I love to read, but sometimes I have a hard time actually sitting down with a book. During these times, I find it helpful to know what my friends are reading in the hope that something will spark my interest. In that vein, these are the books I read in the first quarter of 2015. Maybe one of them will intrigue you enough to check it out. After all, wouldn’t the world be a better (or at least quieter) place if everyone read regularly?
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
This is the story of Christopher. He hates being touched and the color yellow. He is on a quest to find out what happened to his neighbor’s dog (spoiler alert: it was murdered. Ok, that’s not really a spoiler because you find that out on the book jacket). While Christopher is not specifically said to have Aspergers or autism, he struggles with relating to the world at large. It’s a very sweet book, especially since it is written from Christopher’s perspective. A little mysterious, a little melancholy. Worth reading.
My rating (which you are obviously dying to know): ****/*****
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
First of all, I’m a sucker for historical fiction, so this novel wins points for being set during WWII, and for examining the Japanese internment camps and general xenophobia during this time frame. I found the narrative perspective incredibly compelling (it is told from the viewpoint of a young Chinese-American boy who falls in love with a Japanese-American girl during the height of the war’s anti-Japanese sentiment). While I think the message is important, I didn’t love the writing. It felt a little too dramatic for my tastes; a little too earnest. Maybe I’m just not a love story kind of gal.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I realize I’m super late to the party on this one, but I finally read this novel. Atwood creates a chilling futuristic dystopia (the best kind of dystopia, obvi) where a theocratic dictatorship basically takes away women’s rights overnight, AND NO ONE DOES ANYTHING ABOUT IT. The feminist in me wanted to scream throughout the entire reading of this novel. Atwood definitely has something to say, and she says it better than anyone else. Read it.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
I will preface this by saying I read this book in pieces, which I don’t think was the right approach. By the time I picked it up each time, it was hard for me to keep all of the names straight and to remember exactly what had been happening. That being said, the book accomplishes its goal of proving that everyday life for the marginalized society of Annawadi (a makeshift slum next to the Mumbai airport) is heartbreaking and fascinating; deadly and chaotic. I personally wish the author had made a few different choices in the way she organized the material, but no one can argue that this isn’t a story worth telling.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I paused at multiple points in this book to reread a sentence or a phrase or an entire paragraph simply because it was so beautifully written. Such an ambitious book that achieved its goals on every level, it also satisfied the historical fiction nerd in me since it was set in WWII (are you sensing a theme yet?). I seriously can’t express how much I loved this book. It was almost lyrical in the way the sentences flowed together.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
I didn’t know what this book was about when I picked it up, which made it that much better once I got into it. What started as a mother and daughter in “reduced circumstances” in 1920s London forced to take in “paying guests” (everything in 1920s London was apparently spoken about very “delicately”) soon turned into a mysterious thriller of forbidden love and murder. Both entertaining and authentic, I definitely enjoyed this novel.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Ah, futuristic dystopias; we meet again. The unsettling thing about Station Eleven is that this version of a post-apocalyptic world doesn’t seem that far into the future at all. In fact, it seems incredibly plausible that a disease such as the Georgia Flu could be incubating somewhere right now, preparing to wipe out 99% of the civilization (this just keeps getting more and more optimistic, doesn’t it? We’re all going to die!). This book focuses on the smaller, individual moments of characters grappling with a new and terrifying world while also relying heavily on flashbacks to the pre-flu era. A very smart, well-written novel.
Now go to the library!
Photo (Flickr CC) by Brittany Stevens