The 10 Best Books I Read in 2014

While my reading tally this year didn’t quite stack up to the 52 books I read in 2013, Intellectual Dachshund and I still managed to get through some 30-odd titles.

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This proved to be a much more manageable number, and one which actually allowed me to leave my apartment once in a while (whether I liked it or not.)

Also, can I just say that 2014 was officially the year of the female author? 7 out of 10 of these titles were written by unbelievably talented, smart, funny women.

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K I’m done now. On to my top 10 books!

1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

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What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

That is the question posed by Kate Atkinson in her wildly inventive novel Life After Life. Like a slightly heavier Groundhog Day, the book follows Ursula Todd as she lives- and re-lives- the events of the 20th century. From the opening paragraph, this book had me captivated and completely hooked. I had no idea what turn would come next, which kept me turning pages wee into the morning hours. More addictive than a Chopped marathon on the Food Network, I would highly recommend this for an exciting read. 

2.  Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

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In this funny, ambitious novel, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, best friends and 12-year business partners, must save their beloved used vinyl shop Brokeland Records from the new “Dogpile Thang” music megastore opening two blocks away. It’s like a High Fidelity and Empire Records mash-up, with the end result becoming something new and original entirely.

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 3. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

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Way back in 2008, before Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize, she wrote The Rehearsal- a gripping little story (about 1/8 the length of the Illuminaries– a major reason why I chose to read it instead) set in the aftermath of a local scandal involving a young female student’s affair with her music teacher. Told from several different viewpoints in a non-linear plotline, I found this book inventive, captivatingly dark, and twisted. Definitely worth a read if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path.

 4. Us by David Nicholls

In Us, well-intentioned-yet oblivious scientist Douglas Petersen attempts to win back the hearts of Connie, his artist wife of 20 years, and the affection of his brooding, 17-year old son Albie, all against the backdrop of a family European vacation.

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I’m a big fan of David Nicholls, and loved his previous books Starter For Ten and One Day. I had high hopes for this one as well- but after reading several books this year about middle-aged marriages in crisis (see: The Vacationers, I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You), I worried the theme might be a bit played out. Happily, this book differentiated itself for me with its clever plot twists and laugh-out-loud humor.  I expect this one to be adapted into a screenplay any day now. I’d cast Colin Firth as Douglas,  Rachel Weisz as Connie, and Ansel Elgort as Albie.

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See, don’t they look good together? I’m really in the wrong line of work.

5.  The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

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19-year-old twins Nicholas and Nouschka Tremblay, offspring of Quebec folk singer, and notorious playboy, Etienne Tremblay, spent their childhood in the public eye. Now they are grown up and making their own mistakes on the streets of referendum-era Montreal – all of which ending up in the French Canadian tabloid Allo Police. It’s a slightly-offbeat coming-of-age tale with a hefty dose of family drama, and a side dish of Canadian politics.

6.  The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman

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I have a special place in my heart for this book, even though it is responsible for the one and only sunburn I received in 2014. (Seriously I’ve gotten much better on the tanning front since winning the nonexistent Miss Hawaiian Tropic competition in 2008). I could feel my shoulders getting redder in the mid-July sun, but my heart just wouldn’t let me put the damn book down. I didn’t want to stop reading about Nathaniel, the self-absorbed future literary star, with a similar penchant for breaking hearts.  This is also maybe one of the best books I’ve ever read told from a reverse gender perspective. I found it amazing the way Adelle Waldman really got into the mind of a man and wrote Nathaniel so convincingly. Seriously worth a read.  (And if you don’t believe me- according to her Instagram, Kate Hudson liked it too.)

7. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

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Part memoir, part coming-of-age story, part love letter to New York City, My Salinger Year  tells the story of Joanna Rakoff as a starry-eyed twenty-three-year-old who moves to New York with the dream of becoming a writer. Instead, she winds up in a crappy Williamsburg apartment with a crappy boyfriend and a crappy job as assistant to the literary agent for J.D. Salinger. Her task? To answer Salinger’s endless pile of fan-mail with a stock response. At first mind-numbingly boring, she soon becomes engrossed by the letters, inspired to craft her own replies.  As they say in the publishing world- it’s a “small story” , but it’s got a lot of heart, and is a great, light, entertaining read.

8. Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler 

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Fed up with the way his life has been portrayed by others, and in the media, thrice-married, aging TV producer Barney Panofsky decides to set the record straight by writing his own memoirs.  Rich in themes- including life, love, family, friendship and aging- I thought it was excellent. Romantic, captivating, hilarious, and uniquely Canadian, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.

9. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Confession: I kind of want to be best friends with Amy Poehler. And if you don’t already, you will too after reading her hilarious book Yes Please. A hodge – podge of personal essays, life advice, Bossypants-esque memoirs from her time on SNL and Parts and Recreation  and straight-up randomness, it will both endear you to her, and leave you laughing uncontrollably. Do yourself a favor and read this one.

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10. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

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This short story collection by indie darling Miranda July (she also wrote and starred in a movie Roger Ebert cited as one of the best films of the decade) is weird, captivating, and slightly disturbing. Any summary I would give wouldn’t do it justice- so check it out if you’re in for a very different read.

Other Books I read in 2014 (In no particular order):

  • Office Girl -Joe Meno
  • The Goldfinch – Donna Tart
  • Fangirl– Rainbow Rowell
  • Listen to the Sqwaking Chicken– Elaine Lui
  • Transatlantic– Collum McCann
  • One more thing – BJ Novak
  • Run Rabbit– John Updike
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man- James Joyce
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil- John Berendt 
  • Not That Kind of Girl -Lena Dunham
  • The Vacationers – Emma Straub
  • I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You – Courtney Maum
  • American Pastoral- Phillip Roth
  • No Relation -Terry Fallis
  • Dear Leaves: I Miss You All – Sarah Heinonen
  • Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers– Mike Sacks

Question of the day: What was the best book you read in 2014?

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My Summer Reading List

For those of you who were wondering, I am still reading.

Granted, not to the same (crazy) extent as last year. I have decided not to read 52 books in one year again, because let’s be honest-

Plus, I want to take the time to enjoy what I’m reading a bit more.

Currently my total is hovering somewhere around 15, and I’m totally ok with that- because you know what they say….

But with summer now in full swing, I figured it was time to pick up some new reads. Specifically, light, fun ones- perfect for laying on the beach or lounging by the pool (or, in my case, sitting in my air conditioned condo and crowded office food court. Man I need a vacation).

So I ordered a few gems from Amazon- and since I have nothing better to do besides sit on my front steps and wait patiently until they arrive, I thought I’d share my summer reading list with all of you guys.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub 

When a Manhattan family sets out on a two week summer vacation to the beautiful island of Mallorca, what could possibly go wrong?

….Infidelity, heartbreak, delusion and scandal, that’s what!

Billed as a fluffy summer read made substantial by the “exceptional wit, insight, intelligence and talents of its author”, I can’t wait to crack into this puppy .

I am Having So much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum

A “reverse love story” set in London and Paris, I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You tells the tale of Richard, a 34-year-old British artist trying to win his wife back after a brief “ellipsis” with an American mistress.

Still, I’m excited to watch him try.

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

19-year-old twins Nicholas and Nouschka Tremblay are the offspring of Quebec folk singer, and notorious playboy, Etienne Tremblay. They spent their childhood in the public eye; simultaneously performing with him and being abandoned by him. Now they are grown up and making their own mistakes on the streets of referendum-era Montreal – all of which ending up in the French Canadian tabloid Allo Police.

It’s a coming-of-age tale with a hefty dose of family drama (which sounds pretty much like my own life) so I’m excited to check it out

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

At twenty-three, a starry-eyed Joanna Rakoff moves to New York with dreams of becoming a writer. Instead, she winds up in a crappy Williamsburg apartment with a job as assistant to the literary agent for J.D. Salinger. Her task is to answer Salinger’s endless amount of fan-mail with a stock response. As she gets into it, however, she becomes inspired and starts crafting her own replies.

It’s a memoir about literary New York in the late 90’s, and the coming-of-age tale of a now successful writer.

