Books I Read This Week 2019 – 24

This was a meh reading week, for me. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World (3 stars): “Better a brain than a fist. A brain can hold anything, from giant things, like distant stars and planets, to tiny things we can’t see, like germs. A brain can even hold things that aren’t and never were, like hobbits. A brain can hold the whole universe, a fist just holds what little it can grab. Or hits what it can’t.” There are so many beautiful bits in this book, and yet, for me, it mostly dragged. I just couldn’t get into the story and didn’t ever really connect with the main character. In a book where the main character is alone 60+% of the time, this was a major issue.

While there is indeed a twist toward the end of this book, I couldn’t decide if the twist was at all necessary. I couldn’t decide if it added to the story in any way. Sometimes the twist makes you go back and revisit everything you held to be true while you were reading a story. In rare cases where that’s executed perfectly, that’s great. In most cases it’s just a disaster, in my opinion, where the author just assumes the reader is dumb and they can drop a huge twist with no hints along the way that just makes the first half of the story completely unimportant. I hate those. In this case, though, I felt it was neither. It didn’t do much to serve the story, and I think I would have enjoyed the end of the story just as much without the twist being presented in such a twisty way. 

I did enjoy the end of the story but I am not sure it made up for the whole time I invested in this one. If you like beautiful writing, dystopia, or twists, this might be your cup of tea.

Exhalation (4 stars):  I read Ted Chiang’s previous book after I’d already seen the movie Arrival. While I enjoyed the writing, I couldn’t get into the stories. I figured it was my inability to focus at the time so when this new collection came out, I was looking forward to it but also a bit apprehensive. I don’t usually read short story collections, so that only added to my overall worry that I wouldn’t like this book.

Alas, my worries were unfounded. If you’re a fan of science fiction and good writing, you will find something to treasure here. There are a wide range of stories and one of the best parts is the author’s note at the end of each story, telling you about how the idea came to be and what area of science it was based on. To me, that was icing on the cake. 

I loved many of the stories but for me the first and the last stories (“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” and “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom”) were the best. I also loved “Omphalos” and chatted about it at length with my fourteen year old. Even his titles make me smile.

So glad I decided to tackle this one.

The Unpassing (3 stars): “It was a kind of violence, what my father had done. He had brought us to a place we didn’t belong, and taken us from a place we did. Now we yearned for all places and found peace in none.”

This is a story about grief told from the perspective of a young boy of an immigrant family from Taiwan. The boy gets meningitis and is in a coma, when he wakes up, he finds out that his sister also got it and died. The story is about all the ways in which the family grieves the girl on top of the struggles they have as an immigrant family in Alaska. Things do not get better and there’s a lot of sadness in this character-driven story. 

The news from the time (80s) are also incorporated into the story, things like Challenger explosion, etc. The themes around grief, immigration, racism, bullying are all covered. The book is slow and grim but also has beautiful prose. 

If character-driven stories are your cup of tea, you will appreciate this one.

Rules for Visiting (3 stars): This is a very quiet novel and not much happens in it. But in a sweet, wonderful way. This book doesn’t focus on what’s going on but more about what does it mean for us to be human, what does friendship mean, and how do we make or keep friends. What does it mean to foster relationships in your life. 

I am more like the main character in this book than not, I have friends but i don’t really do the work to foster them too much. I prefer to be alone with my books. Unlike the main character I have a family so when I feel the need to connect, I have my wonderful family which makes it even less likely for me to try to foster and grow friendships. This book made me think a lot and I made a list of all the people who’ve been in my life that I’d rather have a closer relationship with so that I can also work on growing those relationships over the coming months. 

Any book that makes me more intentional about my life is a good book, for me.

Everything is F*cked (2 stars): I try to never ever give low ratings because I know that a lot of effort and care and blood and sweat goes into writing a book. And who am I to judge a book and say it was bad. But then again, these are just my opinions and I find that when I am looking around picking a book to read, the variety of opinions matter to me so I think it’s important to be honest about how I felt about reading a book so that other people can make choices that work for them.

I’ll say that I read and really liked Mason’s first book so I was very much looking forward to this one and hoping it would be more of the direct and honest style I’ve appreciated from him. And this book had some of that but it attempted to be so philosophical, so high level that I didn’t at all feel the personal connection to it like I did in the first book. It was all over the place and much less organized than the first book. 

It had some interesting and thought provoking ideas but many of them were from other books I’d already read, so not new to me. I did like much of his philosophical points and historical examples but it just didn’t really coalesce into a solid delivery in my opinion. 

I will still read more books by Manson and look forward to his next one, this one just wasn’t a home run for me.

Noble Heart (5 stars): I am a huge fan of Pema Chodron and this is a very comprehensive set of lectures. This was likely a recording at a retreat so the format is: lessons/learnings and then meditation over multiple days. It’s not ideal for listening to in one shot while running errands, etc. But to be honest, I can and will listen to Pema anytime, anywhere, under any condition. 

Her ability to take concepts and make them human, add a layer of humor and a layer of personal touch is unparalleled. She is such a good teacher because she’s fallible and the audience can relate to her so well because it’s clear she understands why we all seek these learnings because she clearly does, too. 

There is such a density of content here that I can listen to it again and again and appreciate it deeply each time. So grateful for teachers like her.

And there we go, an okay week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.