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?

Featured post

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:

cray4

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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?

Featured post

Liars, Drinkers And Eternal Optimists: Books I Read In April

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Oh, hello.

I didn’t see you come in.

Intellectual Dachshund and I were just about to review some of the books I read in April. Won’t you stay and join us?

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You will? Fantastic! Isn’t that right Intellectual Dachshund?

Reading nurtures the soul, and an enlightened friend brings it solace.
Reading nurtures the soul, and an enlightened friend brings it solace.

Aah my erudite little creature. So pithy! So delightful! Now, let’s get started, shall we?

Everything Is Perfect When You’re A Liar

by Kelly Oxford

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Only two years ago, Kelly Oxford was an unknown, Canadian stay-at-home mom with a dream of becoming a writer. Now, she has a best-selling book, a  sold screenplay and a TV pilot. 

How did she do it? She be tweetin’ y’all.

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Her hilarious tweets caught the attention of comedians and Hollywood celebs, and soon she amassed over 500,000 followers.  Can you say ca-ching in 140 characters or less?

Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar  is Oxford’s collection of personal essays that cover everything from her awkward childhood, to her brief teenage modeling career, to being David Copperfield’s private guest in Las Vegas. 

Each story is engaging, well-written and hilarious. You never feel like she’s reaching for her jokes, or trying too hard. It’s almost like the funny just comes out of her naturally, an unintended side effect of her storytelling.

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This is exactly the type of book I would like to write someday;  and for that I give it:

4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

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

The Rum Diary

by Hunter S. Thompson

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The Rum Diary tells the story of Paul Kemp, a 30-year-old journalist who moves to San Juan, Puerto Rico in the late 1950’s to work for an English language newspaper. When Paul is introduced to rest of the newspaper staff – a veritable motley crew of has-beens, misanthropes and never-weres-  he quickly gets swept into a world of hard-drinking, girlfriend-stealing, bar brawling, and of course, the occasional news story.

(You might also be familiar with the 2011 movie based on the book starring Johnny Depp)

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If it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a plotline involved here, that’s because there isn’t. It’s really just some drunk-ass dudes wandering around a tropical paradise, eating hamburgers and causing disturbances. It’s awesome.

This book had me hooked from the very beginning. With it’s crisp prose and quoteable one-liners, I had a hard time putting it down. It reminded me of On the Road, but with more paragraphs, and punctuation.

Even though I’m not a wayward journalist with a drinking problem (officially), I found I could really identify with Paul and his feelings of aimlessness in Puerto Rico. I feel like that here in Toronto sometimes. I have no real roots here, no family, and sometimes I feel like I’m just wandering from place to place like some tiny, insignificant tumbleweed.

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Anyhoo, since this is a book review and not a junior high journal entry, let’s get to the ratings shall we?

I give it: 4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds 

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

Favourite Line: “It gave me a strange feeling, and the rest of that night I didn’t say much, but merely sat there and drank, trying to decide if I was getting older and wiser, or just plain old.”

Candide

by Voltaire 

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What the whaaaaat? BreezyK reading Voltaire? Don’t worry-  there is a reasonable explanation for all of this. Back in the fall when I took my Humor writing course, the instructor recommended this book as being one of the best humor pieces ever written. I finally got around to reading it a couple of weeks ago, and I’m glad I did.

The book centers around Candide, an enthusiastic young man brought up in the home of a wealthy Baron. Candide was taught by his tutor Pangloss to believe that no matter what happens ‘all is for the best’. Things, however, take a turn for the worse when the Baron throws Candide out after discovering his love for the Baron’s daughter, Cundegonde. Candide then sets out on a series of misadventures all across Europe, Asia and South America, experiencing one unfortunate series of events after another: earthquakes, syphilis, robberies, knaves, you name it – all the while testing Candide’s eternal optimism.

I found this book refreshing and hilarious – it satirizes everything from love, to money, to religion. It’s also a complete seminar in pithiness. Despite the fact that each chapter is about 3 pages long, so much happens in each one of them. This is a great read if you get bored easily and like short books (it’s only about 90 pages, which actually makes it a novella, but who’s counting). Then, when you’re done, you can feel superior to other people by saying you’ve read Voltaire. Win Win!

I give it (you guessed it) 4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds:

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

 

Question of the Day: What book or movie do you quote constantly?