Maybe I’ll be inspired? Naah. I’ll probably just sit on the couch and watch more Extreme Weight Loss. 

Question of the Day: What’s on your summer reading list?

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How to Read 52 Books In One Year (Without Going Insane)

I just finished reading my first book of 2014 – Barney’s Version by Mordechai Richler.

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It was excellent. Romantic, captivating, hilarious, and uniquely Canadian, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.

(Or, you could always just watch the film. I won’t tell.)

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Anyway, as I delve into book #2 of the year (A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man… which I’m reading solely so I can use the term “Joycean”), I’m considering making a similar reading goal to last year.

As you may already know (because I can’t get enough of saying it), I read 52 books in 2013. Insane? Maybe; but it also was really great for me. Not only did having a goal keep me reading regularly, it also helped my writing, as well as my general conversation skills.

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I’m not going to say it was easy, because honesty there were times I thought I’d rather glue my eyelids open and watch a marathon of Hollywood Game Night than keep reading.

But like Tom Arnold with a particularly tough charade, I persevered! And if you’re feeling masochistic ambitious, here are some ways you can do it too!

1. Find The Time

I know that you’re thinking: This bitch cray! 52 books in one year?

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And I get that. You’re busy. I was too. (Mostly watching TV and Youtube videos on how to perfectly apply liquid eyeliner). But regardless, here are a few ways I squeezed in some extra reading time:

  • Always Keep a Book With You. Treat that baby like it’s your American Express Card (or- in my case, 17 different lipglosses) – never leave home without it!  You’d be surprised by the amount of reading you can get done waiting at the doctor’s office, in line for the DMV, or just generally avoiding human contact. It’s a lot more productive (though not necessarily as much fun) than playing candy crush on your iPhone.
  • Make the most of your commute. Read on the bus, train or subway on your way to and from work. Unless you get carsick.. because….

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Aaah Sweet Brown. I can never get enough.

  • Read on your lunch break. This was my specialty. Every day at lunch, I’d take my book to the food court and read for 30 minutes.

goal8I kept waiting for someone to write me a Craigslist Missed Connection but… no dice.

2. Always Have Your Next Book Lined Up

Making a list of books I wanted to read in advance helped keep me on track. It also motivated me to read faster, as I was always excited to get to the next book on my list.

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I found Goodreads to be an excellent resource for this, as well as suggestions from friends and blog readers.

Another tip is to check out the  “people who bought this author also bought….”. and “suggestions for you” tabs on Amazon.

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…….Or you could just read the entire Baby Sitters Club series (again). No one blames you.

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3. Don’t Torture Yourself

As the saying goes, “If you hate a book set it free”…..Or something like that. In other words- if you start a book that you really don’t like or just can’t get into, move onto the next. Otherwise, you’ll just get discouraged and lose excitement and momentum.goal12

I struggled with Infinite Jest for about 50 pages before eventually realizing that a David Foster Wallace dissertation about a missing VHS tape was not the hill I wanted to die on.

There’s 75 hours of my life I’ll never get back.

4. Mix It Up

Although I was seriously tempted to read nothing but 52 emo romance novels in 2013, I knew that, like all great pop stars, I had to get a lot of plastic surgery and a white cane mix things up in order to keep it fresh and exciting.

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

Accordingly, my 2013 reading list was a serious hodge-podge of short stories, novels, memoirs & non-fiction. I also alternated between bestsellers like Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (wait for the movie) to contemporary classics, like On The Road by Jack Kerouac (must read), and the occasional Penguin classic, like Howard’s End by E.M Forster (there’s a reason I didn’t major in English Lit).

5. Break It Down

Let’s face it- the number 52 just sounds horrifying. (Unless it’s being used to describe chocolate bars, glasses of wine, or issues of US Weekly).

mmm... chocolate.
mmm… chocolate.

The point i’m trying to make here, is that the idea of reading 52 books in one year can seem a bit daunting at first- so break it up into smaller goals. 52 books in one year works out to toughly 4 books a month, or one a week. You can even set a number of pages you’d like to read each day.

You know that acronym about goal setting? SMART?

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Yeah- Use that!. But don’t tell anyone you’re doing that, because, well… it’s kinda lame.

