12 Books, 12 Months: Month 6&7 Round Up

Here we go – two months’ worth of reviews all in one round-up – and just in time for May!

Amber read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! on her physicist husband’s recommendation – and saw much of her husband in Feynman’s funny, thoughtful, and fascinating autobiography [review].

Angel read Los Cuadernos De Don Rigoberto, the last Spanish language book from his list.  Vargas Llosa’s prose was alternately lyrical and boring, making for a frustrating read, but Angel isn’t ready to write off Vargas Llosa yet – especially not now that he’s won the Nobel Prize [review].

Anj listened to Unaccustomed Earth, and enjoyed the 8 vignettes enough to read the book, finding in each short story “a small facet to the complexities of our lives” [review].  She also read The Art of Racing in the Rain, the story of a family whose “life goes to the darkest places and struggles to come out the other side” – all told through the eyes of the family dog.  While it was heavy with metaphor, Anj found it to be a delightfully cathartic reading [review]

I was desperate for escape this winter, and so read Reflections on a Marine Venus, a luxurious sort-of memoir of Lawrence Durrell’s days on Rhodes after World War II.  I came away with more impressions of ancient sea battles and wine-drenched afternoons than hard facts – just what I needed [review].  I also read Love in the Time of Cholera – the April pick for my in person book club – and while I had problems with many aspects of the novel, I really enjoyed the depiction of old love and of the compromises and joys of half a century of marriage [review].

Grace read The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic, a “collection of small, heart-breaking stories” about the patients institutionalized at Willard State Hospital.  It was a difficult, moving read with a strong anti-psychology bent.  Her review reminded me of my experience reading The Girls Who Went Away – similarly challenging and compelling.

Jill read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and realized that perhaps she does like epistolary novels after all.  “The Guernsey Literary Blah Blah” was an enjoyable – if slight – novel about the Nazi occupation of Guernsey, which featured a sweet love story between two refreshingly ordinary people [review]. It sounds like this was a much more enjoyable read than I’m Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog, a collection of humorous autobiographical essays in the style of David Sedaris. Unfortunately, “she’s no David Sedaris”, and many of the stories are more painful than humorous [review].

Meghan read The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of ‘Proper’ English, from Shakespeare to South Park, “an entertaining introduction to the history of the ‘rules’ of English language and those that attempted to develop those rules.”  Meghan appreciated that the author brings a complicated “linguistic argument down from the often unavailable rhetoric of academics and into the hands of those who use the language every day” [review].

Mel read The Happiness Project, which rekindled her interest in writing fiction, and made her think about the nature of happiness – specifically that “Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.”  The author came to this conclusion after systematically implementing a series of resolutions intended to improve her outlook on life.  Mel felt the concept was a bit tired, but found herself feeling happier after reading it [review].  She also read How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which she appreciated but didn’t enjoy.  The novel wasn’t truly science fiction – “the ‘science fictional’ concepts…are strictly a metaphor” in a story starring a time machine repairman in an incomplete universe [review].

Rebekah gave up on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell after 8 hours of the audiobook and at least the “eleventy-seventh” John.  She enjoyed the author’s voice, but found the complexity of the book poorly suited to the audiobook format [review].  Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated was a great deal more fun, though it dealt with difficult material from the author’s life.  Rebekah admired [the author’s] “ability to say ‘I will share this with you, stranger, and give you the summary. But keep your pity out of my way.'” which was “good for the sake of her mostly comic memoir” [review].

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