Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Hello, blog world.

Life, man. I’ve been busy (If I had a dollar for every time I wrote that phrase…). But, in truth, I have not felt like reading. At all. I have liked the books I have picked up, but at the end of the day, I have no motivation to actually dive into a book. So, I’ve been forcing myself to do a little reading most nights, and feel like I may be getting back into the swing. Hopefully. I genuinely have no reason to NOT be reading, but I have been choosing to go to bed early instead. Alright, enough, let’s talk books.

I finished Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty about two weeks ago. I started it in Philadelphia while on a work trip, continued it in Ann Arbor on another work trip, and finished it in my bed at home. I first heard about this book from a student who I work with. He was taking a literature course exploring death in literature, and would regularly read outside of my office. So, we had a little routine where I (rudely) interrupted, interrogated, and added items to my reading list.

So, when a wonderful person who I work with offered to loan me this book, I jumped. I was reading another book at the time, but had no motivation, so I thought this could be a kick in the pants.

I am obsessed with this book, and was having flashbacks to reading Stiff by Mary Roach. Both approach death with a curiosity and a light humor. I had no previous knowledge about cremation, and learned a lot. I learned that living in North America makes it extremely unlikely that I will ever see a body that is actually decomposing. I learned that, in a society who focuses so much on youth, we sure do not handle the dying well. And, ultimately, I learned that after I die I do not want my body embalmed, and want a green burial. My grandfather is donating his body to Michigan State University – another option to me.

I highly recommend this book if you do not know much about cremation (warning: the baby chapter is a little tough). It certainly helped me narrow down what I want to have happen after I am gone. If you read this, let me know, I’d love to talk about it!

 

PSA – Doughty recently released another book. Check it out here. 

 

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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

This morning I finished Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a place where you can still get lost in the woods and lose cell phone reception. I love walking out through the woods, just like Dillard, and I thought this book would be about her adventures, but I was presently surprised.

Dillard does not just talk about her adventures in the woods, however. What I appreciated about Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was the details. Dillard’s stories about sitting on a bridge for 40 minutes to watch a muskrat, or thinking about the atoms in the tail of a goldfish. She appreciates all of the small pieces that make up her love of Tinker Creek. The best way I can describe this book is like a prayer to the mystery of the world.

Happy reading!

Doomsday Book

I did not finish a single book during the month of February. But, I took my sweet time with Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, and enjoyed each and every page. All 559 of them.

I’m not into sci-fi, not just in books, but in TV and movies, as well. It’s just not usually my thing. I certainly do not have anything against the genre, but I’m just usually not compelled to pick it up, and leave movies saying, “that was alright.”

However, I truly enjoyed Doomsday Book. I would certainly call this sci-fi light. Kivrin, a student, decides she wants to study the middle ages, and will use time travel to fully immerse herself. However, as she arrives, she finds herself extremely ill, throwing off her entire trip. Meanwhile, back in Oxford, the virus Kivrin has is spreading and throwing the country into chaos.

While the virus spreads through Oxford, the historians who are working with Kivrin have to ensure they can set everything up to bring Kivrin home, but they realize quickly that something has gone wrong.

I can see one complaint of this book being that things move slowly, and the characters do a lot of waiting and guessing. I think that Willis used this approach to help the reader understand how the characters feel – just waiting to see what really happened, and how to fix it.

So, even though it took me a long time to get through this book, I would recommend it!

 

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?