2015 [in books]

I thought I’d seen a sorry amount of theater in 2015, then I looked at the list of books I’d read in the course of the year. Can 5 books even be called a list? How sad that’s all I made it through!

But if I think about it, though the number of books I read is low, my eyes were not short for words these last twelve months.

THE INTERESTINGS – 2015 started off with cold weekends bundled up in my apartment hot coffee, an indulgent breakfast and a good book. Meg Wolitzer’s contemporary story of six friends whose lives and life experiences span decades and criss-cross each other in every imaginable way. Wolitzer’s ability to juggle so many characters yet make each unique and recognizable create for a truly ensemble piece of a novel. Word is there’s a film version in the works, as would be expected for a novel so well received.

WORLD GONE BY – A copy of Dennis Lehane’s latest novel appeared on my desk one day, completely unsolicited and unannounced. So I did what any self-respecting bookworm would do: I read it! Lehane also wrote the books that became some well-known dark films: Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island, and World Gone By is a similar mystery. This time, Lehane heads back a few decades and revisits a character featured in two other books. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t read those others, but though it did fill in some otherwise boring train commutes to work, I found this one generally forgettable.

BEAUTIFUL RUINS – I’d been hearing about this novel for quite a while without ever really knowing much about it. It just kept popping up on my radar, so finally I picked up a copy. A fictional narrative plopped into the middle of the very real production of Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s epic film, the book is equally intimate and grand in scope as it takes the reader from a remote Italian cove to the midwest and back again.

THE ALCHEMIST – I picked up this best-seller for work, as we released a film about the author over the summer. Apparently it’s a fable that has changed the lives of millions, and I found nothing objectionable about it in that regard. My life has already been changed by a book, so the lessons and revelations of the story of a young man in search of meaning and love didn’t exactly land as philosophical bombshells, but I can understand why for some people this is a guiding force of a novella.

AMERICANAH – On the suggestion of a friend, I picked this one up towards the end of the year after taking a book hiatus in favor of Pocket-ed articles and digging out of an ever-growing pile of magazines. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel set in Nigeria, and the perspective paired with the elegant prose and timely themes turned this one into a paperback I carried in my purse in order to log a few pages whenever I could.

A few years ago, I became so overwhelmed by the number of books I owned that I’d never read (it’s a sickness, me in bookstores) that one January day I set out a stack of books that would be my reading list for the year. And it worked – it gave me a focus and as I finished one book, I knew exactly which one to pick up next. As I look at a shelf of unread books now, including All The Light We Cannot See,  The Art of Fielding, and several familiar authors – Elizabeth Gilbert, Jonathan Tropper, Ian McEwan – I’ll do the same for 2016, and maybe do better to get through more than five this year!

2014 [in books]

While I’m proud of the bazillion movies I watched this year (and promise I’ve posted all I’m going to post about them!), I realize as I look back at the list of books I read just what all that time in front of a screen cost me. I have only have nine books on the list for 2014; in 2013, I managed to fit in fifteen. Still not terribly impressive given all the time I had off that year, but better than this year’s sad showing.

I ascribe this year’s low number to a few factors: for one, I find myself in a constant state of content over-saturation. There is always a new magazine to read, a new article to Pocket, a new podcast to obsess over. With all that content plus the books on my never-dwindling To Read list, it’s a wonder I got through nine books at all.

Also keeping me from kicking my reading into high gear this year was an uncertainty of what to pick up next. I’m not great at reading a book I’m not completely into – I started and gave up on at least a couple novels by the end of the year, just because I couldn’t get into them (and had so much other great content, see above, to keep me occupied). Must do better to curate my reading pile for 2015.

That said, with the exception of The Goldfinch, I wholly enjoyed what I read this year. The Signature of All Things was easily a high-point; Wally Lamb continues to be a favorite novelist; and Joan Didion’s memoir of grief found me at a particularly vulnerable moment this year, making it that much more poignant. Read on for what else I read in the last year. Continue reading “2014 [in books]”

Me & Liz

I’m going into this post knowing full well that instead of writing about what’s inspiring me about writing, I should be…you know, writing. But you wonderful readers are kind enough to delight in my delights, and so it would be unfair of me to keep the events of this week to myself.

I adore one Elizabeth Gilbert, she of Eat, Pray, Love fame. The book was profoundly impactful in my life, not in the least because I discovered it at the very moment I was in a place where I could fully receive it. More than that, her words have stayed with me like good friends since first discovering them, there for me when I need them.

That best known book, however, is not the only bit of Gilbert and her work I adore. I am not some fair-weather Liz Gilbert lover. No sir, not me.

My adoration extends to Committed, a book Gilbert herself admits she just needed to “get out there” and, while no EPL, is still incredibly insightful and smart and dare I say liberating for those of us perpetually single and in no rush to pair off.

My adoration extends to her TED talk on genius, 20 minutes of conversation that I listen to on a monthly basis, if not more often. It is easily my favorite talk on the site (trailed only by Brene Brown’s on vulnerability) and I may have it playing in the background as I write this.

My adoration extends to her social media presence, her daily posts on embracing this world around us and being an active participant in it (currently balanced with a fierce passion for the World Cup); her unabashed love for a great curse word – or two, or three – and a great meal; and the essays and interviews that pop up here and there, each an opportunity to see the author in new light.

Continue reading “Me & Liz”