January Reads

1.31.2014



Last year I attempted to read 50 books and made it to a pathetic 11. I did however, identify and rectify the problem: I "needed" an e-reader. This revelation justified the purchase of an iPad last fall and since then, the books and I have gotten along swimmingly. So much so that I figured, why not attempt it again? I mean, go big or go home right? Thus, I welcome you to the first installment of 2014's attempt at reading 50 books!

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - Truth be told, this book took me almost three months to finish. It's long, sure. I mean, in print I think it's about 500 pages. But the main reason it took me so long to finish had nothing to do with the word count and more to do with the words themselves. "The Secret History" is about a group of bizarre college students in the late 80s who make up the Classics program at a bougie liberal arts college in Vermont (Bennington). A pre-med dropout from California transfers there and decides to worm his way into their Cool Kid Club and it's from this dude's perspective that the novel is told. There's a couple of sociopathic murders, some homoerotic experimentation, incest, an anxiety attack / nervous breakdown every ten pages, and lots of quotes from Ancient Greek. It's not that I hated this book per se. But I definitely think it reads like it was written by a young writer in their early 20s, which [spoiler alert] was how old Tartt was when she wrote it. In the pros column, there's just barely enough suspense to carry you through to the finish line. I read this in preparation to read The Goldfinch, Tartt's new novel which everyone seems to love. I can only hope that the 800+ page Goldfinch reads like an accomplished writer in their prime wrote it, which [spoiler alert] is how old Tartt is now.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - When I was 18, I worked in the music department at Borders Bookstore (RIP) and spent my days reading and listening to new music. It was essentially the perfect job (when I didn't have to pretend to alphabetize CDs while actually reading books that I hid in the displays). It was at Borders that I found "Looking for Alaska," Green's first novel, and one of the only novels that I can actually say literally changed my life. It was all because of one line: "If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane." That line punched me in the gut and made me fall in love with words all over again. I switched my major to English and thought about nothing else except becoming a writer just so I could attempt to do with words what John Green was doing. I could go on and on about how and why he's an amazing writer and influence, but in the decade since I first picked up LFA, it turns out Green has amassed quite the fanbase who could do it for me, and better. There are legitimate Green groupies (also called Nerdfighters) everywhere, young and old.

I stopped reading John's novels in grad school, because the psuedo-pretentious nature of an MFA program in Manhattan led me to forsake the author who inspired me to go there in the first place. Green's novels are considered Young Adult Fiction and that is Not Real Writing, so it's taken me longer than it should have to pick up "The Fault in Our Stars." I started reading it the day after I finished "The Secret History" and I finished it in a week. Sure, it's a short book, but the main reason I finished it so quickly had nothing to do with the word count and everything to do with the words themselves. ;) I could have finished it in a day if I had the hours to spare. In fact, the main difference between the books I read this month is this: there are some books that you try to read as fast as possible because you just want them to be over so you don't have to suffer anymore and there are some books that you read as fast as possible because you can't read them any other way, even if you don't want them to end.

This book gives you the feels and makes you cry (a lot) and is kind of a kick in the ass to remember what matters and helps you to realize that love is always worth the risk. It's another Life Changer type of book and I may eventually have to dedicate a whole other post to explaining how I feel about it. For now, I will just say that I can't recommend it strongly enough.

2014 '50 Books' Progress: 2/50
Britt said...

Ha! This sounds just like me!
I just finished reading The Fault in Our Stars, and as a fellow English major and teacher, I think there is a lot to be learned - if not just vocabulary acquisition - from the book.
I am generally a canonical literature reader, but I am finding that these kinds of books that I previously discounted actually have some merit.
I really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars minus the times where the language felt kind of forced. I recommend it to my students now all the time!

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