May Books

Floating City, Sudhir Venkatesh

floating city

This wasn’t quite what I expected It to be.  I thought it was going to be about the underground economies of NYC, such as prostitution and drug trades.  What it actually is is a memoir of the author’s experience as a sociologist studying these circles.  Once I got my arms around that I ended up enjoying this book, for the most part.  I generally am not a huge memoir fan, and I was hoping for more factual knowledge about underground economies and less about how the author felt while researching underground economies.  Still, it’s pretty interesting.

And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseni


Hosseni is a brand name at this point with the massive success of his first two books—The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, which are two favorites of mine.  And if you ask me, his success is well deserved.  If you liked his first two books you’ll love this one, published last year.  The format is really interesting.  It’s basically a series of short stories, but all the people in the stories are related to each other, and the stories are all running parallel to each other.  Some of the stories focus on secondary characters, but as they’re so well done I found them to be completely enjoyable in their own right.  The major themes of this novel are Afghanistan before and after the Taliban, class division, and relationships between people—parents and children and sibling to sibling specifically.  Another theme is characters learning that the way they view themselves does not agree with the way they are viewed by others.  Highly recommended and will likely earn a high spot in the best of 2014 reads for me.

The Plan of Chicago, Carl Smith


Not much to say here, other than it’s a non-fiction book about the making and implementing of the Plan of Chicago.  Since I live here, I thought I should read it.  It’s pretty cool to see how things in the plan played out in real life.  Now that summer is finally on its way in, I am reminded what a beautiful city parts of Chicago are.

The Fault In Our Stars, John Green


Yep, I finally got around to reading this YA novel.  I liked the main character, Hazel, and her boyfriend Gus as well—they were witty, thoughtful, honest characters.  Hated the subplot around Hazel’s favorite book and its author….bored me to tears.   All things considered I found it entertaining yet mindless…a good book for a rainy day curled up on the couch.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

state of wonder

Our main character, who is a doctor working for a pharmaceutical company, heads to the Amazon to find out what happened to her research partner.  That’s all I want to say about it.  My coworker handed this book to me and I started reading it without even reading the jacket blurb.  Ultimately I found that a fun way to go about reading this book, it makes reading about the main character’s adventure an adventure in itself.  The book starts off slow but really picks up steam about halfway through.  There are a few interesting ethical dilemmas that Ms. Patchett inserts into the story as well, and the ending would be great fodder for a book discussion.  This was the first Ann Patchett novel I’ve read and I plan on reading Bel Canto now also.

Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn


A Chicago reporter heads back to her home town in Wind Gap, MO, to investigate the murders of two young girls, which opens many old wounds for our main character Camille.  This is a seriously dark book…more so than Gone Girl IMO.  I still don’t know how I feel about it, if I liked it or not.  The main character is an absolute mess, and Wind Gap is incredibly creepy.  She does a great job setting the tone of the characters and town.  It’s hard to read about such a trainwreck of a main character.  Will I read Dark Places?  Probably. But not too soon…need some time off from such dark material!

To Rise Again at A Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris


Of all the books I read, I would guess 95% come from the library.  4% from used book stores or sales, and 1% purchased new.  I was thinking about that, and decided I need to put my money where my mouth is more often.  But I wanted to do so in ways that didn’t just send profits to Amazon or Barnes and Noble or the major players.  So I signed up for Greenlight Bookstore’s First Editions Club.  I did the six month trial, and this book was the first one sent to me.  Paul O’Rourke is a lonely dentist in Manhattan who longs for a family—the only family he has is feeling part of Red Sox Nation.  One day his office assistant (and ex girlfriend) alerts him to the dental practice’s new webpage, that he didn’t create.  Someone has stolen his online identity.  But it’s far more than it seems.  Themes of this novel are alienation in modern society, religion, and doubt vs. faith.  Would I have ever picked up this book myself? Maybe.  I’m glad Greenlight sent it to me though.  The writing is funny and truthful and touching all at once, however, there are parts which focus on religious history which go on for a bit much.  The next two books in the club look exciting too, and my goal is to read each book in the month it was sent to me.

L.A. Noir, John Buntin




This book is wild!  It covers the Los Angeles PD from roughly the 20s to the late 60s.  It also covers the Syndicate in Los Angeles, run by Mickey Cohen, and how the mobsters interacted with the police.  It gets into the race riots of the 60s as well.  I was surprised how captivated I became by it.  I learned quite a bit about police operations and govt/police corruption.   Who knew non-fiction could be so entertaining!

Fist Stick Knife Gun, Geoffrey Canada



Part memoir, part call for action, Mr. Canada tells the story of growing up in the Bronx and how violence is conditioned into children born into poverty at a young age.  I have a much deeper understanding of the effects of normalized violence thanks to this book.  At under 200 pages, I got through it in about two days, because it’s so easy to read and absorb.

Total books read in 2014: 31





4 thoughts on “May Books

  1. I totally agree about Sharp Objects. I can usually finish a book in 2-3 days max, and I’ve been working my way through it for like a month now. It’s not even that I don’t like it, it’s just like I can’t stomach her terrible decisions for more than a chapter at a time …

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