One of the upsides of internet too slow to watch Netflix is lots of time to read. I brought a few books down with me and I’m working through them slowly, as I also try to stay current on the New Yorker, a near sisyphean task. I also got some books as gifts when my parents came down (books are the best gifts) and I love having them and knowing they were purchased at the Strand. It’s a reminder of home and also a compensation for the last four years of having so much reading for school that I didn’t have much time to read for pleasure.
What I’ve Read and What I’ve Thought
I read The Unlikely Disciple on the kindle app on my flight to Guatemala on Leah’s strong recommendation and it wound up unintentionally summing up some of the themes of this year, namely living in a town highly influenced by evangelical churches and beliefs. A quick read, but a fun and relevant one, especially considering that Bernie Sanders spoke at Liberty University last week.
I then read Small Blessings, which I would classify as okay. It’s fairly predictable about a college town and something I would have probably returned ot the library. But hey there aren’t many options here
Then I read Modern Romance on the kindle, Aziz Ansari’s book about how relationships have changed thanks to technology. I saw a tweet from Sandra
“Modern dating is crazzzyyy, guys! Women! Men! So different, amirite? But I’ve got it allll figured out now bc I have a GIRLFRIEND” —Aziz
— Sandra Rubinchik (@sroobs) June 10, 2015
that summarized this book and found it a very accurate summary. He has some insight but the non academic background of his writing is evident in how often he cites his super healthy and loving relationship as evidence that love is possible. It feels as though he’s trying a little too hard. One cool part of the book was focus groups about dating conducted in different cities around the world. The Buenos Aires one brought back a few memories, most of them unpleasant.
I then read a really dumb book called Sous Chef which I do not want to link to. It was silly and self indulgent, hard pass.
Bitter Fruit came next, probably because my brain needed it, and it was one of the most important things I’ve read recently.
In 1954, the US arranged a coup that overthrew Guatemala’s president right as he embarked on democratic reforms including land reform. This threatened the United Fruit Company, which dominated much of Central America and had connections in high places. This being 1954, an excuse of communism and some media manipulation justified this overthrow. The CIA lied to all other branches of government and the full details of this coup were only obtained years later thanks to Freedom of Information Act requests. I first learned about this coup in my intro to Latin American history class sophomore year and it’s a really important beginning of an era for Latin America, with Cuba as one indirect result and the radicalization of many future leaders, including Che, in reaction to the US actions. It also explains a lot about Guatemala and leaves a lot of blood on US hands (Bill Clinton apologized for this coup and its aftermath while in office). It’s really relevant now. As a history geek, I also noticed some changes in practice in historical writing, for example all quotes were translated without the original Spanish noted which is not how things go now. Have I mentioned I’m glad I don’t have to write a thesis this fall?
Next, I devoured This is How You Lose her by Junot Diaz. It’s the first thing I’ve read by him and it’s insanely good. His voice is so unique and urgent and human. The cover blurb called the tone caffeinated and I have to agree. I started reading this in Antigua on a business trip, starting it while there was a small lull at our trade fair table. It’s a book of short stories and I wound up so involved that I would hope for customers not to come just so I could continue reading. Then I wound up I want to read more by Diaz but I don’t know if they’ll top this. Any suggestions?
Then, I read Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling, thanks to my mom ordering it on kindle. Mindy Kaling’s newest book, much like her first one, is a satisfying mix of frivolity and real talk about Hollywood and womanhood. In this one, I enjoyed her stories about getting her tv show made, a delightful alternative life she imagines for herself as a latin teacher at a new york city private school and the much excerpted section about entitlement and confidence. It’s a quick read, but a fun one.
Next, I’m reading The Blazing World about a female artist who undertakes an experiment. She creates three shows and has three male artists display her work, noting the critical reactions they get. I first bought this book at powells in Portland, one of the coolest bookstores. I then left it on a Portland public bus so I hope someone got to read it. I re bought it at the strand (for more money ugh New York) and now feel compelled to love it because I’ve paid for it twice.
Other books in my queue include Saint Mazie (which I mostly wanted to read because the author’s grubstreet diet was so fabulous), City by City, and This Side of Paradise (my first non gatsby Fitzergald)
Do you have any book recommendations? Are any of these on your list? Leave them here! I can always download things on my kindle app and will definitely bring some books back in December.