For me, it’s Zoolander. I’m hoping to change that.

Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking

Do you often let calls go through to voicemail? Enjoy one-on-one conversations as opposed to group activities? Dislike conflict? Prefer working alone rather than in a team? 

If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, then you my friend, are probably an introvert.

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The good news is, you’re not alone. According to Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, at least 1/3 of the people we know are introverts.

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Including me.

Yes- I know it  may come as a surprise, given how hilarious, effervescent and engaging  I am on my blog- but don’t let that purple wig fool you. On the inside, I’m just a scared little panda. 

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I prefer listening to talking, find it easier to express myself in writing, and to the disappointment of my throngs of friends and admirers, often prefer to stay home, read a book and be by myself on a Saturday night.

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Cain’s book explores the idea that in today’s society, introverts are chronically undervalued. By praising extroversion above almost all else, we fail to capitalize on the special and unique skills introverts possess, like focus, innovation, creativity, work ethic, thoughtfulness, and observation. 

Cain explains how over the past 100 years, Western culture has become obsessed with the idea of personality. “The Extrovert Ideal” now permeates almost everything we do: from offices designed in open concepts to inspire “Groupthink” and “brainstorming sessions”, to classrooms arranged in “pods”,  to the success of such books as “How to Win Friends and Influence People” .

If only all open concept offices had Don Draper in them.
If only all open concept offices had Don Draper in them.

Introversion has become a form of pathology – a personality trait that needs to be “fixed”. We encourage children who are introverted to “come out of their shells”, rather than focusing on what they can bring to the table. Cain points to evidence that our “extrovert ideal” can actually be harmful in business, and lobbies for change.

I decided to read this book after a friend showed me Cain’s 2012 TED Talk on the same subject. It received over 4 million YouTube hits and helped start what is now known as “The Quiet Revolution”.

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The book is exhaustively researched: Cain spent almost 7 years wading through literature and scientific studies, as well as conducting her own “field research”. She went to a Tony Robbins leadership conference, spent a week at Harvard Business School, shadowed Asian American high school students, interviewed psychologists and prominent business people, attended a retreat for the highly sensitive and observed an Evangelical Christian leadership conference. 

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I found this book fascinating, and it really resonated with me on a lot of levels. Before becoming a writer, Cain was a corporate lawyer on Wall Street, and discusses the difficulty of being an introvert in a profession dominated by big personalities. As a young lawyer, I can relate. I am constantly attending business development and networking seminars where we are encouraged to hand out business cards like Halloween candy.

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“Follow up with everyone you meet!” they say. “Introduce yourself to the Managing partner in the elevator!”. As an introvert, this can feel overwhelming. You worry you will be left behind by all of your gregarious, outgoing contemporaries who fluently speak the language of schmooze.

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Cain, however, explains how she put her skills as an introvert to work for her. By being the most prepared person in the room and using her skills of listening and observation, she became a highly successful negotiator, eventually founding her own consulting business. 

Another point Cain explored that I found interesting was the “internet paradox”: introverts are much more likely to express intimate details about themselves on the internet, to total strangers- often things their friends or family would be surprised to learn about them. 

This definitely rings true with me. As cheesy as it is to say, I feel like when I started blogging, I found my voice. It was like suddenly, my personality was more tangible to those around me. I felt understood. 

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This is overly dramatic but you catch my drift.

You should definitely read this book if you are an introvert, or have introverts in your life. (if you’re curious whether you are an introvert, you can take Cain’s quiz here) .I will say, the book can be a little heavy on the scientific mumbo jumbo- so if you don’t want to deal with all that independent/dependent variable noise, then you can always just watch the TED Talk instead.

I give it: 4.2/5 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: Are You An Introvert, or an Extrovert?

From Wily Old Geezers To Middle Class Malaise: Other Books I Read In February

So I’d just like to start by saying THANK YOU for all of your lovely comments on my last post. I swear I wasn’t fishing for compliments (yes I was), but it’s still lovely to hear so many kind words of encouragement and to know so many of you can relate.

Now, onto business. In keeping with my goal of reading 52 books in 2013, I read four books in February. A slight decrease from the 5 I read in January, but in my defense, it was a short month, and two of them were over 500 pages (I know. That SHOULD be illegal). I already reviewed Ham on Rye here, but below are my thoughts on the remaining three.

1. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared

No, this is not what happened following Clint Eastwood’s latest speaking engagement… but good guess. It’s actually the title of this lovely little book by Jonas Jonasson:

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The 100-Year-Old-Man tells the story of Allan Karlsson, a Swedish octogenarian who, on his 100th birthday, climbs out the window of his nursing home with nothing but a pair of flimsy old slippers and a strong hankering for Vodka, and decides to start over.

You had me at “vodka”.

A series of hilarious and entirely unpredictable adventures ensue involving a stolen suitcase full of cash, an organized crime ring, unlikely friendships, and (what else) an elephant. What makes the plot even more interesting is that throughout the book, we learn that Allan is not your average centenarian. A munitions expert by trade, Alan somehow had a hand in everything from inventing the atomic bomb to saving General Franco’s life. He’s basically like the really old, Swedish Forrest Gump.

Except way, way older
Except way, way older

This book was silly, ridiculous, and I kind of loved it. I’m not going to say it was perfect- parts of the plot were downright unbelievable, and most of the characters were incredibly unrealistic, but I tried to tell myself this was all just part of its charm.

I think it would make a good Hollywood screwball comedy film, like a Hangover or Bounty Hunter type situation. Preferably one that would involve Gerard Butler wearing no shirt and massacring a Swedish accent.

Gerard Butler stars in Law Abiding Citizen.

Plus, it’s nice to see a lighter side to the Swedes after all that Girl With the Dragon Tattoo business.

For that, I give it 3.9 intellectual Dachshunds.

Too lazy to make this entirely accurate.
Too lazy to make this entirely accurate.

2. I Found This Funny by Judd Apatow

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From famed Hollywood writer, producer and director Judd Apatow (Pineapple Express, Girls, The 40-Year-Old- Virgin) comes this collection of his favorite humor pieces: from short stories, to poems, to illustrations; even a failed TV pilot written by Conan O’Brien.

Apatow explains in the prologue that after the commercial flops of his first two TV shows Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, he decided to take a year off from writing and just focus on reading.

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He started with short stories, because that’s all he had the attention span for, and grew from there.

His career took off exponentially after that, and he attributes a lot of his success in his writing to that year he spent reading. I found that really cool, and something I could sort of relate to given this whole 52 book thing I’m doing.

I should warn you, though, that a fair number of these pieces are not funny at all. He admits this right at the outset – some are sad, poignant, or just plain confusing.. but if you’re open to it, these ones are cool too. The collection includes pieces by such famous writers as David Sedaris, Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers, but I think one of my favourites was a story by Paul Feig (co-creator of Freaks and Geeks) about his attempts at announcing his high school football games, despite knowing nothing at all about football.

This is a great coffee table (or, lets be honest, bathroom) book: one that you can pick up every now and again and read a piece from.

I give it: 3.7 intellectual daschunds.

Too lazy to make this entirely accurate.

3. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

I'm making a sad face because this book is fundamentally sad in nature. P.S. I got new glasses.
I’m making a sad face because this is an inherently sad book. Also, I got new glasses.

I was inspired to read this book based on a short story by Franzen in I Found This Funny. More than anything, I was struck by his vocabulary. I had to look up like 8 words in a 12 page story. It was kind of annoying, but I also like a challenge.

The Corrections centers around aging Midwestern couple Edith & Alfred, and their desire to have their three grown children, Gary, Denise & Chip, all home for one last Christmas. Enid is miserable, Alfred’s got Parkinson’s with a side of dementia, and the kids have got a whole host of issues I can’t even begin to describe here. Basically, Gary is a depressed alcoholic, Denise is a Grade A Homewrecker, and Chip is a broke screenwriter who was fired from his teaching job for “sexual harassment”.

Yeah, it’s all VERY uplifting. Did i mention it’s also like, 600 pages?

I really wanted to love this book. It received tons of critical acclaim (you might remember it from the infamous Oprah’s book club fiasco a few years back whereby Franzen basically told Oprah to go eff herself.)

They made up later. No one stays mad at Oprah.
They made up later. No one stays mad at Oprah.

And I did like parts of it. Franzen did a great job of capturing the nuances of family life and sibling relationships. However, it was also very long, slow-paced and emotionally draining.

If you’re into tangible malaise and a bunch of white people talking about their first world problems, then this book might be for you. Otherwise, stick to I Found This Funny.

