In the spirit of back-to-schoolin’ it, here are the books I’ve been tearing through in the past month and a half. After a year of reading mainly nonfiction and sociological books, I’m back on the fiction train. These books were mainly read on the beach, so there’s a lot of lightness (no Tolstoy allowed). And I have a pretty clear bias toward female authors (TAKE THAT PATRIARCHY). A note about my reading habits – I read 2-3 books at a time. Something easier at night as I try to go to sleep, then my beloved dystopians and heavier fictions in the morning or while I’m waiting for people (you would be astonished how many books you can read in the chasm between receiving a text that says “almost there!” and that person actually being there).
The Girl With All The Gifts
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey
A unique dystopian novel that focused on the biological causes of a zombie outbreak. As I read it I felt that the ending was unsatisfying and strangely paced, but I’ve found myself mulling it over in my head and I’m now deeply disturbed by the final images. Several scenes have stuck with me and linger in the corners of my mind when I wake up at 2am, which to me is the mark of a good dystopia. Read in hardcover in the mornings over the course of a week
All Fall Down
ALL FALL DOWN by Jennifer Weiner
Enjoyed the beginning as I was reading it (it’s fun to read about someone addicted to pills as you munch Dorito snack packs on the beach), but the second half left me increasingly unsatisfied (much like the experience of eating Dorito snack packs on the beach). I could feel the author making a lot of judgment calls in the background of the prose on her characters, which is a pet peeve of mine. Weiner is a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past, but churning out a novel per year is starting to make them feel a bit formulaic. Read on Kindle over five days.
GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn
I know – SUPER CURRENT, to read a trendy, plot-driven book two years after it comes out. I’ve actually had this on my Kindle for close to a year but never got around to starting it. However, like a good American, an impending movie forced me to begin reading so I wouldn’t see a spoiler in the lead up to the film release in October. I really, really enjoyed it – I tore through the second half on a cross-country flight. I won’t talk about the plot too much since it’s so twisty, but suffice it to say I love me a nasty female protagonist. I just read this essay on her website expounding on that. Read on Kindle constantly over the course of four days.
THE MATCHMAKER by Elin Hilderbrand
Yup, every single book she writes is set on Nantucket. Yup, you know how they end. But she went to my alma mater, has an effortless-seeming writing style and I seriously look forward to reading these books on vacation every year. The Matchmaker was not my favorite – one thing that really bothered me about the story was how the female character was defined in relation to what other people say about her. She’s so perfect, she’s so nice, everyone loves her – BUT WHY? The character herself is almost a blank slate for the others (especially men) to reflect qualities onto her. This is unusual for Hilderbrand’s work. There were some really great food and house descriptions though, so I forgive her. Read on Kindle on the beach over the course of five days.
THE ACTRESS by Amy Sohn
This one is missing the snarkiness of its predecessors, Prospect Park West and Motherland. It was also a little too ripped from the headlines for my taste. Read over the course of four days on the beach on Kindle.
The End of the Suburbs
THE END OF THE SUBURBS by Leigh Gallagher
Just a light sociological text about the housing evolution and how our neighborhoods might look in the US in the years to come. An outlier in this month of dystopia and relationship novels, but I found it engaging and thought-provoking. LET’S DITCH OUR CARS, EVERYONE! Read on Kindle at night over the course of a month (keep leaving and coming back to it).
Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House
LIFE WOULD BE PERFECT IF I LIVED IN THAT HOUSE by Megan Daum
This was a reread for me. Daum is one of my favorite authors (here is her excellent essay My Misspent Youth, which was my entry point to her writing). This memoir traces her long-time obsession with creating a certain kind of home, her frantic pursuit of real estate, and finding/creating a long-term home. If you compulsively watch HGTV even though you have no intention of buying a house, this book is for you. Read in paperback at night over the course of two weeks.
The Woman Upstairs
THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS by Claire Messud
I’m currently working on this one as my morning read – I plow through a few chapters each day as I drink my espresso. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Emperor’s Children, but there’s no denying that Messud is a simply fantastic writer. So far, this book is excellent and the protagonist is deeply interesting to me. Reading in paperback.
THE VACATIONERS by Emma Straub
My nighttime read, this is set on the Spanish island of Mallorca, which I don’t know anything about. Otherwise, it feels like I’ve read this book several times before. Focuses on the dramz in a New York family. Halfway through, reading on Kindle.
Summer reading verdict: nothing has surpassed my favorite book of the year thus far, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.