My Summer in Books

I arrived in Washington, D.C. yesterday for the first part of my year abroad/outside California. I’ll wait until the end of the weekend to talk about it. Activities are plentiful and free time is rare, so I want to get back to reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Before that though, I thought it might be fun to share what I’ve been reading recently.

1. The General in His Labyrinth– Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Interesting, a little slow, and full of history. Although I wouldn’t rank this as high as One Hundred Years of Solitude, I was glad I read it.

2. The Tiger’s Wife– Tea Obrecht

The weaving of folklore, history, and reality is stunning. A truly exemplary debut novel. I could read it over and over again. The book is emotional without being overly sentimental– a difficult blend to achieve. I highly recommend it and can’t wait to see what Obrecht does next.

3. The Elements of Story– Francis Flaherty

A book worth reading for anyone who writes, whether journalism, fiction or essays. Although story and narrative arc comprise the main focus, it would be beneficial to anyone.

4. Writers on Writing– (Ed.) John Darnton

I had never read The New York Times series compiled in this book. The combination of writers and focuses makes this a truly diverse and enjoyable read. Highly recommended, especially for writers.

5. Lolita– Vladimir Nabakov

I started Lolita about four years ago and never finished it. Nabakov’s language is exquisite, his metaphors and references, particularly to “Annabel Lee,” thought provoking and well done.

6. A Visit from the Goon Squad- Jennifer Egan

For a full review, read here. Although I read this as part of my Pulitzer Project, I’m sure I would have found my way to it one way or another. The cast of characters, their intersections, and narration styles make this a unique and exciting read.

7. The Emperor of All Maladies– Siddhartha Mukherjee

Who knew a book about cancer could be so uplifting? Mukherjee’s “biography of cancer” is an enjoyable and informative read. We may not have the answers, but we’ve certainly made progress. A great blend between real human stories and basic scientific knowledge.

8. As I Lay Dying– William Faulkner

Well crafted, though confusing at times. I have a difficult time saying if I found the book enjoyable. Something else of Faulkner’s might be more suited to me. I loved “A Rose for Miss Emily,” so the difference between the two works surprised me.

9. One Day– David Nicholls

A fun read, though lengthy. While reading, I wanted to pare chapters down and condense scenes. The book would have been much more powerful.

10. The Remains of the Day– Kazuo Ishiguro

For a full review, read here. A beautiful character study that cements Ishiguro as a master of subtlety. Although it’s not a beach read, I’d recommend it to any lover of good writing and literature.

11. Orlando– Virginia Woolf

For a full review, read here. Expecting something more along the lines of Mrs. Dalloway, I was slightly disappointed. Woolf is a great writer, but I had trouble with the choice of the novel as a medium for the message.

12. The Two Krishnas- Ghlaib Shiraz Dhalla

For a full review, read at Los Angeles Magazine. A fascinating look at immigrant and family life amidst secrets in Los Angeles. The ending was overly dramatic and the writing overwrought at times, but overall an enjoyable and eye-opening read.

13. We the Animals– Justin Torres

For a full review, read here. Adjectives cannot describe how incredible I found this slim novel. The mark of a great piece of writing, in my mind, is one that provokes a physical reaction. We the Animals did exactly that. An intense and heartrending debut. Read it in one sitting. It’s not a huge time commitment and well worth it.

14. The Road– Cormac McCarthy

I expected to hate the book. The style, sparse and austere, serves as a perfect meld of story and language. McCarthy proves that big ideas, intense feelings, and complex relationship can be described in simple language.

15. Gilead- Marilynne Robinson

I avoided Gilead for as long as I could. Religion has never been an interest of mine. Although religion is a large part of the story, it really centers on doubt, family, and the past. It was highly quotable and beautifully written.

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