Giovanni’s Room

Happy New Year! I hope that you all had a safe and lovely holiday, surrounded by family, friends, and food. I spent my NYE at home with my best friend and our dogs. We ate chili, played Skip-Bo, and watched all of the gossipy end-of-the-year shows. I was in bed by 12:07. It was wonderful.

I have finished my first book of 2017! I’m off to a good start. My first book of the year is Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. I am a fan of the Americans in Paris trying to figure out their lives concept, so this book really worked for me.

David is an American who has been living in Paris for some time. He is almost 30, and is wavering about his relationship with his girlfriend, Hella. He is also trying to sort out his sexuality as he starts a relationship with Giovanni, an Italian bartender. The book walks through David’s dilemma as he tries to figure himself out. You see the intensity of this relationship and how complicated it becomes as David reflects on the circumstances.

Baldwin does an excellent job of keeping the pages turning because he drops little clues through the book that something significant is coming (no spoilers!), and you have to keep reading to figure out where things really went wrong. This book is a quick, intense read, and I would highly recommend it!

Happy reading in 2017!

 

 

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Dave Eggers is amazing. I really enjoyed A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It was funny, despite being tragic. Eggers is able to take his reflections on some very difficult circumstances and find the joy of life within them.

When Eggers was in his early 20s both of his parents died in a short period of time. Eggers and his adult brother and sister are left with the responsibility of caring for their 8-year-old brother. Eggers takes guardianship of his youngest brother, and they move to California. The situation is a literal mess at times (have you ever seen the apartment or dorm room of a young man in his 20s? I have, and certainly wish I could wash off that experience), but they figure it out as they go along.

Eggers’ writing style is very unique, starting from the prologue. He often goes into these rants about how he imagines things to happen before he talks about how they actually happened. I loved this. It was great to get inside his brain for a bit. I am guilty of jumping to the worse case scenario and playing conversations or situations out in my head before they happen, and they are always wrong. Eggers has similar thoughts, and it was great to read.

Overall, I recommend this book! It will keep you on your toes. It makes sense for this to be on the books-to-read-in-your-20s list. It’s really about continuing to live your life no matter what is thrown at you. While his life is overwhelming and painful, Eggers keeps on living, and by the end, years have passed, and he has lived them well. Happy reading!

The Namesake

If you follow me on Instagram (theworldishersforthereading) you know that there is a new addition to my family. Remi arrived a few days ago, and I am completely in love with her. She gets up way to early, but that means I can get some reading done.

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Remi’s First Night at Home

This morning, I was able to finish The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. When I was working on my M.A. in Literautre I took a post modern literature course that had a focus on Indian literature, but it was all focused on the partition of India. It was nice to read something current.

The Namesake is about a young man named Gogol, the son of Indian immigrants who is named after his father’s favorite author. The novel follows Gogol’s life from the time his mother was pregnant until he is an adult. Gogol struggles with the gap between his parents’ culture and the American culture that surrounds him. He grows up hating his name, not understanding its significance until he is much older. Gogol legally changes his name before college, but cannot actually escape it, as it is part of his culture to go by a nickname. Gogol has to figure out how much of his parents culture he will adapt into his own life.

The writing in this novel is incredible. Lahiri is excellent, and I will be adding more of her books to my TBR.

Lucy

When I woke up this morning it was SNOWING. This was terribly disappointing, so I quickly made a cup of coffee, climbed back into bed, finished reading Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid, and then slept for another hour and a half. I read Lucy in two sittings – it’s relatively short and fast-paced.

The story is about a young woman who moves from the West Indies to the US to be a nanny for a family with four young girls. We follow Lucy as she navigates her time in the states. We get flashbacks to her childhood and teenage years, we hear her frustrations with her family (especially her mother), her sexual discoveries, and the intense anger she holds. Lucy did not feel she could remain at home where her mother poured all of her hopes for success into her three brothers, but she also does not quite find her niche in the states, either. She is quite guarded, but as the book moves on she finds new hobbies and an increased independence.

Kincaid’s writing is lovely. The language is great. One of my favorite examples of this is comes toward the end of the book when Lucy is talking with the woman she works for. Kincaid writes, “I suddenly had to stop speaking; my mouth was empty, my tongue had collapsed in my throat. I thought I would turn to stone just then.”

