You may recall that back in the beginning of January; I made a New Year’s Resolution to read 52 books in 2013.
Unlike my other resolutions of eating less cereal for dinner and actually putting on pants when I leave the house, I’m actually sort of keeping this one.
In the month of January, I read a total of 5 books. This is a big accomplishment for someone who typically only reads take-out flyers and the twitter feed for The Bachelor.
So to prevent all of that new-found knowledge from going to waste, I thought I would review some of the books I’ve read. For each book, I will give a short plot synopsis, followed by my thoughts, and a score of 1-5 Intellectual Dachshunds.
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way qualified to conduct book reviews, nor do I hold an advanced degree in any of the literary arts. I am simply an enthusiastic young woman with a sixth grade education and an abiding love for all God’s creatures. (<– 1,000 bonus points for whoever can name that quote.)
1. The Sense of An Ending - Julian Barnes
This book already won the Man Booker Prize, so I feel sort of unworthy to review it. It’s like when an amazing contestant auditions on American Idol, and Mariah Carey is all, “I can’t even critique that”.
But I’ll try.
The book centers on Tony Webster, a retired Englishman in his 60’s, who is unexpectedly bequeathed the diary of his old friend Adrian. Adrian had committed suicide decades earlier; but not before stealing Tony’s girlfriend. The gift sends Tony on an unexpected trip down memory lane, and we travel with him as he tries to make sense of it all, and come to terms with the past.
I really enjoyed this book. It was compelling, had some plot twists and turns (not like, M. Night Shyamalan or anything, but still good), and the prose was magnificent. I found myself re-reading a lot of passages. Plus- it’s short (150 pages) and a quick read.
Favourite Line: “History isn’t the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.”
5/5 Intellectual Dachshunds
2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
Since Sense of an Ending was a bit heavy, I wanted something light and fluffy to follow it. Enter: Penumbra.
The story centers around Clay Jannon, an out-of-work San Francisco web-designer who takes a job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s Bookstore. It doesn’t take long for Clay to realize that this isn’t your average bookstore: the shelves are 20 feet high and filled with obscure titles Clay is forbidden to read. Plus, no one ever comes in, except for the same, few patrons who request titles from the “secret section” in the back.
Obviously Clay has to get to the bottom of this. He enlists the help of his friends and cute, computer-nerd love interest, Kat, and together they embark on a trans-American journey of mystery, romance and computer programming.
If I had to describe this book in one sentence it would be “The Da Vinci Code for Millenials”. It involved a LOT of computer programming/social media stuff that made even me feel old. Aside from that, while I found it somewhat lacking in character development it was still a light, enjoyable read. I can definitely see it being made into a cute indie flick. I’d cast Andrew Garfield as Clay and Aubrey Plaza as Kat.
Favourite Quote: “These days, the phone only carries bad news. It’s all “your student loan is past due” and “your uncle Chris is in the hospital.’ If it’s anything fun or exciting, like an invitation to a party or a secret project in the works, it will come through the internet.”
Overall Score: 3/5 Intellectual Dachshunds
3. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
I had seen this book on almost every Recommended Reading List and knew it was an American classic, but never got around to reading it. What finally pushed me was the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
The main character, Charlie, a high school freshman, reads it and writes a book report on it.
Since I refuse to be outdone by some emo 15-year-old, I obviously had to read it too.
On the Road is based on Jack Kerouac’s travels across America in the late 1940’s with his friend Neal Cassady; the many experiences they had, and life lessons they learned along the way.
While this book was undoubtedly great, I found it difficult to get through. Kerouac’s writing style is like one, big, run on sentence with no punctuation and a lot of slang. (I later learned he did this on purpose to imitate the way jazz music sounds.) It commands a lot of focus and attention, and is not the kind of book you can just pick up for a few minutes; you really have to commit to it.
That being said, I’m really glad I read it. It was meaningful, poignant and definitely worthy of the “American Classic” title. A lot of the themes and characters are still resonating with me. Plus, now I get to see the movie and be all “The book was so much better”.
Favourite Line: “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?- it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
Overall Score: 4/5 intellectual Dachshunds!