My Reading Month: July 2014

For my new job (another story for another post), I read. A lot. Partly because the people I work with read TONS. I mean, serious, serious tons of reading. It’s astounding.

I’m trying to keep up, and it’s a fun challenge. I write, and I love to read, obviously, but to be disciplined at it, to keep up with new releases and be part of the bookish conversation, takes work, and it’s work I’m enjoying doing.

So here’s a snapshot of what I’ve been reading this month. And if you read something wonderful, do tell in the comments – I love recommendations!

Books

  • Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents:  I’ve been meaning to read this ever since I heard Julia Alvarez give a craft talk at ODU, and I finally got down to it. And I’m so glad I did! This book was a fantastic look at the divergence of cultures and pasts that come when a family leaves their home country and settles into a new one.
  • Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light:  This was my first Danticat, and I have to say, I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would. The revolving narrator never left me in one story long enough to satisfy, and that felt more like playing coy and less like a narrative strategy. That said, the writing was gorgeous, and the stories that I did get plunked down in, I wanted to stay with – they were compelling, and that’s what made the revolving narration so frustrating.
  • Clare Ashton’s That Certain Something:  This was my romance novel of the month, and it was lovely airplane reading. I gobble down romance novels for fun, and I’m so glad I’ve started doing that because they’re highly enjoyable. This one is about a girl named Pia who is looking for the girl of her dreams, and then she finds her – through happenstance – only to have their paths cross again in a way that’s painful and complicated for both of them.
  • Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls:  Oh my goodness. This book took me completely by surprise. I read it for a Book Riot article, and it lulled me in with the first couple chapters, making me think these girls would be spoiled and irritating and protected, and then – WHAM – they’re not and all Hell breaks loose, and it gets intense and brutal very fast. This book was great – well-written, a fantastic look at a certain point in history – and it sort of proved to me that I can take the brutality. This book helped show me what kind of reader I can be, and that was good for me.
  • Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck:  Oh, Nora, you left us too soon. This book was fantastic. It was a collection of essays, musings, meditations, whatever, about being a woman. It covered everything from beauty, to parenting, to real estate, to food. I found myself inspired by some parts, nostalgic over others, and feeling altogether sad that Nora Ephron is no longer around to write and make movies, and altogether grateful that we ever had her around at all. I highly recommend this one.
  • Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love:  I’ve been hearing about this collection for yeeeeears. It seemed like every fiction workshop I sat in during grad school, someone lifted up Carver as a model of the short story, particularly as a model for working with point of view and unreliability, so I’m glad I finally got down to reading this collection so that I could have the experience.

Articles

  • In big reading news, the New Yorker has opened its archives until the end of summer. They’ve been around since 1925. That’s a lot of material to get through, but luckily, if you follow them on social media, they’ll help you find some great gems to read from the archives. This is like the Disney Vault, y’all. Get in there and get reading!
  • In 2012, the cruise ship Costa Concordia, struck a reef off the coast of Italy and capsized, killing 32 passengers and crew members. This photo essay from The Atlantic shows the efforts and work to right the ship and re-float it so it could make a final journey to a scrap yard in Genoa. The photos are insane, haunting, and impressive.
  • It’s summer, and lest you take that barbecue you’re throwing or attending for granted, Blake Lively has written a fantastic, Renaissance-inspired breakdown of the summer barbecue. (Thanks, Mary, for the link!)
  • If you have children, or you’ve babysat for babies, you’ve likely read Goodnight Moon. Probably 345 times. But Aimee Bender wants us to be careful before dismissing it as a formulaic, run-of-the-mill baby book. She proposes some good things writers can learn from the classic book. My favorite take-away sentence:  “For writers, this is all such a useful reminder. Yes, move around in a structure. But also float out of that structure.”
  • Some of you know that my novel-in-progress features a cast of seniors citizens, and so when I read this article in The New Yorker about the rise of millennials dubbing themselves “grandmas,” and the fact that real live grandmas are protesting this trend, it was a perfect companion to the writing I do each day on my book.

9 thoughts on “My Reading Month: July 2014

  1. I have not read any of those novels.

    I could really use a good novel right now.

    I’ve been reading more non-fiction, and it’s been a situation where I read three books in a row on a specific topic.

    So I did three on Neanderthal DNA (no clue…) a few months back, and now I’m reading three on the brain. Incidentally, on the latter topic, V.S. Ramachandran’s “Phantoms in the Brain” is fantastic…

    1. Wow, what interesting (and a little random) reading! My wife recently read Brain on Fire, and she liked that. Have you encountered that one?

      I do the same thing – I go through periods of nonfiction (mostly food-oriented), and then I need a novel. I’m currently reading Lean In – I think I might need a really delicious novel after that. Not that I’m not enjoying Lean In – I am, immensely – but I’ll need fiction after this.

    1. Haha, thanks, Christie! My new job is similar to my old one – I now work for Book Riot (unfortunately not hiring currently), which is the parent site for Food Riot. I have a post going live about that on Monday.

      I’ll be interested to hear how you like Carver. I had mixed feelings.

  2. I recently heard an interview with Lisa See where she was talking about her reading habits–she said that when she reads a novel she starts with the first chapter, then reads the last one, then reads the second chapter, then the second-to-last, and so on. When she meets herself in the middle, if she likes the book she then reads the second half again but in sequence. Have you ever heard of such a thing???
    (And–I really miss Nora Ephron!)

    1. Wow – I have never heard of such a thing! (Although in the vein of Nora Ephron, it reminds me of Harry from When Harry Met Sally, always reading the last chapter first.) But I don’t think I could get down with reading that way.

  3. I’m noting all the books in my ever-growing list of Things I Must Read; Shanghai Girls is already on it, so that one may get priority.
    Do you love the new Blake Lively/Preserve website? I kinda do. Like quite a bit.
    I loved – LOVED – that New Yorker article on grandmas. I spent a lot of time with grandmas in Florida (where we vacation, roughly 86% of the population is over the age of 75), and when you’re around them for that length of time, you realize truly that they’re the best possible subjects for a book. Someday when i have actual time and focus (so, years from now) i have an idea for a series of short stories about old people in florida, and i may actually see what comes of it. 🙂 Someday.

    1. I always loved visiting my grandparents in Florida – it really was an interesting population/demographic shift down there. And I’m finding the most AMAZING videos of senior citizen dance teams to use as inspiration.

      I haven’t really clicked around the Preserve website, but you’re the second person to recommend it to me, so I think I must!

  4. This has been an open tab since you posted it, and I now have more books in my Amazon cart saved for later. Thanks, Staves! Also, Bloom. Swoon.

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