What I Read: January 2014

Guys, I read so many books in January! I love starting the year by reading a ton, because I know that my reading will inevitably taper off by the end of the year, and in December the only thing I’ll end up reading is my email. It’s a struggle of the first world variety, I know!

Anyway, here’s what I read last month. Shannon and I tend to bounce books off of each other, so some of these are recommendations from her, which are usually pretty reliable, and some are books that I brought into the mix. I hope you’re inspired to read one of these this month!

if i staywhere she went

If I Stay and Where She Went, Gayle Forman

I’ve read kind of a lot of young adult fiction this year and it has me wondering why YA literature wasn’t nearly this good when it was more appropriate for me to read it? In any case, I love this two part series. If I Stay tells the story of Mia, a teen girl who is in a coma and watching her life, particularly the reactions of her boyfriend, Adam, from an out-of-body perspective. And, spoiler alert, Where She Went tells the story of Adam and Mia’s lives a few years later. I found both books to be incredibly emotional and touching, in addition to being pretty quick reads. Overall, very satisfying, and I’d recommend both.

just one day

 

Just One Day, Gayle Forman

I mean, after reading the two books above, why wouldn’t I look for more of Gayle Forman’s work? I’ll be honest- if I read a book that I enjoy, I generally read as much of that author’s other work as I can find. Probably not ideal for a broad exposure to literature, but…it’s my thing. Anyway, Just One Day is a full length novel and took a bit of time to get into- the first fifty or sixty pages seemed to drag a bit. Once I got into the meat of the story, though, it was just as engaging as her other books. The story ended with a total cliffhanger, and was perfectly set up for a sequel…you can bet that I’ll read Just One Year as soon as Shannon finished with it.

 

orange is the new black

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, Piper Kerman

Of course, while waiting for Netflix to bring us Season Two, Shannon and I were compelled to read the memoir that inspired the popular series. Like many people, I frequently have problems with books that have been adapted for film or television, but I still enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting to see that some of the more startling scenes in the television series matched closely with Kerman’s descriptions, and weren’t particularly sensationalized for the drama. The book is thought provoking, in that it takes to task the prison system in America, and sincerely questions the motivations regarding the current policy; essentially, Kerman makes it pretty clear that the prison system as it stands isn’t interested in rehabbing anyone, or preparing prisoners to be assimilated into society, and is certainly not doing anything to prevent first time offenders returning to prison multiple times.

the dinner

The Dinner, Herman Koch

You know, I’m not sure about this book. Shannon didn’t like it at all, but I really think it might have value. Now, I don’t know that I care for the story- it was pretty dark and I didn’t actually like any of the characters- but the writing really did elicit some strong emotions in me, namely disgust. I think that the mark of poor writing is having the reader not care at all about the story, so I think that my distaste, repulsion, and judgement indicate that Koch was quite successful with this piece of literature. Nothing about The Dinner made me feel good, per se, but sometimes I like to be disgusted. So, yes, I recommend this book, but not if you’re looking for anything light or lovely or inspirational.

 

the last summer

The Last Summer, Judith Kinghorn

This book is the complete opposite of the last one. I was getting particularly antsy waiting for the new season of Downton Abbey, so I started reading books in similar settings. The Last Summer is the perfectly lovely story of Clarissa, who comes from a wealthy estate family, falling in love with Tom, who is the son of the housekeeper. Tom is sent away to the war with the rest of the young men and, of course, heartbreak ensues. This book is very Downton, and is a pretty substantial read at 464 pages. It’s not a literary masterpiece, but it’s certainly not as empty as much of the chick-lit fluff that I read, so I would say it’s the perfect book for a snowy weekend when all you want to do is be wrapped up in a love story.

 

the book thief

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

It’s true- I took a ton of my book recommendations last month from movie previews. That’s not even an exaggeration…each time we sit through previews I have to take out my phone and make a note of the titles in my handy Evernote app. So, yes, The Book Thief came out in theaters in November to pretty good reviews, I believe, and that makes sense to me since it was also a pretty engaging book. The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany in 1939 and tells the story of Leisel, a foster child who places an incredibly high value on books. This book takes the reader through the heartbreak of bombing raids, the parades of Jewish prisoners, and the struggle of keeping a Jew hidden in her basement. I really, really loved The Book Thief- Markus Zusak writes with an intensity that it a bit addictive, and completely engaged me as a reader.