Friday, August 22, 2008

Summer Reading



There is nothing I like better to do than to waste away summertime hours engorged in a book.  I'm somewhat of a "bookworm," though recently, this title has been changed to a "book-eater," a "book-engulfer," a "book-monster" for the ferocious speed at which I can digest a book. 

They should really have an Olympic sport for that.  I can just imagine it now.  The timer starts... pages fly..."Need more light! I need more light!"...finished books consistently piling up, to the tipping point of toppling over...Done! The gold medal is all mine!! Librarians everywhere cheer my name!

As glorious as that sounds, nothing beats reading a good book. One that rocks your world and shakes you to your core. One that makes you cry, makes your heart swoon, makes you look through rose tinted glasses.  

As a constant reader, surrounded by the gajillions of books out there, it's a tricky process to pick out the gems.  The bookstore can sometimes be way overwhelming. I mean, have you seen the Santa Monica Borders?  Droolworthy.

And the timing. The timing has to be just right. I've had a couple of instances where I'll read a book at a certain time and it just wouldn't strike me the right way and then I'd pick it up again after a couple of years only to find it utterly beguiling.  Unfortunately, not all books get that second chance.

So I have my method, my system.  I read "Entertainment Weekly" (my other bible) and devour the books review section.  I check out the synopsis of the ones I know I'll be interested in and the next time I head to the bookstore, I make sure to keep an eye out for it.  I also constantly keep an ear out for what my friends are reading.  It's sad that there's not too many of them out there who does it (reading for fun, that is) but for the few, their suggestions I greatly appreciate.

Anyway, this summer I didn't really have as much time to peruse through as many books as I usually do but I did find a few to be particularly good companions to bring along for the plane or the train.  Oh, and I've also recently been all about "girl power" and strong, quirky, feminine heroines.  The following six recent reads all share these qualities.  Blame Hillary.

Sammy's Hill -Kristin Gore

Genre: "chick lit"
Written by the daughter of everyone's favorite would-have-been president, Al Gore, this book is a easy breezy read set in the world of Washington D.C. You could consider it a chick lit because it has a bubbly heroine doing her thang and then meeting dreamy guys along the way but I don't really appreciate the term "chick lit" because it sounds as the book can't really be taken seriously.  I mean, books written by male writers that includes male protagonists aren't called "lad lit" or "dick lit" (Actually, Wikipedia proved me wrong and stated that those two terms do indeed exist. They're just not as marketable, I guess).  Anyway, this book really stuck out to me because the heroine is such a cooky delight!  She gets rashes every time she talks to a hot guy, she likes to celebrate obscure holidays and she's so clumsy she makes Lucille Ball seem graceful.  But despite all that, she's still a smart, witty woman willing to speak her mind and work towards making her beliefs about progressive change a reality.  I also really appreciated the fact that not once did Sammy ever talk about her weight or her looks.  "Chick lits" are usually filled with references to fitting into a hot dress or not being pretty enough for someone.  It's refreshing that Sammy is unaffected by such superficial needs.

Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

Genre: memoir
My friend Anisha turned me onto this book and now she and Elizabeth Gilbert are both my heroes.  This memoir details a year in the author's life where her world turned upside down so she decided to do go for a complete change and travel to different countries in search of things to satiate her need in life.  She went to Italy and sought food, pleasure and comfort.  She went to India to calm her spiritual desires.  She went to Indonesia and found everything she was looking for.  Gilbert writes with wit and candor and because of her journalism background, describes things with such gratuitous vocabulary that you literally feel like you're there with her.  When I was on the plane back from Taiwan this Spring, I saw people everywhere reading this.  I just wanted to grab all of them and form a "We Love Elizabeth Gilbert" club.

I Was Told There'd be Cake - Sloane Crosley

Genre: Essays 
If you're a hip bookie, this was the buzzed about book of the year.  Crosley is this trendy, young, pretty New Yorker who pretty much had the book world a twitter over her collection of essays even before it came out.  The press proclaimed it hilarious, true to heart and genius.  I must say, I was a little disappointed after reading it.  Crosley is a good writer, no doubt, but she wasn't as much as I'd hyped her up in my mind to be.  However, the book is an easy read and great for the A.D.D.'s who have short attention spans.

The Late Bloomer's Revolution - Amy Cohen


Genre: yet another memoir
Yes, yes. I'm really into memoirs these days but there are so many of these young female memoirists telling their stories and as a young female reader, I can't help but to want to hear what they have to say.  Maybe they'd be like a bigger sister telling me things I've yet to experience. Maybe they'd be warning me about what not to do. Maybe they'd just be confirming what I've already done.  Anyway, this memoir is especially personable to me.  I've always felt like a late bloomer.  I had my first kiss late in the game, my first boyfriend, my first cell phone...  I couldn't even drive properly until I was 20!  And for everyone else who feels like they're just a little behind, Cohen is here to tell us that it's okay.  Even if for awhile, you feel like the world has come crashing down, it's okay.  You'll get over it.  And even if you don't end up with what the world deems is a "happily ever after," it's okay. You'll get your own version of it.

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

Genre: fiction
You've probably heard the hype over his other book, ("The Kite Runner," anyone?) and a lot of hype over this one as well but trust me, it's definitely worth every praise it gets.  Hosseini's characters are captivating and his story lines electrifying.  Knowing that some women actually live lives like the heroines in this book chills me to the core.  After reading it, I appreciate the freedom and liberty that I have.  But I've also come to understand that if situations get bad, I can get out of it just as long as I put my wits and my will to use.

The Birth of Venus - Sarah Dunant

Genre: historical fiction
Because of the title of the book, it's very fitting that I actually have a very romantic story to tell about the time when I was reading the book.  I had finished the book while in the middle of a train ride to Munich.  When I finished, I decided that my luggage was no longer big enough to hold the novel anymore so I took out a pen and scribbled, "Hey there! This book was a great read and I thought it'd be fun to share it.  If you read it and want to talk about it, email me at janjann@gmail.com." Then, I just left it on my seat and walked away.  Ok, so maybe that story wasn't all romantic but isn't it an invigorating thought to imagine that some stranger actually does pick up my book to read and strikes up a connection with me?  Pretty message in a bottle, if you ask me.
Oh yes, but back to the book.  Well, I'm a huge fan of historical fiction so I can't complain with this one.  It had everything I love; corsets, descriptions of the court, the lush countryside, the forbidden love affairs.  But it also had a very unconventional heroine whose thoughts weren't all about how to land a husband or find true love but about how to make her deepest secret longing of painting become a reality.  It also tickled my bones that she was smart, sassy and hilarious.  I seem to like that combination in a woman.

My summer's almost done (I leave for Hong Kong in 3 days!) but my reading is far from finished.  I still have a long plane ride ahead.  I'm already on the first few pages of "Twilight," by the new J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers but is there anything else you would recommend I pick up? Ooh! And if you ever feel like reading any of the above, I have them all except for "A Thousand Splendid Suns" and "The Birth of Venus" (you know why).  Feel free to borrow!  

I actually played librarian when I was in elementary school and would loan out copies of my books to friends.  I even made those manila-colored check out cards and holder and taped them to the insides of the books.  Yea, other girls played with their dolls but I played with my books.  It doesn't get any nerdier than that.  And I like it that way.

2 comments:

dessertobsessed said...

please read twilight and all the other books in the series; they are all sooooooooooooooooo good!!!!!!!!

helen said...

i heard twilight is good! JANJANN YOU ARE LEAVING SO SOON. WHY? WE DIDN'T HAVE A SUFFICIENT HANGOUT