The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is undeniably one of the big books of 2015 and although I’m not usually a reader of the big thriller of the moment I found it incredibly unique and startling. The Girl on the Train is a psychological thriller revolving around an unreliable narrator who, because of her alcoholism, blacks out during crucial scenes of the initial plot and has to recreate them to understand the increasing violence surrounding her. The book was riveting and fast-paced but also strikingly adept at portraying the violence and frailty of humanity.
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
I thoroughly enjoyed this fun and frothy sequel to Crazy Rich Asians. Kwan never skimps on the details of the lives of China’s rich and at times China Rich Girlfriend seems almost like an anthropological study with its witty footnotes and intricate accounts of families and social structures. I found that with this sequel I was more interested in the lives of the minor characters, specifically Astrid, Eleanor, and Kitty, and hope that Kwan continues to delve into their lives in the next book. And if anyone hasn’t heard Crazy Rich Asians has been opted for a film!
Project Fatherhood: A Story of Courage and Healing in One of America’s Toughest Communities By Jorja Leap
A group of former gang members come together to help one another answer the question “How can I be a good father when I’ve never had one?”
Jorja Leap follows the men of Project Fatherhood as they struggle to right themselves and their families in a community faced with chronic unemployment, poverty, and substance abuse. Their stories are at once heartbreaking and inspiring but overall they are vitally important as Leap paints a larger sociological picture that has enormous implications on our society.
Where’d you go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Where’d you go Bernadette? is one of the few novels I’ve read recently that I just had a lot of fun with! I read primarily nonfiction for work and even my pleasure reading is sometimes overly ambitious in terms of literary merit. Where’d you go Bernadette? and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan are two books in recent memory that I’ve just laughed myself silly at. Semple’s novel is smart and sparkling with a not unusual but rarely pulled off mixed-media format. The story (which for most of the book is focused on the central question of well, where did Bernadette go? ) is an epic compilation of formats and voices, written in emails, letters, FBI documents, hospital notes, and the like. It’s incredibly successful and entertaining and pokes fun at tech company and west coast culture with much hilarity in its wake.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
It wasn’t immediately apparent to me that I would love H is for Hawk. I am not a falconer and had little knowledge of the life of TH White. Nonetheless, after I heard Macdonald on the Diane Rehm show on NPR I knew I had to read this book. Macdonald’s reading was so affecting and her prose so memorable. Once I found out she was the reader for her audiobook I bought it immediately. The book is raw and haunting in its portrayal of grief and it is without a doubt one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.
To listen to Helen Macdonald on the Diane Rehm show and read an excerpt of the book visit the following link: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2015-03-09/helen-macdonald-h-is-for-hawk
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
Evan Osnos writes in fascinating detail about modern China using individual stories of Chinese individuals to portray the modern Chinese spirit against the backdrop of developments and current events in China’s recent history. I found this book incredibly absorbing and came away with new information and perspectives that have furthered my understanding of recent major events in the news that pertain to China. The book is arguably readable but that doesn’t mean that it lacks in insight or provocative ideas. That being said, I would recommend Age of Ambition to those whose knowledge of China is not at an expert level. The stories, information, and cast of characters are primarily well known amongst scholars of modern China and so this book may seem redundant. Its portrayal of the Chinese people, however, may still make it an interesting read for scholars and experts.
Have you already read Age of Ambition? I would recommend Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China’s New Rich by John Osburg
Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
What if your favorite literary characters had cellphones? Would they use emojis? Would they Lol and use other texting lingo?
Ortberg’s book is hilarious. I originally thought she only reworked classics of British Literature like Jane Eyre but she does a wide variety of books. She’s witty and clever and includes all of the inside jokes of each piece she plays on. This is one of my favorites:
MY LITTLE SUNBEAM
WHERE ARE YOU
I NEED YOU BY MY SIDE
I’m taking a walk
be back for dinner
AH YES MY CAGED SPRITE
COMMUNE WITH NATURE AND UPON YOUR RETURN
RELATE TO ME THE VAGRANT GLORIES OF THE RUINED WOODS
do you really want me to describe my walk to you
MORE THAN ANYTHING YOU POCKET WITCH
it is fairly cloudy out
looks like rain soon
AHHH TO THINK THAT MY LITTLE STARLING JANE
TO PERCH ON MY BROKEN MALFORMED SHOULDER
SINGING A SONG OF THE GREY AND WRACKING SKIES
MAKES MY HEART SWELL TO BURST
JANE I BOUGHT YOU A DRESS MADE OF TEN THOUSAND PEARLS AS A BRIDAL PRESENT
where on earth would I wear that
YOU COULD WEAR IT ON THE MOON
that seems impractical
how would i even breathe on the moon?
I WOULD BREATHE FOR YOU MY JANE
JANE WHERE HAVE YOU GONE
I AM BEREFT AND WITHOUT MY JANE I SHALL SINK INTO ROGUERY
i am with my cousins
IS IT THE SEXY ONE
Please don’t try to talk to me again
IT IS YOUR SEXY COUSIN
WHAT KIND OF A NAME IS ST. JOHN
I’m not going to answer that
I KNEW IT
DID YOU LEAVE BECAUSE OF MY ATTIC WIFE
IS THAT WHAT THIS IS ABOUT
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
I saw Joanna Rakoff speak about My Salinger Year at Brookline Booksmith months back and it took me far too long to read it. As someone who works in publishing I was especially interested in seeing the portrayal of New York City publishing in the 90’s, a pretty crucial time with the changes in technology and economic downturn, but also enjoyed her witty writing and the insights into J. D. Salinger. Looking back at publishing in the 90’s it is interesting to note the radical changes, technology was just beginning to affect the industry whereas now Amazon and the ebook have completely changed the nature of publishing and book selling. Rakoff’s work has inspired me to read other books that shed a light on the publishing industry during its different stages.
Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
I’ve always admired Quirk Books and am so happy that they’ve had such success with Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children and now with Hollow City. It’s a quick but interesting read and builds on the unique characters of the first book. I would recommend it for anyone that enjoyed the first book. My only other recommendation would be to read it in print. I read it in ebook version and I think the reading experience would have been preferable in print with the images.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Crazy Rich Asians was forcefully placed on my book pile with the phrase that it was “like Pride and Prejudice” which it is. . . if Pride and Prejudice was set in modern day Hong Kong. It’s an interesting mix and I laughed out loud at some points in the book. I appreciated that Kwan wasn’t afraid to include a lot of inside jokes, sections of Mandarin, etc. in order to appease a more mainstream audience. It was authentically funny and a joy to read. My only complaint? I think it wrapped up too quickly and I really wanted more from the ending. But maybe I just wanted more?