Untamed

I started to listen to Untamed by Glennon Doyle in the car on short drives to and fro.

There isn’t much to and fro now so I am not very far into the book but I know already that I love it. She’s smart and tough and funny and insightful and supportive and the book is just spot on in so many ways.

It’s a must read for all women in the country who are ages 35 – 55.

Maybe even 30 – 60!

And then today a surprise came in the mail – the hardcover copy from a dear friend and fellow bad ass.

I am glad to have both the audible version & the paper version. There is a lot of note taking & highlighting about to happen!

 

Pandemic Thoughts on Reading Part 2

23 days ago since my last thoughts on books huh?

I wonder why I am surprised. In good times, I barely update this blog. Why would a scary, unknowing the future, waiting for doom time be any different? I guess I just like to be surprised by my unproductive-ness. I think I seem quite productive in other aspects of my life (go me) and yet, over here in this little corner of the world, where I actually enjoy being productive, it’s about once every 23 or 45 or 75 days. So I’ll say it again. Huh.

I’ve been a little stuck and at the same time trying really hard to not be stuck so that’s messed up.

I did not finish the Nazi book (yet).

I’m not surprised.

Let’s tell it how it is — >

Reading is an escape and reading a book about Nazi’s when a global pandemic is happening is NOT an escape.

So I have finished the book by comedian Ali Wong titled Dear Girls and am almost finished with a self-help-y book by Jen Gotch called The Upside of Being Down.

A great title, right?!  I bought this book from an indie shop because in these times I think buying books is important to keep the stores in business. I do not think my purchases here and there will save the industry but I know they help. Anyway, I bought the book thinking, eh I won’t really like it and you know what helps? Low expectations!

Kidding. It is a well written and fun book. Even though it’s about depression and bipolar disease. (Spoiler alert?)

The thing is it’s all relatable and though she doesn’t say it (and I am sure she knows it because it seems like she has done a thorough anaylsis of herself and therefore others) we are all a little bipolar. Maybe that is not politically correct since people diagnosed as bipolar have serious repercussions and demons and anxiety and all of the mess that goes with unstable mental health BUT we all have ups and downs. And that is what makes the book extremely like-able and relatable.

I don’t know that it’s one I would enjoy as much as I do now with the world falling apart all around us. But I’ll never need to find out because I am reading it now.

 

 

 

Pandemic Thoughts on Reading: Part I

Everything is moving at the speed of a light. . . or rather at the speed of a quickly moving, scary, economy-threatening, global-encompassing virus.

During times of social isolation, physical distancing, hunkering down, staying put, nestling in, hygge-ing to the nth degree, drinking lots of tea, social media dieting, careful news watching, reading is having a moment.

It already was but it has progressed.

Self-care is reading. Reading is self-care.

Last week as I was just getting used to the news about this virus which was changing every hour, we visited our local library. The library just underwent a major renovation and it was our first visit to the new space. It was wonderful!! There are now two large wings of the library – one for children and one for adults. There were still books not in their new places. Still could smell the new paint. We ran into neighbors who were just as excited as we were to be in the new building.

While there, I stumbled upon a book that has been on my list for years –  – years! When I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah I declared to myself that I would be doing a deep dive into WWII tales  – fiction and non. That took me to

Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (Wow)

and now  – there it was on the shelf I was perusing – to the recommended non-fictional

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson.

Last week it seemed ok to read a non-fiction book about Nazis.

Now Wednesday, March 18 it doesn’t seem as wise.

Here’s the thing: Last week, it was almost self-imposed “research” to see how close this guy (Hitler) is to that other guy (Trump). And now this week it is just perhaps too much. Maybe terror from the 1930 & 40s will cause the distraction from terror of the 2020s I am seeking?

So far – I’ve finished Part I and am on page 50 out of 365.

And yes, it is a good distraction! Man, everything people say about reading is true.

Some people like horror novels and movies.

I don’t.

Do you think most Holocaust “entertainment” pieces (movies, books, articles) should be classified as horror? For me, perhaps it’s the fascination with real crimes of the human condition is what takes me away more than a gory monster or a knife wielding psycho.

What WWII novels would you recommend?

 

 

 

What I’ve read

So yeah –  – it’s two months later. Time is a twisted warp-y thingamabob. What can I say?! Or rather, what can I write? I can’t write as fast as I am thinking  I will say that so I will cut to the chase.

Tons of good books have been read!

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

It was such a joy to read! It was so thoughtful, funny, deep, dramatic, enthusiastic, and yet also full of sorrow and mostly it exhibited the beauty of life. Really and truly. Feelings, relationships, relationships with family, friends, and with yourself. It was all stuffed in a precise way into this well-organized, page turner.

Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner

I just want to scream out “YES!!” to this book. It was such a mood and such an insightful memoir. There was humor as she wove a tale, a true tale of her time as a Silicon Valley worker and resident. As someone only on the surface in this world during stages of my career it was such a ride to read!

OTHERS that I’ve recently read to update at a later day:

The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Thoughts on the three excellent books below have been posted on Instagram:

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Why We Can’t Sleep by Ada Calhoun

 

 

Books you shouldn’t read (?)

