Friday, April 1, 2011

reading recap: march.

Lots of good reads this month...

Book: The Imperfectionists
Finished: Early March

As a journalism major who graduated right at the moment print media started to die, I suppose I'll never really get the chance to work for the newspapers I've seen portrayed in All the President's Men and State of Play. I'll probably never have much of a role in the actual printing of the page or in the hustle and bustle of a daily newsroom. Most of the time, I'm okay with that, and when I'm not? Well, there are books like Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists. Short stories are tricky things to me; they can go so wrong so easily. Rachman pulls it off, though, taking readers through the rise and fall of an international newspaper in Rome, each story detailing the life and work of one of the paper's many quirky characters. I read a lot of short stories this month, and their very nature makes them a lot slower reads for me. I picked up Rachman's book throughout the month of February, finally finishing it all in March. I was sad to see it go. I don't think the book is just for nerdy newspaper lovers like me, though I suspect fellow journalism majors will love it most.


Book: Room
Finished: Early March

I've been dying to read this book since it caught my eye in December, but I had held off (unable to afford the hardback edition). A coworker came to my rescue (I am an unabashed book borrower), and I am so glad. Room is told entirely from the perspective of a precocious five year old named Jack, a narrative that could easily come across as cheesy or contrived. Instead, Donoghue brings the story to life through Jack. As the daughter of a preschool teacher, I find his voice to be entirely accurate, especially based on the traumatic premise of the book. This book had the potential to be thriller-esque, but the writing really is far too beautiful to fall into that category. I probably wouldn't recommend this for the faint of heart, but for those of us who enjoy darker stories on occasion, I'd offer up Room as required reading. (I finished it in less than 48 hours; I literally had difficulty putting it down.)


Book: Olive Kitteridge
Finished: Mid-March

This was this month's book club pick (I was host). It's another collection of short stories, each woven together by the presence of Strout's ornery and intricate Olive Kitteridge, a school teacher and resident of coastal Crosby, Maine. Olive Kitteridge was definitely different from some of our typical book club fare, but I was grateful. Strout is a gifted writer, and I found myself becoming attached to so many of the characters in the stories, particularly lovable Henry Kitteridge, Olive's doting and dedicated husband. This wasn't light reading, though; in fact, I came away from most of the stories feeling a little bit depressed, particularly saddened by the prevalence of so many unhappy marriages in the little seaside town. Strout doesn't shy away from the tough subjects. Most of the stories revolve around grief, aging, suicide, and marital strife, making them a little bit hard to swallow. Olive Kitteridge is well-done literature, though, and I'm grateful to say I've read it.


Book: One Thousand Gifts
Finished: Late March

A while ago, my Internet friend Kari tweeted, "Why are pretty words so often mistaken for deep ones?" I liked that and thought about it a lot, due mostly to the fact that at the time, I was reading Ann Voskamp's very pretty words, and I wanted to know if I liked them because they were pretty or because they were deep. After finishing the book last Saturday, I can honestly say that One Thousand Gifts is more than just a collection of pretty and poetic words. It has the potential to be life-changing. Maybe that's not due so much to the fact that Voskamp's words are deep in and of themselves. Maybe it's really because the lessons she's teaching her reader are old, ancient even, lessons we've just forgotten or never actually put into practice.

It took me over a month to read One Thousand Gifts, but I'm not apologizing for it. I don't really think it was meant to be read quickly. (Her words are different, part poetry, part prose, so there were times I was reading paragraphs over and over again. Perhaps that was the point?) I've blogged about it in bits and pieces, and I've no doubt you've come across readers of Voskamp's blog and book all over the world wide web. Maybe you're sick of hearing about the book's success, or maybe you're one of those women who have found her words on gratitude and grace and intimacy with the Father controversial. I'm begging you to reconsider. I don't normally jump on book bandwagons or read what others are reading just to say I have (I am a proud Twilight virgin, and I intend to stay that way). I assure you that I wouldn't recommend Voskamp's book unless I truly meant it. And I do. I have highlighted, underlined, and dogeared her words. I have read them outloud to my husband, to my mother, and to my aunt. I have started collecting my own gifts, and I have begun to recognize the grace given me each moment. I'm sure it shouldn't take a book for that to be the case, but sometimes it does. One Thousand Gifts was a wake-up call to God's grace, and I'm grateful for it. I plan on recommending it to pretty much everyone I know. I'd buy a copy for all of you if I could. Really. I mean it. Read it, but do so with an open mind. Then come back, and tell me what you think. This is another one of those I just wish I could sit and talk about for hours.


