I somehow managed to read an incredible eighteen books last month, so I’ll go ahead and get to the recaps…
43. Money Can Buy Happiness: How to Spend to Get the Life You Want by MP Dunleavy (2/5). I’m not sure why I bother reading personal finance books anymore. I’ve read so many at this point that even the good ones often seem lackluster, simply by virtue of containing the same information I’ve read many times before. Leaving aside my own knowledge of personal finance, this book was just okay. Read Your Money or Your Life instead.
44. A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee (3/5). Lee’s prose is beautiful. But I didn’t enjoy A Gesture Life. I found it compelling enough, but I think that’s only because I was so horrified by the ribboning storyline that I couldn’t look away. The novel contrasts the present life of the narrator, Doc Hata, with his past as a Japanese soldier during WWII—and his experience with “comfort women” during the war. Aside from being incredibly triggering for me as a rape survivor (and I’m not normally triggered by books), I found the novel’s tone very strange. Hata’s certainly an unreliable narrator, but I felt like I was supposed to identify with him in some way, and I just couldn’t.
45. Transformations by Anne Sexton (5/5). Grimm’s fairy tales + Anne Sexton’s dark humor. Count me in.
47. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (5/5). This was my 9th or 10th read of this book, and it truly does get better every time. For me, summer doesn’t truly start until I read TKAM again.
48. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers (4/5). I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. It was just missing a little something for me. I did really appreciate how McCullers created such a lively story around what, really, was a small occurrence.
49. Torch by Cheryl Strayed (5/5). This novel has been on my to-read list for months now, and I loved it. It wasn’t the best book I’ve read in my life, but it was solidly wonderful. Her memoir Wild has just been shipped to my library branch for me to pick up, and I’m thrilled!
50. March by Geraldine Brooks (5/5). Love, love, love. Brooks is a fabulously talented writer, and I found March was both simple and earth-shattering. One of my favorite literary questions is, “How well do you really know the person you love?” and while this wasn’t necessarily the heart of March, it was explored deeply.
51. Extravagaria by Pablo Neruda (5/5). It’s Neruda. And fabulous.
52. Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird by Mary McDonagh Murphy (3/5). I spotted this while browsing in Barnes & Noble and decided to check it out of the library. It’s a discussion of TKAM’s effect on America, as well as writers talking about TKAM. Interesting, but it could be half as long–many of the author comments were repeated in Murphy’s narrative.
53. Behind My Eyes by Li-Young Lee (3/5). In my opinion, this is the weakest of Lee’s poetry collections. I’m not much for existential poetry, and I found my eyes glazing over while reading some of these poems.
54. Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen (3/5). Meh. This book argues for the preservation of fairy tales in the childhood literary canon (something I’m a huge proponent of!) but I found this book dull and not very compelling. I wanted to love it, but it was just “fine.”
55. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine (5/5). As a former women’s studies major, I’ve read a lot of books on this subject. This one outstrips them all. Fine effectively debunks many of the “scientific” claims about the differences between male and female brains. The last section is about gender and childhood, and may be the best argument against childhood gender socialization that I’ve ever seen. Read this book.
56. One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds (4/5). I stumbled upon this book in Barnes & Noble and promptly checked it out of the library. Olds has a wonderful writing style, lyrical and honest.
57. The Unswept Room by Sharon Olds (4.5/5). Even better than the last.
58. Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French (5/5). I heard about this book on NPR months ago and it finally arrived for me at the library. Part true crime, part history lesson, I was riveted by the first chapter. In fact, I even eschewed a nap in order to finish it. High praise!
59. The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice by M.G. Lord (3.5/5). This was a solidly interesting little book about the feminist content of Elizabeth Taylor’s films.
60. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (4.5/5). Reading March made me want to read Little Women, which I haven’t looked at since I was very young (and wasn’t terribly fond of it then). Well, suffice it to say that I missed a lot as a teenager. Little Women is wonderful, though the second section drags on a bit in parts, and I’m still bitter about Laurie and Jo.