A while ago, there was a suggestion of a reader (both of books AND of this blog), that I start a list of books that in my opinion you can skip.

I didn’t want to criticize writers. Who am I to criticize? Writing a book takes a lot of time, a lot of courage, a lot of spell checking and editing, a lot of sacrifice and a lot of vulnerability. The MOST vulnerability because you are putting it all out there on paper without any images or comments.

Just the story. Just the chapters. Just the paragraphs. Just the sentences. Just the word. And yes, just the letters. One after another.

You can’t further explain or defend your writing (and why should you?) but you are just the most vulnerable in that way.

A book of your writing is like you are there with someone in the bath. Or at bedtime. Or lounging on the couch.

You are a storyteller but you put it out there for readers to read at anytime in their lives. They are happy. They are filled with anger. They are relaxing or they are anxious (perhaps on a plane?)

They pick up your book and there it is for them to take in and enjoy (the ultimate) or dislike and criticize. (Oy)

And there you go and you just let them do it.

Your vulnerability in that moment, those moments is the strongest strength there is.

So yeah, I am NOT going to make a list of books to NOT read. And I am going to try to be strong and put myself and my writing out there.

Enjoy your bath time!

Trick article

Interview with Jia Tolentino by Eva Wiseman

It’s actually not a trick from The Guardian but it is about Trick Mirror author Jia Tolentino because now that I have started her book and am loving her analysis of all things “today” “in this world” “of this moment” well, of course, I want to read everything about her.

I think she is a wildly talented writer and I truly believe her writing is important. Maybe I believe this because of our generational difference but mostly I think it is because of our sameness. How can it be that she talks of being an individual and NOT summing up categories with random hashtags that take away their meaning and yet, I am sure I am not the only one reading about her interior world and believing we actually have similar perspectives on the way society has been fucked by the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and reality tv?

Of course, it is 20/20 with me because no – I haven’ written the book or a book about it so I can easily read her tome and say to myself, or write in this post, “I know, right? I was completely thinking the same thing!”

What I have done as I have read her essays is thought,

“Wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way but I completely agree.”

And

“Wow. Yes, that is it! That is what I was thinking but I couldn’t articulate nor did I articulate.”

So, we are sisters now.

This hugging of her and welcoming her in without meeting or without reading all of her work or without really truly internet-stalking her as much as one could is a ‘wink wink’ to her actual analysis.

She points out that the simple brush strokes we nowadays take to describe our experiences or feelings is total bullshit.

At least that is how I would summarize her summary.

So how do you talk to Jia Tolentino after you read her interviews and learn what she thinks about what you think? I mean, I don’t talk to her. I would like to.

That sentiment aside, is she ok?

Can she write as she does and then live balancing between the stark and dark analysis and the reality of well, reality?

I wonder if it’s all just a trick.

In fact, I don’t wonder about it. It is a trick.

There’s your trick mirror!

 

 

Time flies when you are reading books

I was truly surprised to see there have been no updates since August.

Because, let’s get something straight – there have been books and memorable ones!

And important ones!

And luckily, I have updated the Instagram @jessbrarian account because I mean, phew!!

One thing that is nice and lucky for me is that I can use writing and my humor to go into a little world of my own and ignore the real world.

That is what reading is as well.

An escape.

Reprieve and it’s one that makes me feel quite productive.

There is nothing I love more than going into my GoodReads app on my phone to click on the “I’ve finished the book” button.

I love reading a review of a book in the NYTimes Book Review of a book I have read and agree with the writer wholeheartedly or see the book from a new perspective. I am definitely one to exclaim, “Oh so you like reading books! Imagine how much you might like reading book reviews!!”

In my case, so much.

One recent review that really blew me away and just made me love books and reviews and graphic novels forever more is the review of Raina Telgemeier’s new graphic novel. Guts.

I read the book over the course of a few hours and continue to be so impressed with Raina Telgemeier and her ability to tell relevant, important stories for middle schoolers (and their parents 🙂 ) .

She is so talented to be able to parse out how her anxiety (Guts is a memoir, of sorts) manifested when she was a young girl in 5th grade. As the book reviewer, points out it’s with few words and in a few frames of art that she can make the reader truly feel what the character (Raina) is feeling.

What I also thoroughly enjoyed was her note at the end to readers. In simple language, she talked straight to the middle school readers without a condescending tone. It was with a loving teacher-esque tone where she let them know that the story was about HER anxiety and not all anxiety looks or feels the same but what is the same is that from time to time we all have it and we usually have people around us who can help us through it.

I don’t even have anxiety now but I could feel that if I were in middle school how warm and important those words would be.

*Here is what is currently being read and I am sooooo into them:

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino is a series of essays from the writer who is now 30 and has grown up in the internet era. From AOL to blogs to social media.

After I read the first 30 pages I absolutely could not stop quoting it or going back to it to quote during conversations.

