Books I’ve Read This Year

11 Jan

Since last week had a million food posts, I thought I’d start this week off with a new feature that may or may not be recurring: books I’ve read this year. In an effort to spend less time mindlessly scrolling through my phone, I downloaded the Kindle App so I could somewhat-more-mindfully scroll through my phone. The result is that I’ve already read two books this year, which I will definitely file in the “W” category. I will take this moment to remind you all that I was an English major, so if you find my thoughts on these books at all navel-gazing, well… they probably are.

The Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

DeptOfSpeculation_AF

I had to keep my phone in the backseat to stop myself from reading this at stoplights–I loved it that much. Pretty much every reviewer of this book has written something to the tune of “the beauty is in its scarcity,” and man is that true. This slim little novel (192 pages) follows a married couple in Brooklyn plagued by bedbugs and the humdrum details of falling and staying in love. The real feat of this novel is the deftness with which Offill managers her readers: just when you are a bit tired of the disorienting insertion of random quotes and tidbits, she illuminates a new wrinkle in the story with searing honesty and an uncanny ability to describe exactly the narrator’s emotion and experience.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings

Oh, how much I wanted to love this book. Wolitzer weaves the tale of five teenagers who meet at a summer-long arts camp, three of them impossibly talented and privileged, one of them privileged but not talented, and the last (and main character) neither talented nor privileged. The Interestings is impressive in its breadth, and follows this group through a series of adult events that happen to them during adolescence as well as the adolescent interactions that plague them throughout adulthood. Wolitzer is a knowing storyteller and paces the long book (560 pages!) with impressive skill. The central tension of the novel is between the main character, untalented and unprivileged Jules, and her much-more-talented and increasingly-privileged dear friends, Ethan and Ash (names even I found too wrought with overprivilegedness to avoid cringing at throughout my reading). The torture Jules feels at being so ordinary in a world filled with extraordinary makes up the meat of the book, and my main criticism is that this anxiety never feels anything than utterly whiny– Wolitzer makes Jules a lovably flawed character (finally! a feminine anti-hero a la Don Draper) but somehow can’t quite pull her off, which disappointed me. In the end, I was glad to finish this book–but not sad to see its characters go.

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