Sorry I’m just now getting to my Recent Reads! These posts take a long time to put together as I obtain the links to the books, the images, all the while giving each book the proper review it deserves. But it’s finally here!
This month’s book reviews are coming out a little late, because, well, as you’ll see from this post, all I do right now is read. I’m already about 27 books in (finished 23, working on 4). My goal for the year was 52. For the entire year. uhhhhh. I’m already halfway done and it’s not even three full months into 2017. I anticipated a slower reading year, but my schedule was messed up at the last minute, so I wound up in only literature courses this semester. I was shooting for an even mix of religious studies courses and english, but life likes to make it hard on us on occasion.
All that to say, this is going to be a long post. I read 12 books in total over the course of February, with a total of 3,174 pages. I’ll try to be concise in my book reviews so I don’t clog up too much of your time.
Euphoria by Lilly King
“You don’t realize how language actually interferes with communication until you don’t have it, how it gets in the way like an over dominant sense. You have to pay much more attention to everything else when you can’t understand the words. Once comprehension comes, so much else falls away. You then rely on their words and words aren’t always the most reliable thing.”
What it is: Three anthropologists, two of which are married, come together to observe an indigenous tribe in Papua, New Guinea. While there, they struggle with conflict among themselves, against the tribe, and in the midst of the tribe. There is even a steamy little love affair.
What I liked: This novel made me question societal norms. Here in America, monogamy is the answer. No doubt about it. But this book calls that very notion into question. Why do we only have to one partner for the rest of our lives? Ah, because we like control. We like to own items, therefore we objectify the people we love in order to own them. That’s not a concept people readily accept, but this book makes a very good case for taking a second glance at the idea. Personally, I couldn’t imagine not being in a monogamous relationship, but this book helped me understand that it’s not a black and white issue. It’s more of a spectrum.
Moreso, the topic of marriage is only one small issue raised in this novel. It was clearly well researched and thought out. I felt like I really was there in the heat of the island, experiencing a new universe all too myself.
What I disliked: The three main characters are fleshed out almost equally, and the husband is someone who I ended up abhorring. I wish they were all on a level playing field, because I felt the author didn’t give you an option of siding with him. I wanted to have more of an internal conflict with myself in deciding who I was going to root for, because the book sets you up to root for someone and then only gives you two options when it could have given you three.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
“He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.””
What it is: Ever heard the phrase, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s this guy. This is one of Pollan’s written works in which he describes a more mindful approach to eating, which is what I’m working on right now.
What I liked: I’m hesitant to do too much research on food and nutrition. Four years ago, that sent me down a dark path, so I took this book in with a grain of salt. I do think it’s important for me as someone who is in her 20s, living on her own, to make good food choices, while also being mindful of my disordered past. That’s why I was so pleased with this book. Pollan calls for the removal of modern nutrition in favor of one that focuses on the reconnection between human and food.
Our economy thrives on selling people products they don’t really need, and the diet industry is the worst of the bunch. He goes in-depth to provide hearty examples of how this affects us and how to fix it. So often, we take the most recent nutrition advice as truth. I’m guilty of this too. Pollan goes in-depth about how nutritional science is at its roots. We don’t know nearly enough to make any concise remarks yet.
What I disliked: I’m conflicted about this book. I agree with most of the arguments. Food on the consumerist side of things, does not serves us well. It makes us addicted, sick, reliant, and feeling like crap. We don’t want that. But if this book taught me anything, it’s to be wary of any nutritional advice. This whole book is nutritional advice. I’m much more informed, but I’m also much more inclined to do what I feel is right for my body.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
“The wise warrior avoids the battle.”
What it is: The Chinese recognized war as an inevitable burden of humanity. Because of this, a classic strategy was implemented into their military system and this details it all out.
What I liked: This gave me an incredible amount of insight about how much war tactics in the history I have studied was influenced by The Art of War. This book was compiled over two thousand years ago and yet it is still relevant. That’s what I love most about literature- when it is eternal relevant. I consider myself a pacifist (and yes, I recognize this is a very privileged statement to make, but it’s where I fall ideologically and I am grateful for the privilege I have while remembering it and abstaining from letting it take hold of who I am), but even I saw a lot of value in this book. It detailed the importance of consistency, knowledge, respect <– all vital for a strong, devout army.
The basic premise of The Art of War is that: war sucks. But if you’re gonna involve yourself in it, do it right. And I like that. The guidelines are intensely violent, but that is exactly what war is.
What I disliked: I dislike war. Sooooooo. Yeah. I wish this could have included and addendum at the end specifying that war is not the end all be all for how to resolve conflict. But I think I’m in the minority here.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Speak by Laurie Anderson
“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.”
