Les Livres de 2012: round 4

Let's get to it.

I couldn't find any recent book photos. So here's Oscar.
36. The BFG by Roald Dahl
I remember LOVING this book when I was a kid. As with the other young adult books I read recently, it felt waaaay shorter than I remembered it. I feel like maybe there used to be 100 more chapters or something. In the end there is really just one adventure that Sophie and the BFG have together, but I swear I remember it lasting forever. 

I still love this book and can't wait for my kids to read it one day. Side note: one of my favorite things about it are the crazy words that Dahl made up for the BFG. "Snozzcumber!" Hilariously great. (Also, in doing some googling for this review I found this amazing list of words that Dahl created for the book. Awesome.)

37. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
In a way, reading this book was poorly-timed... I was ready to completely revamp my life while reading it, but obvious biological reasons require me to NOT start a new project right about now. I loved this book. One day when this baby comes out and is old enough for me to start a new project, I will buy a copy of this and use it as a workbook for getting my shit together in our home. 

I was, however, able to make a few minor tweaks inspired by the book already:
1. I dug out a box of the few framed photos we have and put them out.
2. I made a commitment to learning how to use the gadgets in our house (like all 2700 TV remotes) so that I can fully participate in life. (There is nothing lamer than someone who avoids machines because they don't get them, right? This is what I keep telling myself.)
3. I donated a bunch of things that I was hanging onto because they had been gifts. I think there's a way to be grateful and thankful in the moment of receiving a gift, but later acknowledging that it's not your thing. Or you have too many. Or you live in a small apartment and can't possibly store everything generous people give you. 

P.S. I really want to read Rubin's first book, The Happiness Project, but figure there will be a better time to do it once things settle down and I need motivation and direction in life.

38. An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance
You know what? I really liked this book. It's a mix of Edith Wharton-esque New York and a psychological thriller. Well, "thriller" is a strong word. A foray into psychological practices of the 1800s. There. SOLD YA, DIDN'T I?

This is the story of a married woman in NYC in the 1800s who is depressed. She's treated by a doctor who has new ideas about hypnosis and therapy... and involves a murder, an affair and a really intriguing last scene. The last scene sealed it for me, actually... you should read it just to get there and then email me so we can talk about what was REALLY happening psychologically the whole time.

39. Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor 
I didn't read this in the past month, but I realized that I never wrote it on my list and therefore never reviewed it. Here goes.

Sometimes I think that I should be a minister. Every few years I google "syllabus for seminary" and check it against what I think I should do in my life. The only real issue here is that I don't know what religion I'd be a minister in! I love the community building, the personal relationship building, the text reading and analysis and the writing of thoughtful speeches. The only thing missing is the key to the whole thing: believing fully in a religion.

So this memoir, which is about a minister who leaves ministering in order to teach, was fascinating to me. It pretty much convinced me that I shouldn't go to seminary, but was really great about pointing out different ways for people to serve a similar role in other communities. If you're thinking about religion or spiritual communities lately, you might want to check this out.

40. A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates
I saw Joyce Carol Oates at the New Yorker festival last weekend and I will admit that pretty much the only reason I went to that event was because she's so famous. What a cool thing to hear from someone who has written so much that almost any high schooler has read one of her short stories! 

She was quiet and demure and spoke thoughtfully about her latest novel, but it was the mention of her husband's death several years ago and the memoir she wrote about it that caught my attention. I must have read an excerpt of this somewhere when it first came out because I recognized the first few chapters when I downloaded a sample onto my Kindle. Then I devoured the book over a couple of days... 

I don't know what to say about it other than, when you're in the mood for something all-engrossing, this is a great book to pick up. Oddly enough, though it was sad in an obvious sort of way, the only time I got near tears was when she described the death of their cat shortly after her husband's death. I recommend.

41. Peace from the Broken Pieces by Iyanla Vanzant
Though she is a little cray-cray, I have very much enjoyed watching the show "Iyanla Fix My Life" on the OWN network. She gets up in people's faces and demands they respect each other. This has kicked off many an internal conversation for me, such as: "In what ways am I passive-aggressive with others?" and "What can I do about conflict if the other person (people?) are not ready to deal with it?" and "Why won't Oprah just be my best friend too?"

This book is Vanzant's memoir of sorts and describes her life and journey. Some of it is a little much, spiritually-speaking, for me. But lots of it was helpful and inspiring, particularly as I prepare to become a parent and think actively how not to pass my patterns or issues on to my children. Again, you gotta be in the right frame of mind for this book to be useful to you, but I definitely recommend it if you're needing this kind of thing.

And when you're needing to crack your shit up? Read this book. I read it in a day and laughed so hard I cried in many places. You can just hear Kaling's voice while you're reading and it nicely mimics her new TV show, The Mindy Project. It's not a deep read but sometimes that is exactly what you're in the mood for. Hilarious.


Jessica said...

Happier at Home sounds like just what I need right now, so thanks for that review. We need to discuss Inconvenient Wife! I'm going to reread the last 10 pages and then email you. (or you can email me first if you find yourself sitting around with nothing better to do!)

EricaRW said...

oh mai GAWD this made me want to re-read the whole Roald Dahl collection!! Except 'Witches'. That book terrified me. Strangely I also just finished Mindy Kaling's book... loved it, so funny.