I do agree that this book should be on the books-to-read-in-your-20s list. It’s about all of those things that you feel in your 20s. It’s scary to leave home, you always assume that you will find something better on the other side, processing your past, taking risks. I would recommend this book, for sure!

The Sparrow

This afternoon I finished reading The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. This book took me a very long time to get through. While reading I moved and settled into my new home – big stuff! Because of that, I spent a lot of my spare time watching Gilmore Girls, Nurse Jackie, and The 100 instead of reading – oops. However, it was nice to take my time with a book. I read a chapter at a time and did no rush-reading at all.

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Pike insisted on jumping into this photo!

The book takes place in the future and has a science fiction element to it. The story surrounds a group of people who travel to Rakhat, a newly discovered planet. Only one person from the trip returns to Earth, so the Jesuit leaders who commissioned the trip are trying to sort out what happened, and why he is the only one to return. However, our lone survivor is not in great shape (physically, mentally, or emotionally), so this takes some time. The novel jumps between the present – with the Jesuit leadership trying to sort out what happened and interviewing the survivor, and flashbacks to preparing for, travelling to, and the time on Rakhat. The story is interesting, exciting, and sad all at once.

The characters in the book are all travelling to Rakhat with differing backgrounds – they are linguists, doctors, and priests. Because of the varied interests of the characters, the reader gets a holistic understanding of Rakhat. This was a great way to keep the reader engaged and provide a detailed description of what life looks like on a new planet, and how it is impacted when another species moves in.

Overall, I liked this book. I think that reading it slowly allowed me to enjoy it more. When I was trying to read it quickly I found myself disengaged and my mind wandering. But, when I would pick it up for a chapter at a time I was able to focus and really picture what was happening. I would recommend!

Fifth Business

This morning I gave up on a book. I cannot remember the last time I did that, or if I have ever actually set a book down with the intention of not finishing it.

I have been slow to pick up Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. This book is the first in The Deptford Series trilogy, which was on my list of books-to-read-in-your-20s. The book is set in Canada in the early 1900s. It begins with the story of two young boys throwing snowballs as they race home. One hits an unintended target, and this act changes several character’s lives forever. I like the main character, but the book has been incredibly boring to me. I am 125 pages in, and I just do not look forward to reading it, so I keep finding other things to do instead.

While this book did not interest me, that does not mean it could not be interesting to you. If you enjoy stories of how World War I impacted people who were both directly (or not-directly) involved in it this book could be added to your TBR. I could not get into it, and used it as a reason not to read for the past two weeks. I’ll be moving onto something else.

What books have you started, but not been able to finish?

Never Let Me Go

Tonight I finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It is the third book that I have read this year. I feel as though I should have more books read, but life is busy, and I should not be beating myself up over only reading one book per week. This book is on both my books to read in your 20s list, and I am counting it as the dystopian novel in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. (Is it cheating to count one book on two lists?)

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I read this book in three sittings. The narrator, Kathy, was conversational, which really kept me engaged. She would start to bring something up, then mention how she would explain that point later. This was always done when I wanted to know what was happening, so it was a great tactic to keep the reader engaged. Kathy is a young woman who is reflecting on her time in the boarding school she attended, Hailsham, and the years after. Kathy hints that the students at her school are different, but it takes a while for you to learn what is really happening in the culture Kathy is living in, and I do not want to spoil it. Even after I learned what was happening in Kathy’s world, I did not want to believe it, and continually hoped that I was wrong. I particularly enjoyed Kathy’s reflections on her childhood, but the last 50 pages or so I could not read fast enough, nor think about putting the book down. I had to know how it was going to end, and if Kathy was going to be able to change the course that her culture had planned for her.

This book will make you think about how science impacts culture. It will also make you wonder how humans can ignore what is happening to others when they know what happening, but are not directly impacted by it.

I feel like this is such a lame post, but I do not want to spoil this book, and think that if I say much more, I will.

Tomorrow I am off to the library to get a new stack of books on the books to read in your 20s list. What are you all reading right now?