Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Sourdough (by Robin Sloan)

Sourdough is about a woman named Lois Clary who works at a tech company in San Francisco and then gets a mysterious sourdough starter that changes the course of her life.

I didn't realize Robin Sloan was also the author of Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore, but that makes so much sense. (And it looks like they changed the cover and added a subtitle to make that clearer. I like the first cover so much better, and I'm not even going to pretend that dumb subtitle is part of this situation.) Sourdough has got the Sloan quirkiness, and so many Bay Area references that I, who work at a tech company in San Francisco, was delighted.

So yep, overall charming. I liked the first half better than the back half (Lois getting the starter and figuring out where to go from there) but still was happy to finish it and would give it a thumbs up in particular for SF locals.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (by Bill Bryson)

My first Bill Bryson book and it isn't bad. Full disclosure: for the "nature" category of the Read Harder Challenge I got over halfway through The Death and Life of the Great Lakes and then couldn't take it anymore, god it was so boring and so depressing, I was like, I can't. I'd heard Bryson was funny and breezy, so I switched books, and this was a super fast read, especially in comparison.

I didn't love Bryson's attitude about his fellow hikers; for example, he was pretty condescending towards his hiking companion, who hiked with him for hundreds of miles, because he was fatter and slower.  (Lots of little jabs at fat people throughout, which you know I don't find charming.)  He discusses the nature of the trail and some of the history, which was fun.

The thing I that I have already read Wild, which is similarly themed but ten million times better. So this suffered in comparison.  Still, it was a fast and mostly enjoyable read.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Eat Pray Love (by Elizabeth Gilbert)

After reading and enjoying The Signature of All Things, I realized Elizabeth Gilbert is not a fluffy lady author, as the Eat Pray Love pop-culture phenomenon (and the patriarchy) sort of implied, and that someday I should maybe read her memoir. Dear readers, that someday is now.

And this memoir is well-written and enjoyable. Yes, she is a privileged white lady traveling around the world, but she still genuinely engages with the places she visits in a sincere way, and seems to be  thoughtful about how she does so. She is likeable and honest, and her emotional journey resonated with me as I read it.

Probably most people have read this if they're going to read it; I'm about a decade late on this particular bandwagon. But this is a classic example of why I love ebooks from the library so much: if I'd had to pay for this book I might not have taken the chance, but I'm glad I did.

I kind of wish I graded books. I'd give this one a B+!

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (by Mark Twain)

So this was my choice for the Read Harder Challenge category "An assigned book you hated (or never finished)." This isn't one I hated, but I took over teaching a course in the Great American Novel while the students were midway through this book, and I graded their essays without actually reading the book. (Frankly it made no difference in my ability to assess their arguments and use of textual evidence to make those arguments.) 

I haven't read anything about this novel since then (it was over a decade ago), and I know if I do I'll fully understand why this 19th century work is the Great American Novel and all that. But I've read too many slave narratives to find the whole "ha ha, Tom and Huck do crazy things to set Jim free!" plot amusing in the slightest. The n-word aside, and Jim's humanity aside, and the happy ending aside, this massively downplays the horrors of slavery and here, in 2018, I can't deal with it.

I can work hard to get the historical context and appreciation of this novel -- and I probably should, since this is really the last book in the American canon that I haven't read or studied.  But I'm starting to think the American canon is bullshit anyway, and I have better things to do with my time. So, yeah. Fine. I read it. It's a classic. Whatevs.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Business Trip Reads

As per usual, I'm lumping all the books I read on my recent business trip together. I also read 40% of three other books (two for the Read Harder Challenge) but haven't finished any of them yet!

Pretty Girls (by Karin Slaughter)

This is a fairly lurid thriller. It is a page turner and well-plotted, but also disturbing, and I had to take breaks sometimes because of that! I'm not sure whether I'll read more by her or if they're a bit too gruesome for me -- anyone have any thoughts or recommendations?
Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America (Edied by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding)

This was my anthology selection for the Read Harder Challenge and I really loved it. I had to read it an essay at a time because as Kate Harding's essay explores, the pain of losing the election in 2016 is still fresh. My favorite piece is the one by Randa Jarrar, a Muslim woman traveling in America. I would love to read a memoir by her! But I loved a lot of them and found it an incredibly worthwhile, if sometimes painful, read.

Tell Me Three Things (by Julie Buxbaum)

I took breaks from the above two books, each difficult in its own way, to read this fluffy YA romance. Great choice for a flight, too! This is a You've Got Mail-style romance via instant message and email.  (Yes, I know the original was Shop Around the Corner, but... email.)  Pretty predictable, but satisfying anyway, and the throughline of our protagonist dealing with her mom's death is poignant.

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