Books I Read in November

Right on par with the rest of the year, I read six books in November: two nonfiction, one memoir, and three fiction books. In chronological order, the books I read in November were:

the new jim crow

Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow – This book should be recommended reading for everyone in the United States. I bought the book after a friend mentioned that she was reading it for her book club. I put off reading it for a good half year because I was scared that it would be too depressing for me to read. While it was extremely disheartening and made me furious at times, I think I am a better citizen and human being having read the book. I have recommended it to everyone in my law school classes, and I would sincerely urge you to read this too.

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the magnificent ambersons

Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons – I already wrote about this pretty extensively because it is one of the Pulitzer winners on my list. As I’ve started reading the next winner on the list (Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence) I have noticed a similar obsession with automobiles and the changing urban social hierarchy. I’m really enjoying reading the Pulitzer winners in chronological order, because I think it’s helped me see similar trends and concerns during the 1920s. I’m interested to see if Booth Tarkington has new concerns in his next Pulitzer winner, Alice Adams.

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4:50 from Paddington

Agatha Christie’s 4:50 from Paddington – is part of her famous Miss Marple’s series. Miss Marple is an elderly spinster and amateur detective. In this book, Miss Marple’s friend witnesses a murder on a train that happens to pass the train that she is on. Miss Marple uses some deductive reasoning and tries to solve a crime based on very few facts. I was surprised to see that while she is the brains behind the operations, she isn’t really one of the main characters of the book. Is this how all Miss Marple books are? I may have to read another one to find out for myself!

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musicophilia

Oliver Sack’s Musicophilia – This is the book for our next book club meeting in December. While it’s not something that I may have picked to read myself, isn’t that the whole point of a book club? Oliver Sacks is a world renowned neurologist and in this book he examines how the brain and music are connected. The opening chapter is about a man who, after being struck by lightning, finds himself obsessed with Chopin and composing music, even though he had never showed an interest in or talent for music before his accident. Some chapters were absolutely brilliant, and I’ll be writing about them separately soon!

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right ho jeeves

P.G. Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves – I will admit I was supposed to read this book in high school, but I never got around to it. If Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery cozies, then I’d argue that P.G. Wodehouse is the king of comedy cozies. The book is like a 230 page sitcom with witty banter and ridiculous situations and miscommunications. This was the first book by P.G. Wodehouse, and while I may not agree with Hugh Laurie that Wodehouse is the funniest writer in the world, I did enjoy the book and found it a lighthearted break in a month where I read some very serious things.

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h is for hawkHelen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk – I’ve seen this book all over the news and Internet this year. The NYTimes recently named it one of the 100 Notable books in 2015. After Helen’s father unexpectedly dies, Helen turns to raising a goshawk as a coping mechanism. She also examines famed writer T. H. White and his experiences in raising a goshawk. Despite all the hype around the book, this is one of the few books I’ve read that absolutely exceeded all of the hype. Words can’t describe how incredible the books is – her writing is clear, lyrical, and an absolute kick in the teeth. I devoured the book and plan on rereading it in the near future.

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Of the books I read this month, I am begging you to read The New Jim Crow and H is for Hawk. These are books that will absolutely change your life.

I can’t believe it’s almost December – there are still so many books that I want to read! I’m currently reading The Age of Innocence, and I hope to get through I am Malala and Alice Adams. What about you? What did you read in November? What are the books you’re trying to read before the end of the year?

 

Books I Read in October

Is it just me or has this year flown by? October was a relatively quiet month for me – with the exception of my trip to California, I stayed in pajamas at home for the bulk of the month. I read six books this month, which is about average for me this year. I read a memoir, a nonfiction book, two books of fiction, and two books of poetry. In chronological order, here are the books I read in October.

yes pleaseAmy Poehler’s Yes Please – Before this book, I only had a vague idea of who Amy Poehler is. I knew her as a feminist, the best friend of Tina Fey, and one of the creators of Smart Girls. I chose to listen to Amy Poehler reading the book, because I’m a firm believer that anytime a comedian or actor writes a book, listening to them read it is 100x better. Since reading the book, I’ve become obsessed with Parks & Recreation, and I will probably read the book again in a year. I think this book is probably more enjoyable for true Poehler fans, because a lot of the book talks about the specifics of her career and journey. I enjoyed the book, but think I’ll enjoy it more in the future.

