which was disappointing. Still, I did devour the book, for whatever that is worth.

This Charming Man
Marian Keys
Ever since Olivia Goldsmith died–breaking my heart, by the way–I have been pining for someone who wrote the special class of books she did. On the surface, they were frothy “wronged woman finds love and vindication” sort of thick novels perfectly suited for a beach read. However, most all of her books had a strong, thoughtful social justice undercurrent that was very hard to miss. Near the end of this book I wondered if Marian Keys might just be my new Olivia Goldsmith.

This is the first book I’ve read by Marian Keys, whom I discovered through my friend Jan. I was initially put off by the narration of the lead character, and contemplated putting the book down because of it. I persevered, however and soon fell in love with her. This was a great, Goldsmith-style book that I was happy to spend the day with. Indeed, I couldn’t put it down. My thought of “I’ll get out of bed at 9:00” was moved to 11, then 1 and then I just gave up and kept reading until I finished around 4:00 in the afternoon. I’m interested to explore other Marian Keyes books and see if she can indeed engage me like Olivia Goldsmith once did.

What I Saw & How I Lied
Judy Blundell
This is a fairly engrossing YA book set in 1947. It’s a good exploration of the gray areas around telling the truth.

Looking For Alaska
John Green
Thanks to my current obsession, the Vlogbrothers, I now have three novels to read by John Green. This was a good YA novel that captured confusing parts of adolescence such as pining for someone you cannot have and identity formation.

Can’t Wait to Get To Heaven
Fannie Flagg
I have always enjoyed Fannie Flagg’s books, but this was incredibly saccharine. It was so sweet, I almost didn’t finish it. The plot is obvious, the mystery is haphazard and fleshed out/solved in the last few pages of the book and the characters are annoying. Overall, a disappointing read.

One Day
David Nicholls
Supposedly this will be made into a movie. The plot device–popping in annually on the same day to see what characters are up to–was pretty ingenious and kept me reading. I enjoyed the characters and their flaws and I think the best part about this book is how it captures so many life passages. I particularly loved the description of “third wave” weddings and also the thought process of a childless woman in her thirties. A very well done “romantic comedy” of a book.

The Motel Life
Willie Vlautin
I’m not such a big Raymond Carver fan and since Carver’s name is invoked in one of the many blurbs–along with Flannary O’Connor and also, Steinbeck, McMurtry, Johnson, McGuane–I was not such a fan of the book. Vlautin has a very crisp writing style which has an edge of desperation and hopelessness and humor. The book is a quick read and has great illustrations. I’m happy I’ve read it, but I don’t know if I need to read another by him.

Put Your Life on a Diet
Gregory Johnson
Tiny book written by a man who lives in 140 square feet. It’s full of good tips about how to reduce your footprint. My favorite: when downsizing, rather than agonizing about getting rid of things, just put everything in storage first, and take only the basic things you will need. After a year or two, you will not be as attached to many of the items and can easily give them away. The ones that still mean something to you are worth keeping. The book also includes a lot of resources.

Dies the Fire
S.M. Sterling.
Hey what if a strange event happened and suddenly all mechanical things did not work? Not even guns? Whose expertise would we need? It turns out that nerdy people who are involved in the SCA and other medieval/Renaissance recreation groups do come in handy after all. Who else today knows how to fight with a broadsword? Or make crossbows?

This was an engrossing distopian novel, though the Wicca exclamations (Lord and Lady!) of one of the main characters never ceased to annoy me, even after 500 pages. After awhile the fight scenes became repetitive, so I’m contemplating not continuing with the series.

An Abundance of Katherines
John Green.
It has footnotes! In a novel! And math! But not in an intrusive way! This was a great story, very funny, and the child prodigy reminds me of someone I know. A clever story and a great read, very recommended.

Started and did not finish.
Food drying with an attitude.
Mary T. Bell
I skimmed this for ideas, because after all, pretty much the drying world consists of the following recipe: slice, season, dry, store. There were some good ideas and I never would have thought of drying pickles, but you can bet your sweet bippy I will now, thanks to this book. One strength: there were a lot of recipes incorporating the dried food which comes in handy for anyone who ever wonders what the heck they are going to do with a bunch of dried zucchini.

2 thoughts on “Books read in August”

  1. I love your reviews. In your other life you could get paid for these. In my other life I own a children's bookstore!

  2. I would also pay for the movie reviews as well in her other life. In my other life, I will have someone who does my hair and picks out all my clothes for me so I just have to get up and out of bed in the a.m. – as long as we are tossing out other life ideas!!

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