Hello, fellow readers! It’s now been nearly two months since we began the 2015 Reading Challenge. I thought it would be a good idea to check in every few months or so, to offer encouragement and book recommendations. To get things going, I would like to share with you my 2015 reads (so far).
As I write this on February 25th, 2015, I have checked off five of the Challenge suggestions. In chronological order, I give to you my January and February reading history:
The Art of Racing in the Rain—Garth Stein (A book with nonhuman characters).
Simply put: I loved this book. Although I am a dog lover (I’m one of those people that will go up to random strangers on the street and ask to pet their dogs), I was hesitant to read this. I wasn’t excited about a novel told from the perspective of a dog; I assumed that it would be simplistic. I could not have been more wrong. In fact, this just might be the “deepest” book on the list. Enzo—dog/narrator—is the wise old companion of an aspiring race car driver. Enzo tries his best to comfort his master through a number of personal setbacks. His existential racing metaphors will leave you inspired, and if you are anything like me, his pure and loving heart will leave you in tears.
A Separate Peace—John Knowles (A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t).
When I was in school, I was always the dutiful student. This was especially true in my English classes because I enjoyed them so much. But even I could not muster the strength to get through A Separate Peace in the 10th grade. I know that I was not alone in this. Here’s the truth: After finally reading it (I did! Cross my heart!), I still don’t love it. Or even like it all that much. But, I will say this: My second pass led me to notice meaningful details and themes that I can appreciate more as an adult than I would have as a teenager. For example, Knowles writes eloquently about the complex emotions that young men grapple with as they struggle to maintain their innocence and carefree ways while also knowing full well that their impending involvement in World War II is all but certain. These themes of innocence lost and wartime fears are still relevant today, in both literature and in society itself. I should also note that I have a friend who considers A Separate Peace her favorite book, so don’t take my opinion on this matter as Gospel truth.
I’ll Give You the Sun—Jandy Nelson (A book set in high school).
I love Young Adult literature. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: some of the best writing being published today comes from YA authors. This will most certainly be a future blog post, but for now, in the words of Sophia Petrillo, I digress…I’ll Give You the Sun was fantastic. It’s about a sibling relationship (a relationship between twins, to be exact), artistic drive, burgeoning sexuality, the secrets that live in families and the seismic way in which those secrets can create fissures in the family dynamic. Twins Jude and Noah tend to speak in hyperbole; a stylistic feature that I hope will be visually replicated in the film version, which is said to be in development.
The Girl on the Train—Paula Hawkins (A book published this year).
This is the hot book of the moment. Not only is it a bestseller in book stores, but it’s flying off library shelves, as well; there are currently well over 1,000 Nassau County patrons with holds on this British mystery. Most of the advertisements and reviews have dubbed it this year’s Gone Girl. In Hawkins’ novel, Rachel is a depressed alcoholic who takes the train into London each day. She becomes captivated by the attractive couple she passes during her rides, and when the young wife disappears, she insinuates herself into the investigation. A missing woman, chapters told from alternating perspectives, and a plot filled with twists and turns; there are certainly parallels between the two novels. For me, this one started a little slow but eventually picked up. I still prefer Gone Girl, though I would certainly recommend The Girl on the Train.
Fun Home—Alison Bechdel (A graphic novel)
Fun Home has stretched my reading boundaries more than any other book mentioned here. The only graphic novels that I had read prior to this were Maus and Maus II; they were required reading for Literature of the Holocaust, a course I took in college. So, this is the first time that I’ve read a graphic novel voluntarily and purely for pleasure. Fun Home is the autobiographical story of author Alison Bechdel. In particular, it looks at the complex relationship between her and her father; just as Alison was coming to terms with her own sexuality, she learned that her father (who had recently committed suicide) was gay. Bechdel’s use of language is beautiful and poetic. She gently weaves in a little mythology, and instead of this device distancing the reader from the story, it brings us closer to it. I read 150 pages in one day! I just could not put it down! This was a recommendation from our Head of Reference, which brings me to a piece of advice that I would like to pass along to all you readers: ask your local librarians for recommendations! They might point you towards a fantastic book that’s a little off the beaten path.
As we continue to work our way through our To Be Read piles, one chapter at a time, I am asking you to join the conversation. Please share your reading lists and recommendations with us. If you disagree with me and hated The Art of Racing in the Rain or if Fun Home is your favorite book, leave a comment and let us know. Be a part of the fun!