Books I Read in January: Part 1

You may recall that back in the beginning of January; I made a New Year’s Resolution to read 52 books in 2013.

52b

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.

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Why? Because this dachshund is reading Vonnegut, wearing a po’ boy cap, and smoking an extra long cigarette. He obviously knows a thing or two about literature..

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

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”.

 photo mariah_zpse2e9cdd5.gif

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.”

Overall Score:

5/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

5dasch
Intellectual Dachshund says: “Jolly good show, sir!”

2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan 

penumbra

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

3dasch
“Meh. It’s no Slaughterhouse 5”

3. On the Road – Jack Kerouac

ontheroad

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.

perks

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!

4dasch
“This book was the bee’s knees man! Dig.”

Question of the Day: Have you read any of these books? Any recommendations?

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32 thoughts on “Books I Read in January: Part 1

Add yours

  1. 1. Read just recently. Liked very much, but not his best.
    2. Want to read.
    3. Years ago. Felt it was more culturally significant than actually a great book.

    The new Ian McEwen “Sweet Tooth” is quite fun and sneaky in a literary kind of way.

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  2. That’s the difference between me and you. I am okay being outdone by a 15 year old emo kid. Also, I enjoy the intellectual dachshunds. Will he be getting together with gingerbread cookie making cat?

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  3. I recently finished In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, and it was fabulous. His other book, Devil in the White City, is also fantastic. Gone Girl was fabulous, The Time Traveler’s Wife. The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns were also excellent. Are you on GoodReads? It’s a great way to put together a To-Read list, keep track of what you’ve read, and you can see what your friends are reading. You could even do a The Camel Life Book Club!

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    1. When I first read that I thought it said “Garden of Breasts”.. I’m sure that would have been a very different book. I’ll check out GoodReads, and I like your book club idea! Maybe I’ll start that next month

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  4. I recommend All Aunt Hagar’s Children, by Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward Jones. It is a collection of very impactful short stories from the viewpoint of ordinary people who live in Washington DC. Deals with Washington DC when it was still a sleepy little Southern town and slavery wasn’t a very distant memory.

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  5. I see “My boyfriend wrote a book about me” hasn’t made it to the list. Or will it be in the next installment?
    I recommend “The Longest Trip Home” by John Grogan. Same dude who wrote Marley and Me. But if it seems too heavy, “A year in the Merde” by Stephen Clarke if you want something lighthearted and hilarious.

    And The Happiness Project. But thats more of a self help book rather than a book you power through in a week.

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    1. It’s going to be in the next installment! The post was getting too long so I had to split it up 🙂 I’m echoing your statements about the book though… it’s been a little tough to get through.
      I might read the happiness project.. I’ll take all the help I can get.

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  6. I read The Perks (I almost typoed perms–that’s a very different story) of Being a Wallflower a loooong time ago. I don’t even really remember what it was about, but I know I read it.

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  7. I’ve had “On the Road” on my to be read list for a while, but it’s very far at the back of the line (not even in my stack of books on my nightstand. Sorry, Jack Kerouac).

    Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore sounds like a fun read. Might have to add that to my list, as well as The Sense of an Ending.

    Do you have Goodreads? Could be a good way to showcase your books for 2013 😀

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  8. I’ve been toying with reading the Barnes’ book for awhile, and your review and the Mariah gif have swung me in the ‘going to read’ direction.

    I have mixed feelings about Kerouac. I like it, enjoy it, yet still can’t bring myself to say “OMG it so FAB!” I wonder if it’s because much of the feeling of the book is tied up with the feeling of the time it was written. America is a different place, and, maybe we’re a bit too removed from Kerouac’s day.

    If you’re looking for a classic to read: “Of Human Bondage” by W. Somerset Maugham. It’s bleak, kind of depressing, yet there is so much in it that makes the synapses in your brain light up. I’d actually planned on doing a few posts about it in the next few weeks.

    For something truly remarkable, and not as difficult to read as it may sound, “The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks.” It’s non-fiction, yet reads like a novel. It’s about science, yet is accessible, and the story will blow you away.

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  9. 5 Books in ONE MONTH?!! Yikes! Thanks for making me feel like a slacker! I read a couple of recipes online and watched TV.

    A few years ago, I read “The Sex Lives of Cannibals” I couldn’t tell you the author’s name, but it was enjoyable.

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