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the sound and the fury

William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury – This was probably the most difficult books I’ve read all year, but also one of the most beautiful and rewarding. I would highly recommend it to just about anyone. Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness style is frustrating at first, but a friend recommended that I sit down and read a big chunk of it at a time, so that I can really get into the rhythm of the book. This was exactly what I needed to do, rather than reading 10 pages at a time on the bus, so that’s my advice to you as well!

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sixth extinctionElizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Sixth Extinction has been on my to-read list ever since I watched a work-in-progress cut of Six (now Racing Extinction) two years ago at the Tribeca Film Festival. The book is cleverly organized into 13 chapters, each studying the extinction of a different species. The chapters build upon each other until we see the history of man’s understanding of and contribution to the concept of a mass extinction. I found the book enjoyable and fascinating, but also hopelessly depressing. I think Kolbert is an upbeat pessimist, who is able to write cheerily about things that she thinks will inevitably lead to our doom.

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telephone ringingAdrienne Rich’s Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth is the second book of Adrienne Rich’s that I’ve read this year. I found the themes hauntingly similar to the first book I read, even though they were written forty years apart. I wrote a short review of the book last week, so for today, I thought I’d share another quote.

If the word gets out if the word
escapes if the word
flies if it dies
it has its way of coming back
The handwritings on the walls
are vast and coded

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magiciansLev Grossman’s The Magicians – Okay, I have a confession. I almost never reread books. I have only read the Harry Potter books once, even though I thought I was a Potterhead. (I’ve come to accept that I am not really one.) This is the first book I’ve reread in years, and you know what? It was even better than I remembered! Dark, smart, and hilarious – this is absolutely everything that I want in a fantasy novel. I’m currently rereading The Magician’s King now in preparation of reading the third book of the trilogy as well as the television adaptation. Have you seen the preview? I’m nervous and excited!

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the gold cellSharon Old’s The Gold Cell – This is one of the more deeply personal and insightful books of poetry that I’ve read this year. Olds dissects her own life for us in search of what it means to be a human, a mother, a daughter, a wife. After reading the book, I really felt a connection with her, like I knew more about her life and how she thinks and processes things than I know about even some of my closest friends. The book is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, because parts of it can be quite explicit or uncomfortable, but I think it will actually make you a more compassionate person for having read it.

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I’m a lucky girl this month, because there wasn’t a single book that I didn’t like on this list. If you only read one of these books, I would have to say read Faulkner. Have you read any of these? What did you read in October? What should I read in November?

Books I Read in September

September was a very crazy whirlwind kind of month. I took a trip to Alabama, threw a party, got sick, recovered & got sick again, and have been scrambling to be prepared for my classes in my free time. I was genuinely expecting not to have time to read at all, so looking back I was pleasantly surprised to have read 7 books this month. There were a lot of hits, and a few misses. I present to you, in chronological order:

wind-up birdHaruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – The book starts with the search for a missing cat and quickly derails into something else entirely. The characters in this book are some of the more magical and intense ones that I have encountered in his books, and I loved how he interspersed the novel with memories and other people’s stories. I loved the story of the zoo keeper, which seems to be a recurring motif in this month’s books. Murakami is able to turn the most gruesome and horrific things into a surreal and dreamlike kind of horror. When the book is over, you feel like you are coming out of a long trance – which to me, is such a specific feeling and experience that comes from reading a Murakami.

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Between the World and MeTa-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me – This book is constructed as a letter to Coates’ fifteen-year-old son about the realities of living as a Black man in America. I have had a hard time processing this book, which I think is precisely Coates’ objective.The book forces you to confront a lot of difficult issues; it will outrage you and make you want to cry. It will make you feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but I think by doing that, it forces you to try to come up with solutions and start a conversation with other people.

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mad about the boyHelen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy – Over fifteen years since we last saw Bridget Jones, Helen Fielding’s third book picks up with a middle-aged Bridget. A lot has changed, she is in her fifties, has two children, and has been widowed. However, Bridget has not changed much otherwise, she may have even regressed – she just has more on her plate. Now she counts both calories eaten and nits found in her childrens’ hair, Twitter followers gained and number of parents enraged. I’d say skip the book and hope Renee Zellweger signs on for a third movie.

