What I Read: October 2018

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Oh, October. You were so cruel. You gave me very limited time to read. And when I did find the time and energy, I didn’t love most of what I read. That often happens to me when I’m too busy to really savor books, so please accept all of my opinions with the knowledge that I’m a tired and cranky old crone.

How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price–The perfect book for anyone who has found herself spending upward of an hour a day mindlessly watching a fashion blogger try on clothes from Target. (I mean, just for example.) If you had any doubt that your phone (and your tablet) is ruining your mind, this book will be the final nail. We all have to put the devices down more often. We are messing up our brains.

The Fact of a Body by Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich–A beautifully written braided narrative that balances the author’s memoir of her own abuse with the details of a tragic murder case. I found myself wanted more on the murder case–and a stronger take on the justice system–but that might reflect my preference for nonfiction (especially about crime) over memoir in general. I did watch Season 2 of Making a Murderer after this, and the pair make good companion pieces. 

This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff–This is a comedy-drama set in a dysfunctional workplace that I thought would be fun, but it turned out to be a lot like working in an office: not that exciting. Ultimately, the whole thing just didn’t come together for me. I became unnecessarily (and weirdly) hung up on how much information one character’s doctor openly provided to a co-worker. (Maybe what I wanted was a comedy-drama about HIPAA.) The characters felt two-dimensional at times, especially Rosa whose boss-character swung from Michael Scott to Leslie Knope to Montgomery Burns and back again. If you work in HR, read it. I suspect it might hit closer to home.

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay–A horror story about a family (Eric, Andrew, and daughter Wen) who just want a quiet vacation on the lake. When some post-apocalyptic nutbags show up claiming that one of the family members has to kill the other to stop the world from ending, the family is understandably freaked out. I loved the suspense of not knowing how (and why) someone in the family murdering another could possibly save the world. I also liked the tension the author creates by never letting readers forget the invaders might be right or they might be totally insane. The ending didn’t pay off for me, but if you like your horror thoughtful and creepy, then this might be for you.

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler–Here’s another beautiful book by Anne Tyler. This one is about Willa Drake, a woman who has spent her whole life doing what men tell her to do. When a woman she barely knows calls on her for help, Willa leaves her home and husband in Arizona to go to Anne Tyler’s beloved Baltimore to play devoted grandmother to a child she’s never met. I loved how skillfully (and very subtly) Tyler shows all the ways that what we do in our early lives seeps out into our later lives. Willa’s triumph feels like the triumph of all women who have never been allowed to assert their independence. This book was my favorite of the month.

His Favorites by Kate Walbert–This one is about a teenage girl who makes a really stupid mistake, one that has life-altering consequences. Away at boarding school, she becomes the victim of a manipulative male teacher who targets her and a number of other “broken” girls who are too shattered and unsure of themselves to realize he is grooming them. I’ve read a lot of books lately about male predators, and this book is a fine addition to that sub-genre, but I didn’t feel like it brought anything new to the table. That said, I think it packs a huge punch in under two hundred pages. And it exactly pins down the structure that allows rape culture to thrive. (Hint: We’re living in it.)

Happy reading in November!

Finished, Reading, Will Read Next

 

Finished: The Cabin at the End of the World

Brief Summary: A band of four weirdos show up at the New Hampshire vacation cabin of a married couple, Eric and Andrew, and their daughter Wen. The weirdos tell Eric and Andrew that unless one of them willingly kills the other, the world will end. Are they wackos or visionaries? Who’s getting out of the cabin alive?

My Report: Meh. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you absolutely love horror novels and are looking for something that’s well-written and creepy. I just didn’t love the way it played out.

***

Reading: The Clock Dance

Brief Summary: Willa Drake revisits pivotal moments in her life, beginning with the day her mother disappeared in 1967.

Initial Thoughts: Anne Tyler can do no wrong. Charming and insightful as usual. Tyler is a deceptively thoughtful writer. By that I mean that you almost forget how profound she is because she makes it seem so easy.

***

Will Read Next: The Book of Essie

Why I Put It on My List: It’s about reality TV and a cult-like religion and a female protagonist who begins to question everything. Yes, please.

#MeToo Reading List

People Holding Banner Near Building

Like many Americans, I watched the Brett Kavanaugh hearings last week. The hysterical behavior of Kavanaugh, Lindsey Graham, and Orrin Hatch, among others, turned the hearings into a pageant of perceived male victimization. For anyone who doesn’t benefit from white male privilege, the performance was a disgusting slap in the face–a reminder that many of our political representatives prefer to believe an angry, unhinged man rather than actually investigate a credible accusation.

Trump’s comments yesterday at the swearing-in ceremony demonstrated the hold white male patriarchy still has on America. Trump gave his new friend a tongue-bath, declaring him “innocent” and apologizing for his having to endure questions at a job interview.

Even if an investigation revealed no evidence of a sexual assault, Kavanaugh’s behavior at the hearing showed a man who can’t control his emotions, can’t hold up under pressure, can’t defend himself without resorting to rage, and can’t address issues without bringing in his personal biases. Can you imagine if a woman had reacted that way? Or a person of color?

So, yeah, it’s a troubled time in America. My plan–besides voting–is to start reading more books that help me understand perspectives that our politicians desperately want to silence.

Below is a list of books I plan to tackle. What are you going to read?

“In Living a Feminist Life Sara Ahmed shows how feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work. Building on legacies of feminist of color scholarship in particular, Ahmed offers a poetic and personal meditation on how feminists become estranged from worlds they critique—often by naming and calling attention to problems—and how feminists learn about worlds from their efforts to transform them.”

 

 

  “In Asking for It, Kate Harding combines in-depth research with a frank, no-holds-barred voice to make the case that twenty-first-century America supports rapists more effectively than it supports victims. From institutional failures in higher education to real-world examples of rape culture, Harding offers ideas and suggestions for how we, as a society, can take sexual violence much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.”

 

 

 

  “In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare. For reasons that include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher. But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.”

 

 

P.S. If you want strong women in leadership, consider donating to Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign. She had the guts to stand up for her convictions at the risk of losing her senate seat next month. I’m proud to be a North Dakotan.

 

What I Read: September 2018

September 2018 reads

September was a busy month, but I still found time to read. I read nine books including one re-read. My favorite of the month was Penance by Kanae Minato. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall was a close second.

Here’s the complete list of what finished this month with my 1-sentence summary of each.

  1. Penance by Kanae MinatoRevenge is toxic and lasts a lifetime. 
  2. She Was the Quiet One by Michele CampbellFancy boarding school kids are awful; toxic masculinity is part of fancy boarding schools. (Timely read? Yup.) 
  3. The Humans by Matt HaigIf aliens send one of their own to impersonate a human, it’ll totally stress out the alien because humans are confusing and complicated and almost always illogical, but it’ll sure be funny. 
  4. Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana SchwartzMemoirs about 20-somethings are hard to read if you are not a 20-something; being 40-something is way better (and also a choose-your-own-adventure format doesn’t work well in electronic books). 
  5. Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Crazy by Svend BrinkmannYou don’t have to be better; just be. 
  6. Educated by Tara WestoverIf you thought your childhood was rough… 
  7. Dear Committee Members by Julie SchumacherIt’s funny because it’s true: People in academia are all bonkers (self included). 
  8. Doomsday Book by Connie WillisTime traveling to the Middle Ages is very interesting until you get the plague. 
  9. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta HallA man who wants to believe he deserves the affections of a woman will continue to believe in spite of all evidence to the contrary. 

Happy reading in October!