So those are my tips! And remember kids, above all else- do it for yourself, and your love of literature!

…and maybe also to rub it in people’s faces.

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Just a little 🙂

Question of the Day: Have you set a reading goal for 2014?

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The Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

In case you missed my previous post, I read 52 books in 2013.

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I know, I’ve been trying to repress it too.

In all seriousness- setting a reading goal was actually good for me. I spent way less time watching reality TV and checking Craigslist Missed Connections. It also gave me something to talk about at cocktail parties, instead of just standing in the corner, mindlessly hoovering canapes and white wine spritzers, counting down the minutes until I could go home.

I also had the pleasure of reading a lot of really fantastic books…so many that I had a hard time narrowing it down to just a few. 

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But alas- despite being a millennial, I recognize that not everyone can win the prize.. so here they are: 

 The Top 10 Books I

Read in 2013 

1. Middlesex

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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I’m not one to make gushy statements, but this multi-generational masterpiece about a Greek-American family in Detroit may be the best book I’ve read not just this year, but EVER. (You can read my initial review here).

I will caveat my glowing recommendation with the fact that it is a bit of a saga. If you’re looking for something a little shorter/less dense, check out Jeffrey Eugenides’ other books, The Marriage Plot and The Virgin Suicides (since adapted into a film by that boyfriend-stealing b*tch Sophia Coppola).

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being

by Milan Kundera

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This book made me feel a lot of feelings. 

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………. Which is saying a lot, because I sort of pride myself on feeling as few feelings as possible.

A love story set in Eastern Europe during the infamous Prague Spring of 1968, this book is chock-full of romance, tragedy, metaphors and emo-goodness. It made me want to curl up with a fuzzy blanket, a glass of wine and a big-ass box of Kleenex. 

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3. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

by David Sedaris

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The latest collection of humorous essays by my hero/life model/favourite writer ever David Sedaris did not fail to disappoint. As I mentioned in my initial review,  I was lucky enough to attend a reading of his back in April when the book came out. He responded to fan questions, told funny stories and read from the book aloud.

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What a treat.

Someday I will become his straight, female counterpart…. and no that is not weird.

4. How Should A Person Be?

By Sheila Heti

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If you like artsy shizz and the HBO show Girls, then this book about a young writer struggling trying to find her way in the world is most definitely for you.

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It’s also set in Toronto, which endeared me to it further. Maybe once you read it, you will finally be able to answer the age-old question:

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5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts

By Susan Cain

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Reading this book about how introverts are undervalued in today’s society made me feel empowered and (ironically) less alone in the world.

I even stopped wearing this sweater all the time:

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If you fancy yourself an introvert- even a closet one- do yourself a favour and read this book.  

6. A Hologram For the King 

By Dave Eggers

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This book follows Alan Clay, a middle-aged divorcee who, in a last-ditch effort to turn his luck around ,goes to Saudi Arabia to sell the elusive King Abdullah a new hologram technology.

Think Tupac at Coachella
Think Tupac at Coachella

Although it’s not big on action (most of it takes place in a single room), the raw, effortless writing made it a standout for me.

Aaaand if you’re really lazy, you can always just wait for the film adaptation  starring Tom Hanks. (It’s gotta be better than Saving Mr. Banks.)

7. The Rosie Project  

By Graeme Simsion

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The Rosie Project centers around Don Tillman, a 39-year-old genetics professor who is somewhere on the autism spectrum- he just doesn’t know it yet.

Citing scientific evidence that “married men are happier and live longer”, Don sets out to find the “perfect” wife by creating an extensive, detailed questionnaire. Women who do not score 100% are summarily disqualified.

This book has all the makings of a great, offbeat romantic comedy- and in fact it has already been optioned by Sony Pictures. It would make a great book club pick, or to read on the beach for all you lucky b*tches going on tropical vacations this winter.

8. The Last Girlfriend on Earth

By Simon Rich

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You can check out my initial review of Simon Rich’s hilarious short story collection here. Each piece was incredibly clever, witty and well written- like a Saturday Night Live skit playing out right in front of me on the page. Loved it.  