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life of pi

Yann Martel’s Life of Pi – It only took me a few years, but I finally got around to reading Life of Pi. I have even been putting off the movie until I’ve read the book. One problem with reading a book so many years after its critical acclaimed debut is that your expectations are too high. I was definitely a little underwhelmed by the book, although I would still want to watch the movie. There were a few parts that I really loved, and I loved the ending of the book as well. Interestingly, this is the second book I read this month with a main character whose father was a zookeeper. Isn’t that a funny coincidence?

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Room (1)Emma Donoghue’s Room – I already wrote about Room earlier this week. I am really looking forward to the movie this fall. The book was loosely inspired by the true facts of the Fritzl case, which emerged in Austria in 2008. It’s an absolutely horrifying story of a woman named Elisabeth who was hidden and held by her father for 24 years. I have kind of struggled over whether it is wrong for me (and others) to find pleasure in some of these horrific stories, whether it’s a book like this or watching a violent crime show. What do you think? I think on the one hand it can either show the beauty and resilience of human nature, on the other, is it making us less sensitive to the real-life crimes occurring around us?

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Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance

Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance – I also wrote about this earlier this week (I am getting better about writing timely reviews!) so I will leave you with a quote.

“Spend more time with people, less time in front of a screen, and—since we’re all in it together—be nice to people.”

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go set a watchman Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman – The much anticipated and controversial follow up to To Kill a Mockingbird has left me struggling to reconcile it with the characters that I grew up with and loved. I have been reading a lot of reviews and think pieces about this book now that I’ve read it for myself. I will say that I found the flashbacks to be absolutely perfect: Jem, Scout & Dill playing in their backyard in the summertime, Scout’s first school dance. Harper Lee shows us that she has always possessed a really wonderful way with language and vocabulary. Her wit is as sharp as ever, and I found myself barking with laughter at parts, but cringing through other parts.

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If you only read one book from this list, read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. What did you read in September? What should I read in October?

Book Review: Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance

Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance was the book club pick for our October meeting. In it, Aziz teams up with a sociologist named Eric Klinenberg to research how people today navigate the “minefield called dating.” In case you didn’t know (are you living under a rock?), Aziz Ansari is a comedian best known for his Netflix comedy specials and his role in Parks & Recreation (see below):

treat yo self

I have loved Aziz for quite some time now, because he is a Southern minority in New York City, just like me. However, I had a long standing bone to pick with him. A lot of his previous stand up revolved around how hard it was to get a date in New York, which is fine, except I would see him walking around the East Village on dates with beautiful women all the time. It was hard for me to reconcile the celebrity-comedian with the awkward-lonely man he wanted us to think he is through his stand up.

Modern Romance seemed like a nice answer to this. Aziz is now in a loving relationship and is giving the rest of us advice on how to get what he has. He talks about the trials and tribulations of online-dating while admitting he’s never tried it because of his fame. While the book is definitely written in his voice, it doesn’t offer many new insights nor does it serve as a self-help book. The highlights are when Aziz offers personal anecdotes and the lowlights are when he turns to Reddit and study groups to prove that Argentinian men are aggressive and always on the prowl. There are some nice moments though, and I found Aziz to be a thoughtful and insightful writer.

“With so many romantic options, instead of trying to explore them all, make sure you properly invest in people and give them a fair chance before moving on to the next one.”

However I still expected more from you, Aziz. I didn’t really need to read your book to learn that having too many options on Tinder can lead to a fear of commitment. I wanted more humor and less statistics from you!

If you are curious, I would recommend the audiobook over the book. Aziz reads for the audiobook, and I think it’s a nice treat to hear his voice reading his own words. Otherwise, I would suggest just watching the two-hour Netflix special or the below video from their book release at the Strand instead of reading the book. You’ll get all the same facts and jokes in half the time.

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I would recommend this book to hardcore fans of Aziz & people who can borrow the audiobook from the library or have never read anything about dating in today’s society.

Additional Resources:

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Books I Read in August

Here are the books I’ve read in August, in chronological order. I was pretty happy to have read such a diverse mix of genres this month, and I’ll try to keep it up going forward!


station elevenEmily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven:
 This has been on my to-read list for such a long time, and once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it back down. I read for an entire day on the couch until I finished the book. I’ve seen a lot of people describe this as a “slow burner” but I didn’t find the book slow at all. I found this to be a thoughtful exploration into the necessity of art, technology, and human connections. However, I didn’t connect with or even like any of the characters, but I think Mandel did such an excellent job creating this post-apocalyptic world that it doesn’t even matter.

