Les livres de 2010, round 2

My reading since the last one of these posts has been a little scattered. Part of that is the fact that I'm now in a writing class, which requires me to do a fair bit of reading and workshopping each week. Another (significant) part of this is that I happen to have stumbled upon a million books in a row that weren't worth reading. Even though I only officially finished reading these three books since January, I started at least a dozen more.

The good news for you is that the ones I'm about to write about were the really good ones. Without further fanfare, here are the next few books in the 2010 read-a-thon:

4. When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom
I have a hard time walking into the library, picking up my books on the reserved shelf, and walking back out. The night I picked up this book went a little something like this:
"Jen, are you coming to the happy hour?"
"Oh yeah, I just have to pick up one book at the library." Mentally noted that ONE BOOK was the limit for my already packed-bag.
Got to library. Chose 4 books in a crazy "this stuff looks too good to pass up!" frenzy. Arrived at the bar 30 minutes later as if I just got out of study hall.

I was attracted to this book because I spent a lot of time last year reading historical fiction and I loved it, the way you simultaneously learn something tangible about the world, all the while being entertained by a compelling storyline. Yalom's book was exactly this- a novel about a possible friendship between Nietzsche and Josef Breuer. Breuer was one of the first doctors to use the "talking treatment," what we know as modern therapy today.

The story took place in 19th century Vienna (and perhaps inspired my Vienna-driven-30th-bday wish) and I just loved it. What a cool thing to have two high-powered philosopher types trying therapy on each other. Nice one, Irvin Yalom.

5. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Another one of the rando-grabs from the front table at the library. I read this book in a day. Well, to be more specific, in a morning subway ride, evening subway ride, and two-hour lounge on the couch one night after work.

I wrote a little about this in a previous post, but McEwan nailed this book for me. You know while reading it that it's a tiny book. You can feel, as you flip through the pages, that the story is not going to be resolved. Or, I should say, not resolved to the depth that you want it to be.

This love story is such a tragedy; COMMUNICATE with your partners, I beg of you! I was so pissed at the characters (as I always am with Romeo and Juliet), but the story rang true. There was an especially poignant end that zoomed through the characters' lives and told what happened for the next 60 years after the initial scene. And this is really how life works, isn't it? We sweat and slave over one moment or one relationship and the reality is that we go on to lead long lives afterwards. Each day lived lowers the percentage of time we spent on the relationship that haunts us. Smart stuff.

6. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I'm about to go on some kind of adjective-heavy rampage about this book. I read McEwan's book at the beginning of February and then a month passed before another book stuck. And boy, did it stick. I'd reserved this one at the library because I had been so in love with The Time Traveler's Wife (though, needless to say, NOT the movie) and I had curious expectations for this one.

HOLY CRAP. Here is what you need to do. Start coughing. Call your boss. You are too sick for work. Go buy this book. Put a take-out restaurant on speed dial and churn through this 400-page ghost story all day. It is seriously good, guys.

As someone in a writing class, I was in awe at how Niffenegger builds this elaborate plot. It's effortless. You can feel a novel being created and you can feel why it's a novel and not a short story. This is a big story! It needs 400 pages to be told! And even at 400 pages, I wished there was more. I was literally sad to read because I knew there were less pages left to discover each day. And the truth is that I read this in 3 days flat.

The story is about 20-year-old twin girls who inherit an apartment in London from an aunt who has just died. There are some strict conditions to them getting the apartment (they have to live in it for one year minimum, etc) and they head over for a year of parents-free living. Cue ghosts, cemeteries, twisted minds, historical figures (Skersh, the whole thing happens near Rosetti's grave!) and awesomely complex characters. I cannot recommend this book more.

Once again, books prove the theories of love. When you know, you know, and you read the thing in .5 seconds flat. When it's not connecting, it's not working and you should move onto something else. I have about 15 minutes once I get in bed before I'm too sleepy to read and I'm not going to spend my accumulated few hours of reading per week on something that doesn't interest me. (All that said, there were nights when I was up well into the AMs with Her Fearful Symmetry).

And so the reading continues. What are you guys dying over in the subway lately? I always check out the books in the comments, so... leave 'em!

1 comment:

Erica said...

I'm sad that no one has left a message on this post, so even though I don't have much to add, I want to contribute.

i'm currently reading lots of articles/books about blogs, media, and communication (which i find interesting but most people wouldn't!) ... but in my "down time", I'm reading Anita Shreve. she's a new englander, and her books usually take place in New England. I like the way her characters are developed, and I'm always sad when a story ends. "The Pact" was a good (albeit heartbreaking) story, and i'm currently reading "Testimony" (although I'm not far enough into it to have an opinion).

Check her out, i'd be interested to hear what you think!