Reading Round Up
With summer approaching, I’m in need of some serious beach reads. Not that I spend a lot of time at the beach (have you seen my skin? Snow White has nothing on me). I just like to pretend I’m at the beach, toes in the sand, drink in my hand, and a good book in my lap. My definition of a beach read isn't textbook chick lit; any good book qualifies as a “beach read” for me. Here’s some of what I’ve been reading lately:
Before the Fall, Noah Hawley
Synopsis: A private plane leaving Martha’s Vinyard on a foggy summer night crashes minutes after takeoff. One man survives by swimming to shore with the only other survivor, a four-year-old boy, clinging to him. The book goes back and forth between the aftermath of the tragedy and the ensuing investigation, and the background of the passengers and crew aboard the plane.
Thoughts: I thought I would like this book more, since the plot summary and reviews made it seem like a really great thriller. I wasn’t all that thrilled. The writing was good and the backstories of the passengers were interesting enough, but it just didn’t hold my attention. The “thrilling conclusion,” in my opinion, was anticlimactic and a total letdown.
The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer
Synopsis: Six teenagers meet at a summer camp for the arts; the book follows their lives through adolescence and adulthood and how their relationships change and evolve.
Thoughts: I love books like this, about family or groups of friends and what the passing of time does to their relationship. For the most part, I enjoyed this book. There’s not really a “plot” or crazy twists and turns, but it’s a slice of life, real life, and the ups and downs of adulthood and how it doesn’t always turn out like you imagined it would.
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Michael Pollan
Synopsis: Pollan is on a quest to master the four classic elements –fire, water, air and earth- and their relationship to cooking. He apprentices with a BBQ pit master to study fire firsthand, invites a Chez Panisse cook into his home to learn the art of braising, trails an inspired baker to see how air transforms flour and water into loaves of bread, and learns from an assorted group of cheese makers, beer brewers and picklers about bacteria and fermentation.
Thoughts: If you like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food), you’ll like this book. Pollan always does his research and leaves no stone unturned on his food journeys. I was skimming paragraphs by the last chapter, since fermentation and bacteria don’t really interest me, but I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about cooking.
Invincible Summer, Alice Adams
Synopsis: This book follows the relationship of four college friends after graduation and into the real world (told you I like this formula).
Thoughts: Not the best book I’ve read about a group of friends, but it held my interest. I found the main girl, Eva, very likeable and relatable, but overall didn’t really care for the other characters as much as I did in The Interestings; however, I thought this ending was better than The Interestings (probably b/c it was clichéd and unrealistic), so there’s that.
The Girls, Emma Cline
Synopsis: In Northern California at the end of the ‘60s, lonely teenager Evie Boyd sees a group of girls in the park and is immediately struck by them. She’s particularly drawn to Suzanne, an older girl, who invites her to the inner circle of the cult and their magnetic leader. Evie is desperate for attention and her obsession w/ her new life in the cult blinds her from seeing how dangerous and out of control it all is.
Thoughts: I don’t know what other people were reading, b/c the reviews of this book made it seem like a brilliant, beautiful debut novel. So maybe it’s just me? But I can’t take the sentence fragments and unfinished prose this book is entirely comprised of. Just write a full thought already! The plot, which actually interested me, was so bogged down by the wannabe poetic and definitely pretentious writing, that I can’t believe I finished this instead of throwing it against a wall.
Commonwealth, Ann Patchett
Synopsis: Four adults, six children, five decades; I don’t really know how to summarize this book in a coherent way. At its core, it’s about family. The relationship between husband and wife, brother and sister, father and daughter. And how sometimes if you tell yourself something over and over it becomes the truth. And the truth isn’t yours anymore if you tell that truth to someone else. Am I making any sense here?
Thoughts: Read this book, it was definitely my favorite out of the books I’ve read recently. Beautiful writing and fresh ideas and characters that you feel for; whether it’s disgust or dislike or pity or empathy, these characters all evoke real feelings. All families are unique and complicated and dysfunctional in their own way and Commonwealth is such a great reminder of this.