What it is: This it the story of Melinda, a high school student who doesn’t speak unless absolutely necessary. Because of this, she has isolated herself from any opportunity to make friends. There is a reason behind all of this, and as the novel courses on, she finds healing through conversation and art. If you are triggered by stories of rape, I urge you to proceed with caution in reading this book.
What I liked: If I could find a book that described who I was in high school, at least how I felt in high school, this one hit pretty close to home. I was more social than Melinda, but when it came to real and true depth of my experience, I rarely shared what was on my heart. (I have to kind of laugh about this now because I basically spurt out any feeling I have… ever). I related to Melinda, even if I didn’t enjoy relating to her.
This is an important book for teenagers to read because it reminds them that there is, 9 times out of 10, a reason for why someone appears emotionally stunted or socially awkward. There is another layer hiding the truth and we as a society should be more compassionate. We need to stop stigmatizing these people and forcing them into silence.
What I disliked: The ending felt quick and unrealistic. As someone who has endured a very similar experience, I can attest- that’s not how it works! I’m also always hypercritical of books containing issues of rape or eating disorders. I don’t think it’s possible to truthfully fictionalize an account of rape and turn it into a beautiful story. Rape is disgusting and wrong and there is nothing that can change my thoughts. I do think the book did a sufficient job in bringing awareness to it, but there was nothing that made it a stellar, transformative read like I’ve so often heard this novel described as.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Biography by Neil Patrick Harris
“But magic is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s pretty good.”
What it is: The title describes it perfectly. It’s good ol’ NPH’s biography, done in an a-chronological format. Interspersed are notes from various celebrities he’s collaborated with throughout his career.
What I liked: I’m not a huge celebrity aficionado, but NPH is definitely someone I admire. I loved How I Met Your Mother (minus the last season), but I also love NPH for his broadway career. He delved into that thoroughly, and I loved getting the inside scoop on times working with Patti Lupone and Stephen Sondheim. It was also enlightening to read about his experiencing as a gay man in the public eye.
NPH is clever, witty, and fun. This book was precisely that.
What I disliked: Don’t hate me for saying this, but he came off kind of pompous at times. But I think he knows that and he owns it. So that’s not the worst thing in the world.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want skin.”
What it is: Following a tragic war, the wold has taken on a new system to create an ideal society. This society includes controlling genes, brainwashing and conditioning people from before birth, excessive sex and drug use. Everyone is content. But there is more to the story.
What I liked: Many people think this book is a warning book, just like 1984. I read this for my “perils of technology” course, and my insanely intelligent professor countered that idea. This book is thought to be a dystopian future, but in fact, Huxley wanted this book to imagine the future he sought out for the world, following WW1. That’s terrifying, and I love how no one knows it.
What I disliked: I have so many thoughts about this book, and the more I learn about it and the misconceptions basically everyone knows about this book, the more I abhor it. Just on a straight read through, I thought it was different. Not as good as 1984. But find. Now that I know the historical context and background knowledge, it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to get to into my thoughts because I know so many people cherish this book, but I just know I will never recommend the book.
Rating: For pure reading enjoyment, 3 out of 5. The book as a whole, 1 out of 5.
Intuitive Eating: a Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch
“You have forgotten what you really like to eat and instead eat what you think you ‘should’ eat.”
What it is: Get rid of every food rule you know. Restart your relationship with food. Here’s how.
What I liked: This is a compassionate book on establishing your relationship with food. While I’ve progressed immensely in my recovery, I know my relationship with food is not perfect. There are areas of improvement I can clearly see. This book helped me be kind to myself in that journey. It focused specifically on what intuitive eating looks like for someone who has suffered from anorexia before. I appreciated that so much. I read a lot that people are hesitant to begin intuitive eating after having anorexia because they don’t know how to trust their body. I worry about this sometimes soon, but this book renewed my confidence in my body’s abilities.
This book focuses on rejecting the diet mentality and goes in-depth about what that looks like. I loved it so much. This is my new mantra, and I am sticking with it. I think I want to go in-depth more on the blog myself as to what intuitive eating looks like for me, and this is the catalyst for it. I checked this out at the library at school, but I want to own a copy for myself so I can refer back to. If intuitive eating has ever enticed you, this would be a clear read and instructional guide on how to get started.
I can honestly say that, in the two and a half weeks since reading this book, I’ve already noticed a shift in my relationship to food. All for the better. I’m so thankful.
What I disliked: This isn’t bad not he part of the book, I just want to give a disclaimer: this book should not stand in place of seeking professional help. If you feel you’d benefit from visiting a nutritionist, dietitian, physician, therapist, counselor, etc., do so. This book should be an addition to whatever your treatment plan looks like.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
“Perhaps she would have liked to confide in someone about all these things. But how does one express an uneasiness so intangible, one that changes shape like a cloud, that changes direction like the win? She lacked the words, the occasion, the courage.
