Vacation is for reading, of this I am certain.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetIn theory, my whole life is for reading, as I am doing a PhD in literature which is a fancy way to say I READ ALL THE BOOKS ALL THE TIME AND WRITE ALL THE THINGS. But we all know that there are books and then there are Books, Literature, Hallowed Pages and Lofty Ideas. That is what I spend all my time reading. Since I am preparing for my PhD exams in April, my reading is in overtime, but everything strangely seems to come back to the same predictable plot of death and prostitutes (outlined here).

I genuinely enjoy reading these Books, but I have been craving just reading some books, just plowing through some fluffy reading rather than all my Reading. My mom has been known to give us wrapped library books for Christmas (much to our scoffing), but this year I actually sent her a list in advance, begging her to have a stack of chick lit on my bed when I rolled in for a couple weeks. She did not disappoint. This means that in the past couple weeks I have read more fun books then in the entire past year. Should you be interested in some mindless reading, and in the absence of many important things to blog about, I am rounding up my vacation reading, along with couple others others I managed to read recently. I should clarify that this list is more along the lines of the good, the bad, and the ugly, as I do not necessarily like, recommend, or respect all of the books listed below.  Hold onto your butts.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn. I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it was amazing, fully plunging you into the mind of someone else and causing you to forget everything and question reality. On the other hand, that mind belongs to a psychopath and the book is pretty dark. So, kudos to the author for writing something so powerful, but maybe avoid this one if your marriage is in any way not totally stable. Otherwise, you will start imagining that your spouse is a psychopath.

Yes Please, Amy Poehler. This was the most disappointing book of 2014. I devoured Tiny Fey’s book, loved Mindy Kaling’s book, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on Amy’s. With a few standout moments aside, it was not actually funny. Those standout moments had me snort laughing out my nose. But all in all, I read her book and felt really sad that I no longer want to be her friend, whereas I secretly dream of me and Mindy eating donuts together on a regular basis. Ok, the Whole30’s looming approach also makes me just dream of donuts.

The Selection (and the sequels, The Elite, The One), Kierra Cass. I read this entire series in 2 days, 2 blissful days where I ignored my family, wore elastic waist pants, and binged on adolescents finding love and starting revolutions in a dystopian world. To help you understand it, I have prepared an equation that describes it in terms of its contemporaries: The Hunger Games + the caste system of Divergent + the romantic structure of The Bachelor franchise – the latent sexual tension of Twilight = The Selection.  Which is to say, I loved them, and have less respect for myself as a result.

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson. This book started out slow, and I had to text my friend Fran at one point for some reassurance that it was going to get better. It did, and the ending had my starring off in space for a long time trying to collect my emotions. And then I saw that she is publishing a companion book  and I am PUMPED, because I loved this one but wanted more.

Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead. If it is about ballet, I am there. Ballet movies, ballet books, the ballet itself – I love it all. The end of this book was a little lacking in my opinion, but it was still an engrossing page turner about ballerinas so I will forgive it.

How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are, Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas. I loved this book. I am not excusing its many pages lauding lifestyles that I deem unsavory, I’m just being honest. I loved it. Though obviously no one can become the illusive Parisian women, as her identity is predicated on being from Paris and not caring (thus anyone trying to become her already cares too much), this book provides a witty and endearing portrait of her many quirks. Lists, essays, photos, graphic designs, 2 whole pages of color squares labeled what aspect of Paris they symbolize – I loved it. Plus, so many quote gems like:

“Always look like you are gazing into the sunset. Even during rush hour on the Métro. Even when picking up frozen pizza from the supermarket.

In Sunlight and In Shadow, Mark Helprin. Ok, so I actually started this book over a year ago and finally finished it this past fall, hence its inclusion here. A word about Helprin: I am supposed to like him. He is objectively an amazing writer, with so many of his phrases perfectly turned and evocative. Plus, he used to lecture at my college on a semi-regular basis. One time I stocked his guest fridge with hummus. Most people I know love him. But this was my first Helprin novel and I was largely unimpressed. I think grad school may have ruined me, but I kept wanting to scream at him about his female characters. They were all so perfect, as in “You looked at her and her beauty made you forget the war, and you were a better person, and you knew what paradise was, even though you only saw her but a moment, but in that moment the world became perfect again.” (My imitation of a quote, not a real one). GIVE ME A BREAK. Give me real women with flaws any day. The men were just as bad. They are all like Hemingway characters on steroids embodying stereotypical masculinity with impossibly noble souls. Give me tortured heroes, give me sympathetic bad guys. But then again, the ending was so good that I all out sobbed on the couch for an hour.

