Wrapping Up Summer Reading (Mini Reviews)

The Door, by Magda Szabó Three and a half stars, read in August 2018. The story of a strange, dysfunctional relationship between two strange women who are both uniquely intimate with and completely closed off to each other. I found it difficult at times, how deeply (and pretty frequently) they hurt each other, but the exploration…

A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism, by Slavenka Drakulić

Three and a half stars, read in August 2018. Though I don’t know what the author’s intent was for her readers, I wish I’d had more background knowledge of how communism and socialism were implemented throughout Central Europe before reading this book. The format—eight fables, each told by an animal from a different country—makes for…

Beware of Pity, by Stefan Zweig

Three and a half stars, read in July and August 2018. This is one of those books in which perfect strangers sit down to tell each other their—or other people’s—life stories. Like Mr. Lockwood in Wuthering Heights, the narrator we first meet turns out to be nothing more than the impetus for one such story, that…

Home, by Nnedi Okorafor

Three stars, read in June 2018. Good, but not as compelling as the first book was. I’d been thinking I might not read the third, but it turns out that this trilogy is more like one book split into three; since there was no conclusion here, I may end up finishing after all. Maybe. The world…

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Two and a half stars, read in March 2018. I found this book very stressful. Given how long and sprawling it is, following so many characters throughout four generations, it often seemed strange how long we lingered on specific, not particularly meaningful conversations before jumping through time and space to continue the story. It just…

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, by Nina Sankovitch

Two or three stars, read and reviewed in July 2014. This was not as exciting as I expected it to be, I think because I had a hard time connecting with the author. It may be obnoxious of me—and this wasn’t the only reason I didn’t connect with her—but I get impatient with women who…

Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata

Three stars, read in January 2018. Widely considered to be his masterpiece, the Goodreads description says, but . . . Hmm. I was decidedly underwhelmed by this book. There is absolutely beautiful imagery in his descriptions of snow country (I gave it an extra star for that reason). It was a stern night landscape. The…

November Mini Reviews

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds. Five stars. Oh, wow, I loved everything about this. The premise is such a cool one, with the elevator and the chronological ghosts; the verse is skillful and adds visually to the story; and the protagonist’s voice is just so painfully young and real. God, if only we could…

The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery

Three and a half stars, read in November 2017. There is so much interesting information in this book, but it’s a very personal memoir, too; it’s almost more about the author than it is about octopuses. (First piece of interesting information: octopi is not the correct plural form! Because the word octopus comes from Greek, and you can’t put…

Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy

Three stars, read in May 2017. Oh, Thomas Hardy. Of his books that I’ve read, this is the one with the most blatant commentary on the oppression and arbitrary cruelty of societal conventions. It’s also probably my least favorite, though I’m not sure why; for some reason Jude and Sue never clicked with me as…

Waiting, by Ha Jin

Three and a half stars, read in February 2017. The best word I can choose for this book is bittersweet. I’ve had a difficult time figuring out how I feel about it. For some reason it took me a very long time to pick it up, but when I did, it was a sick day…

Mini Reviews: Comics and Manga

Everything I’ve read so far in January and February 2017, because apparently I haven’t reviewed any of them yet! Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 1, by Fumi Yoshinaga. Four stars. What an absolutely fascinating combination of ideas at play in this book. A sort of dystopian premise with a historical setting, a matriarchal society that still…

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami

Three and a half stars, read in September 2016. Do you sometimes have books that get stuck to whatever the circumstances were when you read them? Like, if you were in a particular place, then every time you go to that place you think of that book, and you almost feel as though you’re reading…

The Varieties of Scientific Experience, by Carl Sagan

Three and a half stars, read from December 2016 to January 2017. This was an interesting book to be my first by Carl Sagan, because it’s actually transcripts of lectures, including some Q&A with the audience. So it’s more intimate, in a way, because you can hear him speaking; it’s very coherent, obviously, but just…

Skeptic, by Michael Shermer

Three and a half stars. Read in October 2016. An excellent collection of essays from Shermer’s Scientific American column. I especially liked Turn Me On, Dead Man, which I think is just a really good summary of why skepticism is necessary. What we have here is a signal/noise problem. Humans evolved brains that are pattern-recognition…

Mara, by Brian Wood and Ming Doyle

Three stars, I think? Read in October 2016. I probably shouldn’t even write a review of this because I do not in any way have a solid grasp of what is going on, but there is a lot that is great about it, and I guess I want to remember that. It’s a confusing combination of…

Fresh Off the Boat, by Eddie Huang

Three and a half stars, read in September 2016. I don’t speak hip-hop, so a significant portion of this book was entirely incomprehensible to me. That sounds like a joke, but “colloquial” doesn’t even begin to cover the vocabulary, and that’s before I take all the sports jargon into account. I could at least get…

In Which I Finally Read My Free Comic Book Day Haul

Yeah, it took me this long. Mike and I got our free comic books together, and we each bought one or two at the same time, which I also did not read until today. How can it take me several months to read a 25-page comic, you ask? This is a good and unanswerable question….

Kojiki, by Keith Yatsuhashi

Three and a half stars, read in August 2016. The cover on the left is the one I read, but I think if you look for it now, the cover on the right is the one you’ll find. I actually really like them both. This was very enjoyable with mostly-small problems here and there. I…

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Three stars, mostly because that’s an easy compromise when in fact I don’t know what rating to give. Read from March to August of 2013. I think the only other book I’ve ever spent so long reading (without abandoning it) was The Red Badge of Courage, required reading my freshman year in high school. This took me nearly five months…

Hollywood Women Memoirs

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling Three and a half stars, read in October 2015. I like Mindy Kaling, and I enjoyed her first book. This second one was ninety percent frivolous and fun, ten percent actual awesome shit. The last couple pages made me feel like it was a much more important book than it was the…

Out / Real World, by Natsuo Kirino

Out: Five stars, read in June 2016. Real World: Three stars, read in June 2016. I read Out first, and it was really fantastic. It’s cataloged as a mystery, which I suppose it is, but it isn’t the usual format: In this case you’re following along with the people who committed the crimes, and they’re certainly not…

Speed Reviews (Catching Up)

I haven’t been exactly sure what’s going on here lately. I’ve been through some reading slumps and revivals and slumps again, and I think the same is true of my blogging. But in the past couple months, a lot of really great books have come through for me.   The Vegetarian, by Han Kang Five…