 9. The Sun Also Rises

By Ernest Hemingway

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I feel like sort of a hipster try-hard doofus listing this as one of my top 10, but I swear that was not my intention. In fact, I initially chose this book because it was under 200 pages.

But as I started to read it, I was captivated by the beauty in Hemingway’s prose as he described a group of artistic expats attending the Running of the Bulls in Spain.

I even found myself quoting lines to friends- before realizing how much of a pretentious dink this made me sound. So instead, I just wrote them down in my journal of lame, private thoughts that are way too embarrassing to post on my blog. You know you want to read that, don’t you? Well you can’t! So go read this book!

 10. The Interestings

By Meg Wolitzer 

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The Interestings centres around a group of 6 friends who first meet as teenagers at a camp for the arts in the 1970′s, and follows them  throughout their decades-long friendship. Lives become complicated, relationships become strained, issues of class, money and power ensue, and in the end everyone is richer for the experience. You should read this book IF:

a) You have ever dreamed of a career in writing/the arts

b) You find New York City impossibly romantic.

Question of the Day:

What was the best book you read in 2013?  

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52 Books in 52 Weeks: A Quick Recap

Happy New Year friends!

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Is it? It’s -34 degrees here in Toronto. I looked around the subway this morning, all I saw was misery.

Shut up inner BreezyK voice!! IT’S NOT YOUR TIME

Annnyway, I know I’ve fallen off the face of the earth for the past couple of months, and while I’d like to say I spent this time cavorting around town, attending fancy parties and you know, engaging with real-life humans, the truth is, I spent most of it with my nose buried in a book.

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Remember when I said I was going to read 52 Books in 52 Weeks?

Yeah… whoever thought that was a good idea?

Somehow, I managed to stay pretty much on track for the first half of the year, but after slacking off considerably during the summer and fall, I left myself with a serious mountain to climb at the end of the year.

With extreme hesitation, I was forced to say goodbye to my online shopping (ok, browsing) addiction and nightly wine-infused reality TV marathons and get my head in the game.

Between November 15 and December 31, I read 11 books. ELEVEN. There were times when I thought I was going completely insane, and craved the warmth of human contact.

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By the time I got to the last book on my list, I was like:

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But alas- I did it! Read em’ and weep kids, here in random order (did that make anyone else just think of America’s Funniest Home Videos?) are the 52 books I read in 2013:

  1. The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes
  2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  3. My Boyfriend Wrote A Book About Me by Hilary Winston
  4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  5. Bridget Jones- Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
  6. Iris Has Free Time by Iris Smyles
  7. A Hologram For the King by Dave Eggers
  8. One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
  9. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  10. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  11. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris
  12. Quiet- The power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  13. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  14. The Love Song Of Johnny Valentine by Teddy Wayne
  15. So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coontz
  16. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  17. The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
  18. The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich
  19. Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
  20. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
  21. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  22. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  23. 10th of December by George Saunders
  24. Everything Is Perfect When You’re A Liar by Kelly Oxford
  25. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thomson
  26. Candide– Voltaire
  27. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  28. I Found This Funny by Judd Apatow
  29. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  30. On The Road by Jack Kerouac
  31. Contagious by Jonah Berger
  32. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  33. The Fall by Albert Camus
  34. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  35. The Lowland by Jumpha Lahiri
  36. I Feel Bad About My Neck (and other thoughts on being a woman) by Norah Ephron
  37. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  38. Night Terrors: Sex, Puberty and Other Alarming Things by Ashley Cardiff
  39. Howard’s End by E.M. Forrester
  40. Dear Life by Alice Munro
  41. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  42. Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
  43. Revenge Wears Prada– Lauren
  44. Stories From the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean
  45. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  46. How Should A person Be? by Sheila Heti
  47. No plot? No problem  by Chris Baty
  48. Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell
  49. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
  50. Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman
  51. An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield
  52. Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

Woot Woot! Can I get a little 80’s Paul Rudd dancing up in here?

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Thaaat’s right.

Lest you worry I am becoming too cultured and civilized, I should assure you that upon finishing the last page of book #52, I immediately parked my a$$ in front of the TV, where I have remained in a state of vegetative bliss  for the past 7 days.