I give it: 3 Intellectual Dashchunds.

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Question of the Day: What Book Are You Currently Reading/Have Read Recently?

Book Review: Ham On Rye By Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski was one angry man.

….Or should I say, Henry Chinaski, Bukowkski’s thinly veiled aler-ego in the novel Ham on Rye.

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In this semi-autobiographical take on Bukowksi’s own life, Ham on Rye follows Chinaski through his childhood and adolescence, first in Germany, and then in depression-era Los Angeles.

To say life wasn’t easy for the young Chinaski would be an understatement. Poverty, bullying, and frequent beatings from his father were just a few of the problems he faced on a daily basis. Not to mention the horrible,  disfiguring acne he acquired as a teenager, forcing him to suffer through painful treatments and social ostracization.

As a result of this, Chinaski grew up an angry outsider. He had few friends at school, and spent most of his time reading D.H. Lawrence books in the Los Angeles public library. He also sought solace in writing, but his stories were often dismissed by others as being “too angry”.

I would call Chinaski a misanthrope, were it not for his abiding love – nay, obsession- with the female form. (let’s just say l had no idea how gross teenage males could be).  Oh, and of course, alcohol. He notably remarks, after experiencing intoxication for the first time: “this is going to help me for a long, long time”.

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Unfortunately, the honeymoon is short-lived, and his relationship with alcohol leads to progressively seedier and more violent behavior.

There’s not really much of a “plot” in Ham on Rye: it tells the story of the first 20 years of Chinaski’s life; and then it ends. And that was OK with me.

I read this book in one Sunday afternoon. I had planned on seeing Gangster Squad, but had 45 minutes to kill before the movie started. So I popped into the bookstore next to the theatre. I’d been wanting to read Bukowski since I read this letter he wrote, so I picked up this book and settled into a comfy chair to check it out.

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Four hours and 230 pages later, I completely missed my movie, but found a great book. (Yes, a book beat out Ryan Gosling. What is happening to me.)

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I ended up buying a copy out of guilt (Well played, Chapters Indigo…Well played), and proceeded to walk out of the store like a zombie. The last time I read an entire book in one day was probably in Middle School, when I was obsessed with the Emily of New Moon series.

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I used to lock myself in my room for days, devouring books like some sort of crazed meth addict. I’d forgotten what an overwhelming and mentally exhausting feeling this can be. Thoughts and emotions whirred around my brain like crazy; letters floated in front of my eyelids every time I blinked.

I think this book hit me particularly hard because it was so emotionally raw. At times I thought about putting it down, but couldn’t. It was sort of like pressing a canker sore; as uncomfortable as it was, I also kind of liked it. Having read a lot of fluff before this, it felt good to read a book with real pain and tangible feelings involved- one that wasn’t obviously angling to become a Hollywood film.

I think one of the biggest things I took away from this book was just how good my generation has it. Growing up, my parents would say things like, “you kids don’t know how lucky you are!”. And proceed to regale us with harrowing tales from their youth; like “I used to walk four miles to school, in 35 foot high snow!”  or “I had to scrub the floors for three hours every day.. with a toothbrush!”

It was easy to tune them out and hear the voice of the Charlie Brown teacher when it was my parents:

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not so much when the words were right there on the page in front of me. It made me feel guilty and ashamed for complaining about all of my first-world problems, when poor Henry Chinaski was wearing the same pants to school every day and getting his ass kicked for missing a blade of grass when he cut the front lawn.

Chinaski’s experience as a German immigrant also really hit me on a personal level. Like Chinaski, my father was also the son of Eastern European immigrants, and he too was chided by his peers and made to feel unwelcome for his immigrant status. It gave me a whole new appreciation for how difficult it was for my dad growing up. I wanted to reach out across four provinces and give him a great big hug.

Even though it was aggressively emo and made my cold sarcastic heart grow three sizes in one day,  I still thought this book was great, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to take a step out of their reading comfort zone.

I give it: 4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds 

Intellectual Dachshund Says: I Feel Feelings
Intellectual Dachshund Says: I Feel Feelings

Question of the Day: What book has made a lasting impression on you?

And P.S. for those of you who are worried about my emotional health, rest assured that I am currently reading The Happiness Project.. which I’m told fixes every problem in your entire life. Right??

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