Should you be interested in some reading that isn’t bound between two covers, here are some essays to propel you forward in this new year.

This 2014 recap that reminds me that this year kind of sucked for the whole world, not just us. Because misery loves company, AMIRIGHT????

This essay that is hysterical, but rings especially true now that I got a Fitbit for Christmas and am loving its tyrannical rule over my life.

These interviews with Jay because Serial was a big part of my life all fall. These interviews are really unsettling, because they make you question the impact that this highly engrossing podcast has had on the lives of those involved.

What are you reading these days? Not that I will get to read them till the summer, but a girl can dream!

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17 Responses to Vacation is for reading, of this I am certain.

  1. Katie says:

    Thank you for using my favorite Jurassic Park quote. I use this in my own life way too often.

    • Hannah says:

      Life is too short to not quote Jurassic Park ALL THE TIME. I am TOO excited for the new one to come out this spring because I love/fear dinosaurs something fierce.

  2. Tina says:

    The elegance of a hedgehog has EVERYTHING you love in a book!! France, inter legends of characters & writing, food, friendship, preteen ankst, potential romance and a surprise ending… Have you read it? If not don’t wait until summer!!

    Also, I highly recommend Unbroken. The book is stellar in the unveiling of a human being’s ability to endure, overcome and thrive. It’s really hard to whine about any part on any injustice in my life after reading this. Plus this part of the war was never taught in history class.

    And Gone Girl… Well all I can say is wow! Her best book. Do NOT, I repeat, do not read any of her other books. You will be sorely disappointed.

    The end.

    • Hannah says:

      The Elegance of the Hedgehog is one of my FAVORITES! I read it in France and finished it during my lunch break at work, crying softly in the teacher’s lounge.

      I actually have Unbroken sitting on my bedside table now – excited to start it!

  3. Tina says:

    The elegance of a hedgehog has EVERYTHING you love in a book!! France, intelligence of characters & writing, food, friendship, preteen ankst, potential romance and a surprise ending… Have you read it? If not don’t wait until summer!!

    Also, I highly recommend Unbroken. The book is stellar in the unveiling of a human being’s ability to endure, overcome and thrive. It’s really hard to whine about any part on any injustice in my life after reading this. Plus this part of the war was never taught in history class.

    And Gone Girl… Well all I can say is wow! Her best book. Do NOT, I repeat, do not read any of her other books. You will be sorely disappointed.

    The end.

  4. Natalie says:

    It seems that everywhere people are saying they loved Gone Girl, and I didn’t love it for the same reasons you state here. The wife was absolutely creepy, in my humble opinion, and I think there are plenty of better reads out there. I do want to read How to be a Parisian, though. Have you read The Sweet Life in Paris??

    • Hannah says:

      Yeah, that;s why I have such mixed feelings! So good, and yet I don’t think I really want to re-read it or see the movie.

      But The Sweet Life in Paris sounds like something I would love!

  5. wifiemmott says:

    I read the cousin’s war series by Phillipa Gregory (The White Queen, The Red Queen, The Lady of the Rivers, The King Maker’s Daughter and The White Princess), historical novels about the fight for power and the throne during the reign of the Plantagenet family into the Tudor reign (Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII) in England, which are really great although I found the lead character in the Red Queen hugely unsympathetic, and I just finished the King’s Curse which follows on from them and was brilliant. Historically well researched and good novels, told from the perspective of the women of the time, which is usually sorely lacking in historical accounts. Power, plots, love, treachery, beautiful people, underhand dealings, superstition, joy and heartache – if you like an easy read with more substance than trashy chick-lit, i would really recommend them! Plus they cover a lot of real history.

  6. k. liz says:

    Loved this post! Will be coming back to catch up on some of those suggestions!! So, if you’re a literary . . . have you heard of or read Island of the World? Definitely not fun or fluffy but one of the BEST books I have ever read and I can never figure out why more people don’t know of it!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Lauren B says:

    YESSSS! I think about this essay all.the.time. Bless you David Sedaris, for perfectly summing up what I could never say as funny as you.

  8. roarajane says:

    Man, I’ve been wanting to talk to someone about Life After Life! I had such mixed feelings about it. I felt like there was so many great motifs (foxes, other animals, etc) and just this spectacular premise, but I didn’t know what the book was really… trying to say? It didn’t seem to have a cohesive … gah, I’m searching for the right word, but the only word that’s coming to mind is “thesis.” It didn’t seem to have a thesis! Am I dense? Did my English degree expire?

  9. Pingback: All about the books, bout the books, no TV. | The Art in Life

  10. Pingback: Christmas break by the books. | The Art in Life

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