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not that kind of girl
Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl: I will admit that for the longest time I didn’t “get” Lena Dunham’s appeal. This has been my summer of Dunham – I binge watched all the seasons of her show “Girls” and then read her book as soon as I could get my hands on it. I “get” it now. She’s funny, thoughtful, and self-deprecating. She is insightful and self-aware to the brink of an egomaniacal obsession. I related to her book much more than I did to her show, and I feel like I have a new found appreciation and respect for her.

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Books I Read in July

Here are the books I’ve read in July, in chronological order.

Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible: This is probably my fault for leaving this on my shelf for so long, but this book is already outdated, because it was written in 2008. I didn’t find this book as educational or informative as Hyperspace, and I was disappointed in it. I found the book repetitive and tedious at times. I will continue to read books about physics, but it may be a while before I revisit Michio Kaku. The psychic animals that I shared earlier still remains the best part of the book.

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a village lifeLouise Gluck’s A Village Life: I already wrote about this somewhat extensively yesterday, so I thought I’d just leave another part of a poem that I loved, Solitude:

“Now we return to what we were,
animals living in darkness
without language or vision –

Nothing proves I’m alive.
There is only the rain, the rain is endless.”

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Catch-22Joseph Heller’s Catch-22: I am planning on writing a book review about this soon, but what is there to say that hasn’t already been said over the last 50 years? This book is dark, hysterical, satirical, and deeply moving. I never wanted it to end, and I understand now why a girl I went to school with wrote “Yossarian Lives!” on the front of her notebooks and binders. I will try to watch the movie adaptation soon as well, but I am a little nervous to see it as a movie – have you seen it before?

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Speak NowKenji Yoshino’s Speak Now: I have been thinking about Yoshino recently in light of the presidential race. The way that he humanizes and explains the position of those who disagree with him has really spoken to me. It may be easier for him because his “side” won the case, but the book was written devoid of anger and blame while still being extremely personal. I think that is such an accomplishment in and of itself. It is a kind of grace that I find myself lacking, and I try to remind myself of it whenever I am upset with what I read in the news.

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the buried giantKazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant: This was Mary’s pick for our next book club meeting. I’ll be sharing a reading guide and some discussion questions next week as I sift through all of the information out there. For now, I’ll say that I thought this is one of the best books by Ishiguro that I have read recently. I didn’t like When We Were Orphans or A Pale View of Hills very much and was almost ready to throw in the towel on Ishiguro.

Book Review: Speak Now – Marriage Equality on Trial

Speak Now

I may not have mentioned this before, but I’m currently in law school. I’m in a four year evening program, because I work during the day, and I’m about to enter my third year of school this fall. Entering law school with little to no idea about the legal process or jargon was a struggle. Reading 10 pages for class could take me up to two hours, because I was constantly stopping to look up Latin words or legal procedures. Things have become a lot easier these days, and I even started – dare I say it? – to read books about famous cases for fun! Most recently, I picked up Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial which tells the story of the now famous California Proposition 8 case.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s most recent decision in Obergefell v. Hodges last month, I thought I should brush up on the legal history of the gay rights movement. This book is still relevant today, even though the Supreme Court has since ruled for same sex marriage in all fifty states.

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Books I Read in June

Another one of my new year’s resolutions this year was to read more books. Last year, I was so swamped with work and school that I was lucky if I read a book a month. This year, I have made sure to carve out time for reading every day, and I am pleasantly surprised at just how many more books I’ve been able to read! Here are the books I’ve read in June, in no particular order:

Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome: I thought this would be a nice and short introduction to Edith Wharton. Ethan Frome is written as a series of flashbacks from the point of view of a visitor who sees an old and decrepit Ethan Frome. He slowly finds out more about Ethan’s unfortunate background from neighbors and Ethan himself. The book is depressing, but has some lovely descriptions of winter and snow. There is a heated debate online about whether Edith Wharton was a feminist or an anti-feminist. I haven’t read anything else by Wharton, but I’ll be perusing these discussions and adding more of Wharton’s books to my to-read list to try to come to a conclusion for myself. Have you read anything by Edith Wharton? What do you think: feminist or anti-feminist?

Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red: I’ve already written a little about this book in an earlier post here. One of my favorite passages is:
“Geryon was a monster everything about him was red
Put his snout out of the covers in the morning it was red
How stiff the red landscape where his cattle scraped against
Their hobbles in the red wind
Burrowed himself down in the red dawn jelly of Geryon’s
Dream.”

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