I like to start out each new reading year with a clean slate, so I decided to do some mini-reviews of all the books that, for whatever reason, I ended up not writing about more fully this year. It’s a mixed bag — there are a few books I just didn’t have much to say about, and there are others that I had many thoughts but never got around to writing them down. There are several that I just felt “meh” about, and several others that I loved.
If you have more questions about any of these, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman – Ex Libris is a lovely, must read collection of essays by one of my favorite authors. In the brief book, Fadiman writes about her lifelong love of books, tackling the questions that vex most readers – if and how to combine libraries with your spouse, the odd bookshelves for idiosyncratic passions, and the proper treatment of books. This is a lovely book that I highly recommend.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – I got really excited when the first trailer for Baz Luhrman’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby came out, so I decided to re-read the book. Fitzgerald’s writing is even more lovely than I remember – sparse but evocative and rich – but the plot still doesn’t do much for me. I am, however, even more excited to see it on the big screen. I think Leonardo DiCaprio is going to be a wonderful Gatsby.
Bossypants by Tin Fey (audio book) – I was prepared to fall in love with Bossypants, but for whatever reason it just didn’t grab me. I really enjoyed many of Fey’s stories, particularly those near the end that talk about her career and challenges as a woman writer, but on the whole this one wasn’t so great that I felt compelled to write or talk about it much… trust me, I’m super bummed about that!
The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone – If you are at all curious to get a basic lesson about mass media and journalism theory, then you must pick up this book. Gladstone, a reporter with NPR’s On the Media, partnered with artist John Neufeld to write a graphic nonfiction book about the state of media. Because of my background, a lot of what Gladstone covered was a bit of a review, but even I learned some new things. If you happen to be one of those people who likes to talk about (or insult) The Media, you owe it to yourself (and those around you) to pick up this book.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – I read Seraphina late in the evening during the October Read-a-Thon, so I don’t know that I have much to say about it other than it was quite fun. It reminded me a lot of one of my television addictions of the year, Merlin, which made it even more enjoyable. If you like good YA fantasy, then this is one to check out.
Pitch Perfect by Mickey Rapkin – If there is one book I am most sad I didn’t write a full review of on this list, it would be Pitch Perfect (the book that the totally hilarious movie of the same name is based on). In the book, journalist Mickey Rapkin follows three college a cappella groups during one season to understand “the quest for collegiate a cappella glory.” My sister and I were going to read this one together for a sister’s book club, but Jenny (who doesn’t normally like nonfiction) thought sections were boring and didn’t finish it. I thought it was delightful and recommend it for nerds everywhere.
Matched, Crossed and Reached by Ally Condie – Over Christmas, I needed some books to read that would be fun without taking too much brain energy. My sister recommended the three titles in Ally Condie’s Matched series, which I ended up racing through in just a couple of days. They weren’t perfect – I thought the love triangle was pretty lame and the rebellion against The Society is pretty reminiscent of the plot in The Hunger Games series – but overall they were pretty enjoyable.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – I am a sucker for a good epistolary novel, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette did not disappoint me. The book is, ostensibly, a series of documents – e-mails, F.B.I documents, discussions with a psychiatrist – that try to put together the story of how 15-year-old Bee Fox’s mother, Bernadette, disappeared. The novel is quite funny, and the mystery of Bernadette’s disappearance is well-paced. It was quite fun.
As Texas Goes… by Gail Collins – Picked As Texas Goes… on a whim from my local library while I was exploring the new nonfiction shelves. In the book, Collins looks at how the people and politics of Texas have “hijacked” the American agenda, everything from education to banking deregulation. Although Collins makes some compelling points, the book felt unbalanced to me, almost unwilling to give Texas/Texans any credit for successes. At the same time, I’m not sure being balanced was the point of the book, so maybe I am craving something Collins wasn’t trying to do in the first place.