What it is: The narrative of a young woman as she finds herself in a loveless marriage. She is a romantic, often lost in the worlds depicted in literature, in love with her own imagination. She gets herself into trouble with the legal system and her marital affairs are never quite in order.
What I liked: I don’t know if this is something personal to me, but every time I’ve heard this book, I’ve heard it with a groan attached to the end of the book title. i went in with low low low low expectations. I think that may be in part why I loved this book so much.
I read this book for a class, and I found myself to be in the minority. Everyone thought Emma was this naïve girl and that every misfortune that happened to her was because of her own fault. I had a bit more sympathy with her. If anything, this book left me with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what I have right now. This dives into the power of greed and letting your imagination get the best of you. Learn to be content with what is the current situation. Otherwise, it doesn’t look too good for you.
I know that classic literature scares people off. Sometimes, I understand that completely. However, this is not one of those books that should scare you off. Yes, there is antiquated language used, but it is elegant and comprehensible. It’s a tragic, luxurious tale that literally kept me up at night because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I also wish I was fluent in French because all literature deserves to be read in its original form.
What I disliked: Not much here. It’s a gorgeous novel.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
New Atlantis by Francis Bacon
“We gave ourselves for lost men, and prepared for death. Yet we did lift up our hearts and voices to God above, who “showeth His wonders in the deep”; beseeching Him of His mercy, that as in the beginning He discovered the face of the deep, and brought forth dry land, so He would now discover land to us, that we might not perish.”
What it is: A short story depicting what Bacon thinks is the ideal society. If you haven’t noticed, I’m in an utopian course. Hehe.
What I liked: It’s short and to the point. It also talks about what religion looks like in a perfect world in a way that I highly disagree with, but it opened the dialogue to have that conversation. This book, though short, gave me a new take on the world around me and all of it’s imperfections. It treats power moves very brutally. I like that.
What I disliked: It’s a product of its time. It’s sexist. It marginalizes minorities. It is far from compassionate. That said, it’s good to read these types of written work because they produce a reaction out of the reader.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
“Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”
What it is: Fictionalized memoir of James Joyce’s life. It’s written in a stream of consciousness though, so beware. It’s rough if you’re not used to this type of language.
What I liked: This book is constructed by a genius. You witness an entire man’s life, not just memory by memory, but by transitional period by transitional period. You seem him understand sex and religion, and how everything in this world is a lot more complex than people think initially. And, as the main character ages, so does the maturity of the text. It’s stunning.
What I disliked: I’m a religious studies major, and even I though his digressions about religious revelations got to be a little too much at times. that is me being nitpick though. It’s a stream of conscious, so it’s not like you can choose where it goes. I only wish to one day write half as well as James Joyce.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Feed by M.T. Anderson
“The natural world is so adaptable… So adaptable you wonder what’s natural.”
What it is: Think we live in a consumerist society now? Try having advertisements directly implanted in your head. That’s what this book centers around. A group of kids navigate what it’s like to live with too much technology, and a trip to the moon changes their lives forever.
What I liked: Do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy of the audiobook. A friend of mine recommended it to me to enhance the reading experience of Feed, and boy did it ever. I read along with my copy as the audiobook played along. It was incredible. I think it’s important to read the book while you listen though, because the formatting needs to be seen in order to be understood. All of the advertisements each are accompanied by their own unique jingle or voice. It’s a full throttle production that is worth the listen. I know it might prolong the reading, but it’s well worth it.
What I disliked: At times, the characters are whiny as can be. The speech is tedious at times, but if you fully insert yourself into the teenage mind, it makes it a bit easier.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
“Paradox of marriage: you can never know someone entirely; you do know someone entirely.”
What it is: The life of a marriage, through both perspectives. The first half, you hear all about the husband’s life and how his marriage came into it. The second half, you learn bout the wife’s life. It’s extensive, thorough, and rich.
What I liked: This is a personal preference, but I love reading books that take me through someone’s entire life. In this one, I got to do that twice. I loved the connections midway through. I would read an experience through the husband’s eyes, and then a hundred pages later, I had the chance to read it through the wife’s eyes as well. Loved loved loved that. I also love how right on some of the disputes were. I’ve only been dating my boyfriend for half a year, but I saw so much value in the little tidbits she posted about a successful relationship with communication.
Not only that, but it is just all and all a visually stunning book. Some of the sentences made me stop and go YES you are a beautiful writer, Lauren Groff.
What I disliked: There is a fine line between sparkling writing and coming off as pretentious. At times, I sensed some of the latter.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Woof! That was longgggg. I’m about to hit 4,000 words, so I’ll keep the conclusion short and sweet. Have a beautiful rest of your day everyone!
Questions of the Day:
- Read anything mesmerizing recently?
- How is your reading goal coming along?
- Thoughts on utopian/dystopian literature?