books on books
I love to read, but definitely have to remind myself “LAURA put down your computer and open a book” from time to..always. Luckily, last year my secret new year’s resolution was to “feel-like-a-college-kid-and-read-you-ass-off,” and while I didn’t get through a bajillion books, I did get into the habit of swapping electronics for paperbacks more often than not.
In lieu of the snowy weather, me finally getting a bookcase for my “new” room (been here since August, it’s fine) and the fact that I’m trying to organize a book club (which means the first meeting will probably be in 2015, email me if you want in!) I am writing a blog post about BOOKS. Books I’ve recently read, and my favorite books of all time. Happy reading this post about reading! (Meta..)
Zeitoun, Dave Eggers
This is a narrative non-fiction account of what happened to a family during Hurricane Katrina, as told by Eggers. It’s an incredible story of a Syrian-American family in New Orleans and intersects the issues of national crises, post-911 racial profiling, and basic human rights. I had no idea how insane NOLA was during Katrina, and what this one family went through blew me away. It’s not my favorite book by Eggers, but it was still a powerful read.
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
Set in Post-WWI Paris, a group of American and European expatriates head to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona for love, adventure, heavy drinking. Told in a “lean, hard, athletic prose,” it was heartbreaking, funny, gripping, and charming (with lots of “Lost Generation” themes…ole!). If you also had less-than-fond memories of Old Man and the Sea back when we were way too young to appreciate Hemingway, this book may be your “Ernest” redemption.
A History of Love, Nicole Krauss
I’ve been waiting for a novel that gives me the chills at the end. It’s one of those stories that slowly intertwines different plots and ends in an “oh my goodness shit I am crying right now” kind of way. The basic premise is a little girl, Alma, is searching for the man who authored A History of Love, (she was named after the book’s main character) while an old man searches for his son. If you want to drown in a guilty-pleasure-but-still-smart-and-awesome-read, I highly recommend this book.
Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
I’ve been meaning to read this book for years and was actually disappointed. It details and tries to find solutions to modern-day slavery, maternal mortality, sexual violence, microfinance, and girls’ education. While it was incredibly eye-opening, I felt like the authors dealt with the issues of female marginalization by marginalizing men, put the West on an insane pedestal, and drowned the reader in statistics. Still, I also feel weird putting down a book that brings so many important issues to light, and did learn a lot from it.
Outside of Sleep, Florencia Varela
This is a book of poetry by my dear friend Flo. She inspired me to start writing my own poems, and while I’m nowhere as talented as her, it’s always good to read for inspiration. Plus, it’s an awesome piece of work. Sneak peek?
This is how it happens: People leave in the middle of the night:
I might say crushed coral: I might say dusk lag,
that there is something loud beneath me:
I might say a lot of things: The missed stops
at some point, not now but soon: Then the tacit
filling, how to plug the space: How all, less struck now,
conspires into dust heaps, handfuls of hair & ceramic:
How will they polarize, the different cries of grief & battle:
People leave in the middle of the night:
late dinner, early morning, same move to blown glass
architecture: There is no truth but in moment:
Mine is an uneasy singularity, an oceanography.
Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
This is a collection of short stories about the lives of Indian Americans and deals with themes of immigration, love, cultural boundaries, and family. Most of the stories are actually pretty heartbreaking, but are equally powerful and moving.
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
This is hands down the most important book I’ve read (namaste), and if you hated it in H.S., give it another chance! It’s about the spiritual journey and self-discovery of Siddhartha, right around when Gotama Buddha was roamin’ the earth. My favorite quote? “What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find.”
How We Are Hungry, Dave Eggers
Eggers is my favorite author and this collection of short stories is nothing short of brilliant. My favorite story is “Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly” which is about a woman hiking up Kilimanjaro. Another favorite is “After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned,” which is told in the perspective of a DOG. However, the story “Quiet” is the one I always come back to, because the main character, Erin, reminds me of my myself so much, and her relationship with the other character, Tom, reminds me of a past relationship I had as well — to a scaaary but awesome degree.
Blankets, Craig Thompson
A few years ago I got on a graphic novel kick, and finally came back to it this winter. I purchased Blankets for my sister-in-law for Christmas, and ended up reading the 592 page book in two days before I wrapped it up. (Shh…). It’s a poetic, heartwarming, and heartbreaking coming of age story intertwined with the oppression of faith and middle america values. If you’re looking to get into graphic novels, I totally recommend picking this up.
The Dance of Life, Edward Hall
Nerd alert. Totally read this for my senior year thesis, but I still find myself coming back to it. It explores people’s concept of time around the world and relates them to how we value relationships, events, music, and work. It’s super interesting and makes you think about the world in a totally different light.
The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson
Bryson is the FUNNIEST writer ever, and is someone I look up to as a writer. This book is an account of a road trip around the US (which also hits close to home), and details his experiences traveling through small towns that other people wouldn’t think twice to visit. If you want to laugh out loud while also learning about the ins and outs of this crazy country, check this out.
A Supposedly Fun I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace
Since Infinite Jest is about eight times larger than The Bible, I’ll swap that out for Wallace’s short story. This is a hilarious essay about his experience on a one-week cruise in the Caribbean, and basically convinces anyone that cruise lines are the most miserable places on the planet. The magic is in his footnotes, though, where he adds even more sarcasm and humor. It’s about 90 pages, and I promise you’ll crack up reading every single one. #DOIT