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Just popping in from my blogging break for a quick reading update! I hope everyone is reading wonderful books and enjoying the first weeks of summer. I know it’s not officially summer until next week, but it feels like summer kicks in as soon as school is out. We’re taking advantage of the warm weather and spending plenty of time at the pool and splash pad.
In spite of valiant attempts to manage my library holds, I had some come in sooner than I expected (physical copies that I’d forgotten reserving), so my May reading plan went off the rails a little. Here’s what I’ve been reading:
I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.
I have such mixed feelings about this story about Hemingway's third wife, Martha Gellhorn, and her efforts to forge her own identity as a writer. Paula McClain's writing is excellent, and at the start of this novel I was captivated. The question of what drew Gellhorn to Hemingway, beyond his fame, loomed large for me. I started to get a little bored about 2/3 of the way through when the story started to drag. But towards the end: redemption! I was again captivated. Maybe when it comes to Hemingway, what I'm looking for is a little more "ruin" (I'm not a fan, #sorrynotsorry), and when it comes to Gellhorn, she shone when she was exercising her independence. Many other bloggers have loved this without reserve, so it's worth checking out if you have an interest in Hemingway and/or Gellhorn.More info →
This recent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of Arthur Less, a failing novelist on the brink of turning 50. When he receives an invitation to his former lover's wedding, he decides to embark on an around-the-world journey to avoid the event. Less accepts various speaking engagements, award ceremonies, and teaching appointments to ensure that he will be out of the country. On this journey, Less ruminates on his past and dreads his future as an aging, single gay man (he feels there is no precedent for this) and failed writer. Less is both frustrating and endearing, a bit bumbling, and above all, certain of his own failures. Those around him rarely disabuse him of these notions, but they also see more in him that he sees in himself. This book won't be for everyone--it's light on plot and heavy on wandering musings, and can be slow at times--but for a reader in the right mood it's a sweet and sometimes funny read. Certain parts had me laughing out loud.More info →
I borrowed this book from the library, but it's one that I'm tempted to purchase to keep in my bedside table. The twelve things that Kelly Corrigan is learning to say are things that we all need to learn to say, and I think women and mothers in particular feel many of these deeply. Corrigan weaves in small anecdotes over larger narratives of family, friendship, and loss. Her reflections bring her to comfort with uncertainty, with deeper listening and less solving, and with setting limits--among other things. Each reader will find something different that resonates. For me, the essays "Tell Me More" and "No" stuck out, but I suspect that will change through the years. Worth a read, and a revisit.More info →
The Gunners is a story of childhood friendships revisited in adulthood. This is a common theme that often seems to be explored in more sinister books--The Chalk Man and several by Stephen King come to mind. While there are hints of underlying darkness in this book--the driver for the reunion, after all, is the suicide of one of the friends--the story is less about the sinister than about the friendships.
Mikey Callahan is the only one of six childhood friends to remain in their hometown, aside from the long-estranged Sally, who has taken her life in adulthood. The remaining friends trickle into town for the funeral, reconnect, and confess old and new secrets.
As long-held misunderstandings are remedied, the friends realize that they may not have known each other as well as they thought--but also that this unknowing is a constant in relationships, and they can endure anyway. While not everything is resolved--as it almost never is in the case of suicide--this is a lovely book about the power of friendship, forgiveness, and acceptance.More info →
Rosie and Penn are raising a loud, unique family of five boys. From science to stories to knitting to costumes, the family is full of quirks that are embraced and nurtured.
So when 5-year-old Claude declares that he wants to be a girl, his parents support him. Soon Claude has become Poppy, a girl to all outside the family and accepted as one within his family. But secrets weigh heavy, time can't be slowed, and the safety of childhood and family can't shield Poppy from difficult future decisions and the outside world forever.
I loved this story of imperfect parents whose hardest lesson isn't accepting a child who is different, but accepting that facing the difficulties and fears is sometimes the best way to be supportive.More info →
Roy and Celestial are on top of the world: young, talented, newlyweds, and planning their futures and family. When a trip to Roy's hometown puts them in the wrong place at the wrong time, Roy finds himself convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Their dreams shattered, Roy lives in limbo and struggles to hold onto his marriage, while Celestial pursues her goals and tries to live her life without her husband present.
As years go by, the two must determine whether their marriage can survive Roy's incarceration. This book is a thoughtful look at the personal costs of racial injustice in the United States.Roy and Celestial are both flawed but sympathetic characters as they navigate lives held hostage.
There are no easy answers as the families try to salvage the wreckage wrought by racism and a system that assumes guilt.More info →
I almost never fit audio books into my reading life these days, and fiction audiobooks don't always work for me, but I tried out Vinegar Girl during a recent long drive. At about six hours, it was short enough that I knew I could finish it. A modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl tells the story of Kate Battista, a 20-something woman who feels stuck. Kicked out of college, she works at a preschool and runs her childhood home for her scatterbrained scientist father and flighty teenage sister. When her father realizes that his beloved assistant Pyotr's visa is about to expire, he asks Kate to consider marrying Pyotr to allow him to stay. Full of quirky characters and an uncomplicated storyline, this audiobook hit the sweet spot for me. The story was amusing and easy to follow. I'm not sure how much I'd have liked it if I read the printed book, but this worked well for someone like me who isn't always able to focus on audiobooks.More info →
This book about the power of female friendships was a little drier than I expected, but it was peppered with pop culture and personal anecdotes, which kept me reading. I was hooked when the book started with a long reflection on the movie Beaches--a movie I first watched with one of my childhood best friends when we were about ten. It quickly became our all-time favorite, and so this seemed like a book I was meant to read. Even so, this book didn't resonate with me as much as it might with someone a bit younger. It did make me reflect on those wonderful years when friends were everything, and wish that my lifelong friends were not all many states away.More info →
This book is timely because one of those lifelong best friends is coming to visit from out of state next week. I’m ridiculously excited to spend more than a couple hours with her and her family, which is what usually happens when we do the whirlwind family/friend tour in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Fun fact: we met at summer camp when we were fifteen. Not an ordinary summer camp–we biked across Wisconsin (there’s nothing like bonding over sore butts for a week). We stayed casually in touch after that, and then she transferred to my university and we were roommates during my senior year.
Anyway, I expect to be back to regular blogging again in a couple weeks. In the meantime, let me know what you’ve been reading (or if you’ve read any from my list above), and check out some posts from this time last year.
- What I Was Reading in April and May
- 6 Nonfiction Books that Read Like Novels
- The 10 Best Books I Read Halfway Through 2017