Wow, I can’t believe we’re already through April. It feels like it went really fast, but I managed to get through a lot of reading this month! Let’s get started:
The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld
Here we have a solid contender for best of 2014, at minimum top five. Set on Death Row, The Enchanted is the story of an inmate nearing his execution date, only unlike the other inmates, he claims he does want to die. A woman is sent to investigate his case, and as she does she learns of some dark similarities between herself and the inmate. The story is narrated by a mute inmate, also on death row. The material is dark but truly beautifully written. Probably the most uplifting story about the bleakest world I can imagine. Highly recommended.
The Night Gwen Stacy Died, Sarah Bruni
Sheila is almost 18, living in boring Iowa and dreaming of the day she graduates and heads to Paris. Until she meets the mysterious Peter Parker….wait, isn’t that the guy from Spider-Man? Peter captures Sheila at gunpoint and takes her to Chicago where their adventure unfolds. While the ending felt kind of rushed, overall this is a quick, enjoyable, emotional read.
Oxygen, Carol Cassella
Marie is an anesthesiologist who faces pressure in her personal and professional life when a routine surgery hits crisis mode. I found the professional side of this story to be compelling, but too much of this story revolved around Marie’s relationship with her family, which bored me. This is decent beach or plane reading, but I wouldn’t rush to put it on your to-read list.
Tenth of December, George Saunders
Finally got around to reading this huge hit from 2013! It’s a collection of short stories, my favorite being The Semplica Girl Diaries. Saunders’ ability to create such depth in so few pages per story is really amazing. This collection made many top ten lists of 2013 and with good reason. An excellent read.
The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud
Is it just me or is the latest thing to have your main character be your antagonist too? Like Walter White in Breaking Bad? Nora, our narrator, is one miserable, unlikeable character. She’s middle aged and feeling angry and invisible. At times her anger feels realistic, but at other times it seems over the top. But despite this, I found myself completely wrapped up in this story….until the ending, which left me saying “Oh, come on!”. I felt it was pretty unrealistic…don’t want to give it away though! Nora is a teacher who befriends the professional artist mother of one of her students, which inspires her to become more passionate and to focus more on her artwork. But with a first sentence like “How angry am I? You don’t want to know.” you know this isn’t gonna end well. I don’t know if I’d recommend this one either. If you like the antagonist as narrator format, then go for it. But if you don’t have time for angst, skip this.
Strike for America, Micah Uetricht
Finally, a non-fiction book this month! I signed up for a six book non-fiction set through Jacobin and this is one of the first three they sent me…the other two will be reviewed later this spring (or, as my knitting group discussed, it’s not really spring in Chicago but postwinter) Here’s the story of the Chicago Teachers Union strike of 2012. Informative and fast for educators, Chicagoans, and those interested in union history.
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
I read this book while on my NY vacation–J’s sister has lots of books around her place and so when I visit I know there will be something interesting for me to pick up. I found this book to start off slow but it became more and more interesting–it’s about the tragedy that unfolds around a family in India when the ex-wife and daughter of the family’s son come to visit. It’s a really interesting read about what life is like in India, about feeling inferior to a person with white skin, about the caste system, child abuse, worker’s struggles. It’s one of those books you could read a second time and realize how much you missed the first. Roy has a new nonfiction book out which is going into the queue now!
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time , Mark Haddon
Christopher is a 15 year old autistic boy who decides to investigate the murder of his neighbor’s dog. But he ends up learning a whole lot more than he bargained for. The narrator is also a math genius, and the story is peppered with lots of interesting math and logic puzzles. It’s an extremely fast read, written for young adults, also one of those good summer mindless reading days.
Night, Elie Wiesel
I was thinking I should add some classics into my reading as I generally stick to more contemporary things. At only 100 pages, Night definitely gets a full, detailed account of Wiesel’s life in the concentration camps across. I had never read this in school like many people do, but I learned quite a bit.
Total books read in 2014: 22