One word, guys: JUAN-uary

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I have much more to say about my ambitious/extremely misguided goal of reading 52 books in one year,  including some of the best (hits) and worst (misses) of the year. I’ll also be providing some tips as to how you can achieve this goal yourself- so stay tuned if you’re a masochistic freak like I am!

Question of the Day: Did you make a reading goal last year? Did you hit it?

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10 Second Book Review- Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

No Mark Darcy? Not Interested.

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… At least that was my first thought upon hearing the handsome, loveable man of my every girl’s dreams had been (gasp!) killed off in the latest installment of the Bridget Jones series.

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Alas- my love for Bridget and her endearing quirks transcended. I knew I couldn’t live without hearing the end of the saga…  and, after all- there was still Daniel. 🙂

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Mad About the Boy follows a now 51-year-old Bridget left widowed after the aforementioned death of her love Mark Darcy. Forced back into proverbial saddle, Bridget must navigate a world of online dating, endless waxing appointments, and Twitter- all while juggling two small children.

I’ll admit, I thought the plot sounded a bit pathetic at first (images of Sex and The City II sprang to mind)

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, and that maybe Helen Fielding should’ve quit while she was ahead- Larry David styles.

In the end, however, I think Fielding- and Bridget- actually kind of pulled it off. Bridget’s charm and humor still shone through- albeit not quite as brightly as in the first two books.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but ditching Mark and making Bridget single again actually proved to be an effective strategy. It brought her back to the fumbling, neurotic single lady we know and love- and which I at least, can really relate to.

The whole school e-mail threads, middle-aged malaise and removing nits from her children’s hair thing I couldn’t really get behind, but I’m sure some (older) readers will relate. (What? I’m still 27 for 3 more hours. I’m allowed to say that!).

I think the ultimate test will be how this book translates on film. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, I’ve always preferred the Bridget Jones movies to the actual books themselves. I wonder why? (*COUGH* COLIN FIRTH *COUGH*)

…. aaaaand just one more for good measure:

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Question of the Day: Are you A Bridget Jones Fan? Will you read the new book?

10 Second Book Reviews – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

It’s now week 42 of my 52 Books in 52 weeks challenge, and I’m clocking in at 37 books read so far. Not bad, but not exactly on pace, either. Truth be told, I’m starting to freak out about all of the ground I have left to cover. At this point, I think I need to either give up my social life entirely, or read nothing but illustrated novellas with 18 pt font for the rest of the year.  

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I digress. The point of this post is (shockingly) not to discuss my failings and insecurities, but rather to review this lovely little book I read recently:

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The Rosie Project centers around Don Tillman, a 39-year-old genetics professor who is somewhere on the autism spectrum- he just doesn’t know it yet. Don has only two friends, is ruled by order and routine, and, most relevant for our purposes – has never been on a second date.  

Citing scientific evidence that “married men are happier and live longer”, Don sets out to find the “perfect” wife by creating an extensive, detailed questionnaire, asking everything from “average alcohol consumption” to “do you eat Kidneys?” (correct answer: occasionally). Women who do not score 100% are summarily disqualified.

Don, however, is forced to reconsider his “Wife Project”  when he meets Rosie – a smoking, drinking vegetarian who is chronically late and (gasp) has tattoos!

I don’t need to tell you that this plot has all the makings of a great, offbeat romantic comedy- and in fact it has already been optioned by Sony Pictures. The book, which originated in Australia, has been published in 38 countries and has quickly become an international sensation.

Although I’m usually sensitive to hype, I can’t deny that I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun, easy, read, and an unusual take on a classic love story. This is also the first book I’ve read with a character on the autism spectrum, and I found that aspect fascinating and intriguing. 

I give it: 4/5 Intellectual dachshunds

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Question of the Day: What’s on your night table these days?

(BOOKS! I MEAN BOOKS PEOPLE!)

10 Second Book Reviews – Stuff I’ve Read Lately

Remember when I said I was going to read 52 books in 2013?