Finished: Late March

Really, I wanted to read this, Revenge of the Radioactive Lady. I spotted it at my favorite (semi)local bookstore, but again, couldn't splurge on the hardback price. So I went to my local library, where they, sadly, didn't have a copy. But I was determined, so I picked out another book by the same author, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, only to find out that she's a professor at my beloved FSU. How did I not know this? And how many of her book signings have I missed? 

I didn't mean to read yet another collection of short stories this month, but it seemed destined to be true. I think you have to be a certain type of person to appreciate short stories. I'm one of those readers who, if you do things right, becomes extremely attached to characters and places and plotlines, so short stories are tricky for me. I have to remind myself to appreciate them for what they are: glimpses. If you can do that, I think you'll like this collection of Stuckey-French's. She's witty, and her characters are quirky (weird?) and often get into some pretty hilarious and heart-breaking situations. The opening story, "Junior," is my personal favorite.


Marli and Memory said...

i LOVE, LOVE, LOVE One Thousand Gifts. i read about it on your blog, annie, and i saw it at the library so i almost immediately picked it up. i'm so glad i did. i completly agree with you that it must be read s-l-o-w-l-y. :) i'm trying to limit myself to one chapter a day, even though i hunger for more. Ann is a gifted writer. i'm loving her book... it's so thought provoking... and encouraging too.

i want to buy a copy for ALL my buddies too! lol


Staley Mc said...

I've been wanting to read the Imperfectionists but wasn't sure how it was, I may have to read it now! I've also been dying to read One Thousand Gifts, everyone I know who has read it loved it. Hope you have a lovely weekend!

Jessica said...

annie, will you tell us how you go about your reading? i know we all have the same amount of time in a day, but how exactly do you use your time to fit in reading? like do you read a little here and there or do you set aside chunks of time or what? i am needing a system or something to get myself back on track with my reading. do you forego tv or...i don't know...will you help a girl out?

Jennifer said...

Wow. You read a lot! I need to do so more often. How many books did I read last month? A whopping number of 1! haha. Which one was your fav? I'm looking for a new read!

Laken said...

I always love your book posts. Jotting down titles!

Sugar Mama said...

Olive Kitteridge was not what I expected. And, like you, I felt depressed and sad while reading a majority of the book.

Room has been on my list since it first came out. I only check out from the library though, and the waiting list for that one is LONG. Guess it will be a while before I get to it.

Just ordered 1000 Gifts. I'll let you know what I think about it when done. In fact, I didn't read your review on it because I like to go into a book not knowing a whole lot of what it's about.

monster cakes said...

I've been wanting to recommend One Thousand Gifts as our next book club read, but I was on the fence knowing little about it. Thanks for the tip! I'm totally going to push for this one now!

Kari said...

I read The Imperfectionists at some point last year. I liked it, too. One or two stories didn't do it for me, but overall I really liked it. I have also read Olive Kitteridge. I have to say that I didn't care for it because I felt like there was no redemption. Like you, it made me sad.

Room is one I am not in a place to read right now.

And, you know, I wasn't specifically thinking of Ann Voskamp when I said that, but when I have read her blog, I tend to not see what the big deal is with her. (Also, her blog plays music, which drives me nuts.) So it's funny that you made that connection, because (only based on the blog) it would be an apt one for me.

RSF said...

A list of books to add to my summer reading list. Heard great things about Room. Books are awesome.