Summers always offer me the long, lazy days to spend reading especially in my hammock. Unfortunately my reading can vary wildly. Sometimes I'm in a phase where I have the time but not the inclination and I can't concentrate of anything more intellectual than Stars! They're Just Like Us! (hint--they're not at all) along with really in-depth articles about nail polish or belly fat. It's during those times that I simply tune out my brain and embrace the mental wasteland of magazines. But most of the time, I am in the good phase where I'm reading voraciously and all the neurons are firing. That's a great time because I can't get enough of books and I still manage to find time to catch up on Who Wore It Better and Entertainment Weekly's Must List (okay, I'll admit that I can always find time to read the entire EW magazine).
Recently I've hit a winning streak. Everything has been a good read. I may be jinxing it by saying that and end up back in the shallow pages of Life and Style but I'll take the risk since I started a new one yesterday that is also fantastic.
Here are some of my favorite ones so far:
We met Maile Malloy at a reading in LA when we were there for the Modern Languages Association conference in January. I know. Book publishers. Authors. Teachers. It was a raging party 24/7. She read from her book of short stories entitled Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It and that title just about sealed the deal. Actually she won me over in two ways. She read from a wonderful story, Liliana, about a visit from a recently deceased grandmother and I simply fell in love with the story. Then she graciously signed a book for my mother who was home in Portland with my kids, writing "thanks for sitting." I read her book while I was in Mexico and I was really inspired by her writing. I think she's incredibly talented.
A friend of mine gave me Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer which I also took to Mexico to read. Apparently I was thinking that I'd do very little in Mexico besides sit around and read. I was right. I did a lot of that which is in no way a complaint. I loved every sun soaked minute of it. The friend who gave it to me loved the book. A friend I made in Mexico at the wedding was disappointed in the book. I found myself torn between these competing ideas. At times I loved the book ferociously. It had the quality of magical realism that amazed me and the writing was sometimes so breathtaking that it surpassed the lapses in plot or story. Other times I felt worn down by the voices of some of the main characters and I'll admit that it made me slow down my pace. In the end, the book is worth reading to discover for yourself whether or not you like it. My own opinion is the man is a super fantastic premium writer (and to understand why I would call him that, you will have to read the book).
Sometime around March (bear with me because I know that doesn't count as summer--and not even close in Portland), I was lucky enough to get to hear Reza Aslan speak. I really admire and kind of adore him. Okay I have a big, fat crush on him. I had read his first book No God But God and was hooked. I saw him on The Daily Show and I was gone. I even got his autograph on his latest book Beyond Fundamentalism which I didn't read until the beginning of summer. Regardless of your beliefs (which I'm not asking for here--just sayin'), the book is educational, well researched, intellectually stimulating and astonishingly balanced. I had just read The Alphabet vs. The Goddess (read about that here) so I was kind of on a religious kick. I learned so much from his book plus he wrote that he was glad to meet me when he signed it and I'm sure he doesn't say that to just anyone.
The one I just finished yesterday was The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman and it tells the story of an English language world newspaper headquartered in Italy. What I liked about the book is it is crafted much like a book of short stories but they are all interconnected by the newspaper and it all culminates to a rich ending. It is like several strands of string blowing independently in the breeze and then twisting together to make a rope. Some of the stories were downright devastating. I'm looking forward to reading more of his writing.
And now I'm onto a book that has spent years on the bestseller list. I understood why that is only a few minutes into the book. And I'm sure to finish it by tomorrow since I think I read half of it yesterday. The book is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. If you haven't heard of it, the story itself is quite fascinating even at a superficial level but the book is proving to be hard to put down. It's a memoir that is quite memorable.
I think I'll go read.