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Bet you thought I quit that noise, didn’t you? Tossed my lofty stack of paperbacks to the side, and said “the hell with it”! – content to do nothing but eat peanut M&M’s and watch Teen Mom in a ball of shame and self-loathing for the rest of my life;

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…..all the while wiping away my tears and spilled wine droplets with pages of my abandoned Infinite Jest.

Well guess what fools? You’re WRONG. Or at least partially wrong. The Teen Mom and chocolate are still happening, I’m just reading books too! (and they’re MILK chocolate M&Ms, so take that haters!!)

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I’m currently on book 36, and since I haven’t done any reviews in a while, I thought I’d catch you all up to speed on some of what I’ve been reading lately- in 10 seconds or less! Kind of like that Nicholas Cage movie…

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……….except nothing like that Nicholas Cage movie.

Iris Has Free Time

by Iris Smyles

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I think a more apt title for this book would have been “Iris is annoying”. (Good one, Breezyk!) Billed by reviewers as “for fans of HBO’s Girls”, the book- which is basically a collection of thinly-veiled semi-autobiographical essays – follows 20-something “Iris” (wonder where she came up with that one), a recent college grad with dreams of becoming a writer, as she gets drunk navigates New York City.

While some of the stories were charming and even funny, I had a hard time relating to Iris. I found her privileged, self-absorbed and desperately seeking attention (not that I would know anything about that).

Listen, I’m all for writing your own memoir as a 20-something who has done nothing remarkable in her life (hellooo.. this blog); but at the very least, find something relevant or funny to talk about besides just your “pink-outs” (which Iris calls being black-out drunk, “because she’s a girl”. Ugh.).

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I give it: 1.5/5  Intellectual Dachshunds

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A Hologram For the King

by Dave Eggers

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After Finishing Iris, this book was a breath of fresh- albeit slightly melancholic- air. The novel follows Alan Clay, a middle-aged divorcee who has been straight up bum-rushed by the recession and can’t afford to put his daughter through college. In a last-ditch attempt to turn his luck around and finally “do something great”, he goes to Saudi Arabia to make a presentation to the elusive King Abdullah in the hope of selling him hologram technology.

 [Insert 2Pac reference here].

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It’s a book where not much happens, but a lot happens at the same time.. which probably makes no sense, but just know that it’s pretty great. Dave Eggers’ writing style is extremely readable, and I was hooked from the very first page. I  also learned that the book is being made into a film starring Tom Hanks, which I’m excited about.  This book would be great to read over the fall, or to give as a gift- particularly for the men in your life. (So I’m giving it to no one). 

I give it: 4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

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One Last Thing Before I Go

by Jonathan Tropper

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In a word? Meh. I had read his book “This Is Where I Leave You” before and thought it was just so-so, but I thought I’d give him another shot. 

I was underwhelmed. In fact, I actually forgot I even read it when compiling this list. The story surrounds washed-up musician Drew Silver, who after suddenly falling ill, is told that without brain surgery, he might die. Rather than go through with it, he instead takes a long-ass time to “think things over”- and in the meantime we are treated to a heavy dose of his middle-aged malaise and baby mama drama.  I thought when reading it that it could easily become a second-rate romantic comedy- and lo and behold, I find out it IS  going to become a second-rate romantic comedy…. so we can all look forward to that. 

2/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

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Middlesex

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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A.Maz.Ing. One of the top 5 books I’ve ever read. (Which I guess makes sense, since it won the Pulitzer and all). Although it’s really about a lot of things, the book at its center is about a rare genetic mutation as it moves from one generation to the next of a Greek-American immigrant family. I won’t spoil the surprise- because it’s worth discovering on your own.

Although it was long, and a bit of a saga at times (took me over a month to get through) it was well worth it. The word “masterpiece” literally comes to mind when I think about this book. Ok I will stop gushing now and pretending I know anything about literature.. but seriously, Go and read it!

4.5/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

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Question of the Day: What Great Book Have You Read Lately?

How Sheryl Sandberg Is Ruining My Life (and other books I’ve read lately)

I’ve gotten a bit behind on my book reviews lately. What can I say, time flies when you’re doing nothing at all having fun!

