This post ran earlier today with the wrong reviews and titles... an overall mess. Here it is, as intended. Carry on.
Jordan bought me this book for my birthday, with strict instructions not to finish it in 24 hours. Done, but just barely. I finished Where'd You Go Bernadette in a couple of days; it drew me in pretty quickly, and once it had my attention, it just wouldn't let go. Maria Semple was a writer for Arrested Development, and you can tell. Where'd You Go moves along at a quick-witted pace, told in letters and emails and invoices and snippets of conversations. I think ordinarily, all of the voices could go terribly wrong, but instead, Semple beautifully -- and funnily -- weaves together the story of a mother and daughter bond that gets stronger in spite of the obstacles. If you're looking for a Mother's Day gift (it's never too early, right?), this is the one. It'd made a good addition to your beach bag over spring break too.
My boss gave me tickets to Cheryl Strayed's appearance at FSU as my Christmas bonus, and I loved sitting and listening to her share her Wild experiences in person. I'll be honest: Wild -- our book club pick for February -- wasn't at first what I anticipated. I found Cheryl a little unlikable in the opening chapters, which I now attribute to the fact we're not much alike. How she handled her grief after her mother's death may be different than how I handle tragedy, and I've never faced a tragedy like that. When I attended her reading, I was halfway through the book, and although I loved her writing, her story, I was having trouble loving her. That changed when I heard her in person, when I realized I don't have to dislike what's different from me. Sure, some of how she handled her grief -- sleeping around, shooting heroine, hiking the Pacific Coast Trail -- is absolutely foreign to me. But isn't that why we read? Don't we read to experience things we haven't or may never experience ourselves? I've decided yes, and I'm so glad I did. I wound up really enjoying Wild, and I absolutely loved our book club's discussion of it. Some girls weren't big fans; they couldn't understand dropping everything and hiking a thru-trail with little to no appropriate planning. I think, though, you have to really appreciate Wild for what it is, and you have to appreciate, even love, Cheryl, if not for her experiences, then for her honesty in telling them.
I've been waiting to get my hands on another John Green book since I finished The Fault in Our Stars. (I wasn't a fan of his short story in the Let It Snow holiday collection, but I've decided you can't really judge a writer by their holiday musings. The holidays are schmaltzy, the end.) I borrowed An Abundance of Katherines from the library (a Lenten practice, more to come) and read it in an evening. I only say that because, for me, some books you wade through, you enter in slowly. Others, you dive in, and you don't stop until you're done. The time it takes me to read a book doesn't so much indicate the quality of the book, but it's certainly an indication of what type of book it is, and so: I finished An Abundance of Katherines in no time. Some of it was a little reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (footnotes, child prodigy, math problems), but it's light-hearted and fun, a great look back into the joys and pains of high school and breakups and first loves.
My February reading choices ran the gamut. Bringing Up Bebe falls safely in the "parenting" category, and since I am soundly without child, you might be wondering why. To which I say: Curiosity. Anthropology. A fascination with anything European. (I also tried reading French Women Don't Get Fat this month, but I didn't finish.) Anyway, Bringing Up Bebe is one of those books you don't need to rush to read in one setting. It's chapters are easily digestible, and this one you can put down without fear of losing your reading rhythm. I liked the book; I thought it was interesting and offered a fairly unique take on parenting rituals near and far. I'm not a parent, so nothing made me mad or got my panties in a twist; if I had kids, I might think differently, but I'm a completely neutral party, so I found most of it helpful and lots of it seemingly common sensical. (Basically, don't let your child take over your life.) Sure, occasionally Pamela Druckerman came across as a little obnoxious, but what did you really expect from an American living in Paris? As far as parenting advice goes, my favorite was this French idea of the pause, this idea that babies understand what we're saying, and if we just wait a minute before rushing to their side, they'll either a) solve the problem themselves, or b) let us know it's something that needs our attention. It's a pretty fascinating look at cultural differences, both in terms of parenting and of health care. I recommend, whether you're a parent or not. (And I think this would make a great book club book for the discussion alone.)