52 books in 52 weeks: March and April

I got pretty far behind in my book reading in March and April but somehow made up ground toward the end of the month. If you missed January and February’s reading list, check it out here. (Sidenote: FINALLY I saw this week that Mindy Kaling’s next book is set to release Sept. 29 —I preordered this in the fall, so I’m especially excited.)

  • “Paper Towns” by John Green. The book club I’m a part of (but have never actually attended) was reading this. Other than that, I don’t know why I picked it up—I didn’t particularly care for “The Fault in Our Stars” and YA fiction isn’t my favorite. John Green’s writing is pretty annoying. His characters’ dialogue is so inauthentic it makes me shudder. All the characters have such unique names! The love interest is always so gosh darn quirky! Skip it. And probably skip the movie that’s coming out—wait until you’re forced to watch it on a red eye from Seattle.15792558
  • “Fresh Off the Boat” by Eddie Huang. This was delightful. I started watching the ABC show and didn’t realize it was based on Chef Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name. Eddie is irreverent, foul-mouthed and funny. Like a millennial Anthony Bourdain. But amidst this, he hits on important themes of growing up different and the struggle with his identity as a Taiwanese-American. Basically if you’re a foodie and love Ghostface Killah references, this is the book for you.
  • “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers On Their Decision Not to Have Kids” by Meghan Daum. As someone who doesn’t intend to have children, I’m always drawn to books and articles that examine this lifestyle choice. Some points really hit home (“Raising children is one of many life experiences I’m happy to die without having had, like giving birth, going to war, spending a night in jail, or seeing Forrest Gump.”), but I thought the fact that each essay was written by a writer became repetitive. They all talk about their need to be alone and creative and keep odd hours as part of why they don’t have kids. I think it could’ve been more interesting with some variety of thought.
  • “Dear Committee Members” by Julie Schumacher. This is an interesting book that’s told solely through letters a college English professor writes over the course of an academic year: complaints to the school administration, half-hearted letters of recommendation for C+ students, persistent letters of recommendation for favorite students, messages to his ex-wife (who also is a faculty member), messages to his ex-lover (who also is a faculty member). It’s funny at times, and academics would find it particularly entertaining. Towards the end I got pretty bored with the format, but it has a good18635077 ending.
  • “Read Bottom Up” by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham. It’s less of a book and more of a curation of carefully timestamped emails penned by a boyfriend and girlfriend and their respective best friends. The authors wrote the emails in real time as the characters (meaning the author of the boyfriend character never saw the emails the girlfriend wrote to her best friend and vice versa). It’s a quick read and very accurate depiction of relationships in the email era. We hardly ever get to see both sides of the equation in real life because we’re usually the girlfriend or the best friend. It’s a really interesting format, but the storyline is lacking.
  • “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart. This is an intriguing book, and I won’t say too much about it because there’s a big mystery that keeps you reading more. I enjoyed the book but found the mystery (that everyone on Goodreads said blew them away) not terribly shocking. It takes place mostly on a New England island during the summers, which makes it a great summer or beach read. I definitely recommend it, but I think all the hype set me up for a letdown.
  • 20663702“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty.  We don’t talk about death in this country. We’ve institutionalized the dying process and turned it into a medical procedure instead of an important part of life. That’s what Caitlin Doughty learned during her time working in the death industry. And after reading this, I have to agree with her that there’s something wrong with it. Doughty is real and raw and thoughtful about this. She knows when to laugh about working in a crematory and when to call people out on their shit. This book has stayed with me long after reading it and has made me rethink the American culture of death and dying. A must-read.
  • “Dept. of Speculation” by Jenny Offill. I could see people either loving or hating this book. It’s lyrical and a little odd; sometimes more poetry than prose. We begin with the couple just meeting, then fast-forward through their life that features a child, a dalliance and keeping it all together. But it’s short—the CliffsNotes version of a marriage. I think at the heart of this is an examination of who we are, then who we become as we pair off and create families.

What have you read so far that you’ve loved? Always looking for recommendations.

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