Anyway, I read 5 books in May, and am still right on target with my goal of reading 52 books in 2013. Take that haters!

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Just kidding, no one cares.

Since I already reviewed Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls here, that just leaves Intellectual Dachshund and I with four more to recap- so let’s get to it, shall we?

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I like when somebody gets excited about something. It’s nice.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings centres around a group of 6 friends who first meet as teenagers at a camp for the arts in the 1970’s, and follows them  throughout their decades-long friendship. Some become successful in their artistic pursuits; others not so much. Lives become complicated, relationships become strained, issues of class, money and power ensue, and in the end everyone is richer for the experience.

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This book reminded me a lot of one I read last year- The Collective by Don Lee (only it was about white kids instead of Asians). I liked both a lot, although this one was a bit of a saga. At times I became a bit bored by the characters and their constant melodrama and first-world problems.

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But it’s an interesting read for all you creative types out there, and a good one to tuck into over the summer.

I give it: 3.3/5 Intellectual Dachshunds.

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10th of December by George Saunders

In the literary world, George Saunders is kind of a big deal. He’s published several short story collections and novellas which have been critically acclaimed and New York Times bestsellers, is a regular contributor to fancy high brow publications like The New Yorker and McSweeney’s, and in his free time teaches English at Syracuse University. Tenth of December is his most recent compilation, and includes stories he has published in various magazines between 1995 and 2009.

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Now, I know this probably flies in the face of every major review out there, but this book just wasn’t my cup of tea. While I appreciated Saunders’ writing style, I found it a bit dark for my particular taste. Although often disguised with humorous prose, every story was anchored by some sort of heavy, morose theme like suburban angst, terminal illness or post-traumatic stress disorder. The whole thing left me feeling quite melancholy, which was annoying, because I usually try to avoid feeling feelings whenever possible. So for that, I give it: 2/5 Intellectual Dachshunds.

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Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

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In this self-described “feminist manifesto”, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg examines the role of women in the workplace, and explores why they are not progressing in leadership positions to the same extent as males. She offers explanations for this phenomenon, as well as potential solutions to help women realize their full potential.

Ugh. This book. I feel like there’s not much I can say without opening this up to a giant debate about feminism and women in business, but I’ll do my best.

This book is seriously like a pandemic going around the business world right now- almost everyone I know is reading/has read it, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Well, after having read it, I still have no idea. While I appreciate what Sandberg was trying to do here and think it’s a noble cause, I was not a fan of this book. I found her tone preachy, entitled, and self-absorbed. The entire book seemed like one big name-drop sprinkled with how awesome she is. E.g.. “When I was working for the secretary of treasury”, “When Mark (sic: Zuckerberg) was teaching my son how to fence”, “When I was first in my class at Harvard”.

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I also found the whole thing very unrelateable. Sandberg has lived a privileged life, and her net worth is in the hundreds of millions – it’s hard for the average woman to identify. I also think she puts too much of the emphasis on women, who are already juggling so much, to take on more, and not enough on broader, systemic changes.. but that is a whole barrel of monkeys I will not get into right now. I hoped to find this book inspiring, but instead I found it exhausting, and like I would never measure up. I give it 1/5 intellectual dachshunds.

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The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paulo Giordano

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Alice and Mattia are both “primes” — misfits who seem destined to be alone. They are haunted by the childhood tragedies and find themselves unable to reach out to anyone else. When the two meet as teenagers, they recognize in each other a kindred, damaged spirit. As they grow into adulthood, their destinies seem irrevocably intertwined. But when the mathematically gifted Mattia accepts a research position that takes him thousands of miles away, the two are forced to separate with many things left unsaid. A chance encounter will reunite them and force a lifetime of concealed emotion to the surface, but the question remains: Can two prime numbers ever find a way to be together?

I stole that little synopsis from the back of the book, because hey, I’m running out of steam here. The same coworker who lent me The Elegance of The Hedgehog lent this to me thinking I’d like it, and she was right. This book was emo, romantic, melodramatic and basically everything I love in a relationship novel.

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It would make for a great beach read, gift, or book club pick.

I give it: 4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

Question of the day: What book are you looking forward to reading on the beach this summer?

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