It’s practically a guide book to the internet and social media now! (the first essay, anyway)

I’m now in the middle of the second piece which is about the author’s time on reality tv. She’s looking back on it and documenting how it feels and remembering what she thought while she was in the show and what she thinks now as an adult in the “Real World” (pun intended)

*City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

I am halfway through.

This is so so entertaining. It’s witty and serious and you can tell there is perhaps something dark that is going to happen in the latter half.

*I can’t wait to get into The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.

If you haven’t picked up her others – Bel Canto, State of Wonder, Commonwealth and one of my top 3 books ever, Truth and Beauty  – please stop reading this and start reading one of those!!

Truth and Beauty: A Friendship is a memoir of her friendship with Lucy Grealy, a poet and writer.

*Last week, I picked up Lady In The Lake by Laura Lippman at my local library’s book sale for $2. Lottery winner right here!

I recently heard her on the radio speaking so the multi-media experience has begun! She is a crime writer whom I have not read in the past but the NPR “sighting” coupled with my sister telling me she read the book and enjoyed it with a dash of the book appearing in my face at the book sale means — > all signs point to me reading this one soon!!

 

 

 

 

This one got me in the gut

It was a memoir and after about only 2 pages I was hooked. She went there and she went there fast!

Wait – what does that even mean? Sometimes, I am finding in this social media driven world, we (the collective we which includes writers and posters) use shorthand to express ourselves which can leave out the gushy details, the informative descriptions, & necessary nuances to our feelings when we review a book, a movie, a moment.

So I am going to go there to the best of my ability to explain what I mean by this statement.

In the memoir ALL YOU WILL EVER KNOW by Nicole Chung, you will know right away about the backbone of this read. She’s struggled with the terms of her identity and life as a Korean female adopted by a Christian family near Seattle. The terms by which she slowly – painstakingly slowly –  uncovers who she is and what she wants to learn about her roots is told in this tale very truthfully so the reader can feel the depths of her emotions and her internal strife.

It is wonderful, truly wonderful to read her words. They leave no room for wondering what she has left out. There are no what ifs and lingering loopholes. The only plot point, so to speak is what her future holds after the birth of her daughter and as she navigates life as mother as an adoptee who has moved through her life with her eyes wide open and wanting to open them more about the family who birthed her.

Lisa See, The Island of Sea Women

It’s fierce. Let me just tell you that.

It’s rough in many many parts. Rough in the sense of sadness and strife.  It’s a magnifying glass onto a culture that is very strict in the way people should live their lives based on gender. There’s death and the fear of death at every turn of the story AND the page. Bottom line, don’t read it if you don’t want to feel and cry and know how deep sorrow has gone and can go in this world.

I’m guessing if you are a reader about a reader (that’s me) then these books just might be for you. It’s not that her books are about reading – they are not. But as a reader of many different types of fiction and pop fiction, these books are different and strong candidates to add to your spectrum of choices.

This is the second book of Lisa See’s I have read in the past two months. I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I would recommend that one over The Sea of Island Women.

For now, I am taking a break but when I am ready I’ll be reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.

Popular Books

Most Sundays or Mondays you can bet I am reading the (hard copy) New York Times Book Reviews section. I knew I loved books an inordinate amount when I began to read reviews of books as much as possible. And when I so thoroughly enjoyed the review of a book and set out not to read the book itself but simply to have others read the review – well, then I knew I needed to write about books in this blog.

I like to know what the popular books are and often I will read them. Not all of them. I have one too many times picked up a best seller only to really and truly dislike it. The plot is thin, the characters are not well drawn, you know, not a good book.

But here is the thing, the popular book has sold millions and millions of copies so you know what that means? Not every book is for everyone and I get a kick out of that.

A big ‘ol “Hmmmmmm.”

It’s not that the other readers who loved the book are dummies or that they don’t read a lot of books. There is just, in this world, always something for everyone and not everything is for someone. That someone being me.

I recently picked up a popular book from last year, purchased the paperback from Barnes and Noble, read it, and truly disliked it A LOT. I finished it because I was curious – did this have a good ending that maybe will turn my whole opinion around?

I also had to finish it to be able to parse it out and discuss with others. To me, consuming the entire piece of art creates the entire picture the author was attempting to display and you can credibly critique the book with more authenticity.

The most recent “popular” book, was a cliche from beginning to end.

While the end had a twist, you could see from the very first few pages.

So, I didn’t like it. And I’m not mad.

Because with popular books there is always something satisfying with reading and keeping up with pop culture. Reading popular books usually give me more than merely a satisfaction with keeping up but in this book’s case, I’ll take it for that.

I would also like to say that I don’t enjoy purchasing books from Barnes and Noble. I prefer an indy bookstore to keep money local and keep the store in business.

Independent bookstores are the shit. Plain and simple.

It’s where you know the owners fill it with such intention and intentional peacefulness, calm, so that an “all is good in the world” feeling takes over. Maybe this book and my selection is a sign that my B & N purchasing days are well behind me.

Good Books Only.

PS This is the worst review ever since I did not reveal the book title. Well, I do like to tell stories about books. I never said I like to diss books.