It’s the final book review of the year! Next week I’ll be putting up the final wrap-up of the entire year of reading. I’ve always been one to keep a list of books I’ve read – I have them going back to when I was 16, with only a few years missing!
Here’s what I’ve read over the last month – somehow the majority of these are memoirs. I guess I was interested in people this month? I’m also interested in what to get people on my Christmas list… but instead of shopping, I read about other people who don’t need me to buy them gifts. Sorry, people on the list.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
A traveling theater troupe performs Shakespeare in various towns in lower Michigan after a devastating flu-like disease has wiped out the majority of the population of the world. There are great characters to connect with, and an evil “prophet” who is starting to gather people to him in a cult and flashbacks to before the flu pandemic that introduce us to the famous theater actor, Arthur Leander. I’m not usually a big fan of post-apocalyptic writing, but this one works. Highly recommend it and if there’s one book off this list you choose to read – make it be this one. (Oh, and the Gilmore Girls one below…okay, fine, pick two books!!) Rating: 9 out of 10 of Clark’s curated iPhones in the museum (read the book…you’ll understand)
The Magnolia Story By Chip and Joanna Gaines
They’re beautiful, they’re funny, they’re on the telly and yes, we visited their store and silos last May and it was really fun. However, as a book, their story is, in many ways, pretty straightforward and not that “exciting”, other than the fact that Chip is the type that shows up at their home with a houseboat they’re going to move in to… without telling her. They got picked for a tv show and the rest is history -about two years of history to be exact. Easy to read. Not that much new info in it (and you don’t feel you know them any better than you already do from magazine articles and the show), but a quick read. Rating: 7 saccharine-ly sweet candy canes
Present Over Perfect: by Shauna Niequist
I did not love this book as much as my favorite of hers (Bread and Wine), but it was okay and easy to read. It’s a collection of writings she does over a period of time when she felt worn out and overextended. She solves this by saying “no” and learning to rest. The only “problem” is, she’s saying no to “big” things like: speaking invitations, parties, trips, writing books -so, wanting to spend time alone with her family, so she goes off to her lake house with friends or goes and sits alone at a writing cabin in Lake Geneva…. The amount of things and the “bigness” of things she’s being invited to is nowhere NEAR what a typical person is being invited to or being asked to do and when I do start to feel overwhelmed in my life, it’s not the lake house I get to escape to, mine is more the let’s see if we can get away with a ten minute break in the shower… So on one level, yes, good book and good lessons to learn. On another level, many parts of it were unrelatable for me and I realize this sounds whiny in a quick review? But if you read it, I think you might see what I mean. Rating: 6 out of 10 New Year’s Eve party invitations (that she’s apparently getting…)
Lauren is a great writer – I enjoyed her novel when it came out a few years ago (Someday, Someday, Maybe) – and this memoir does not disappoint. Her writing style is a bit like what reading a book written by Lorelai probably sounds like – fast talking and funny. The chapters cover mainly her life experiences, with a few opinion parts thrown in. And if you enjoy Gilmore Girls, you definitely will enjoy her chapters talking about her experiences on the show. Overall, a really fun, easy, enjoyable read. Rating: 9 out of 10 cups of coffee at Luke’s Diner.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Patti relates her life with Robert Mapplethorpe during the 1960’s and 70’s in the art scene in New York. They lived multiple places, scrounging for coins as they tried to afford a sandwich from the automat, until they each had their breakthroughs into music (her) and art (him). The book mainly covers the time she was friends with Mapplethorpe – for a while, they are in a relationship, but then it’s just them as friends, as he became in involved with his benefactor. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started this book and I’m not sure I recommend it, other than for cultural awareness. It’s not a “scene” I knew a lot about, so I had my phone next to me, so I could search wikipedia for the names of who she was discussing – which led to some interesting searches… The people she crosses paths with in New York, and specifically at the Chelsea Hotel, are the likes of Salvador Dali and Jimi Hendrix (and others). Oh, and in case you don’t know, Patti “is an American singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist who became an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses.” Fun Fact: Horses is listed as one of the Top 100 albums of all time (I downloaded it to listen to while I read the book). Another fun fact: Patti sang at the recent Nobel Prize Ceremony where Bob Dylan was awarded the Prize – look up her singing, it’s worth it. Rating: 7 out of 10 cheese sandwiches at the automat
And the advent book I’m reading is Watch for the Light, with selections from Bonhoeffer, Barth, L’Engle, Lewis, Elliott and Yancey. Good book – slightly liberal leanings in some of the passages, but it’s making me think and look at aspects of the Christmas story in new ways.
And, if you’ve been reading this blog over the past few months, you know my son and I have been reading the series about Moose who lives on Alcatraz Island (because his dad is a prison guard). We finished the third book and it was worth reading – and one of the very few books, the son has ever asked (begged!) me to read to him. Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko.