July was a good month for reading. At this time last month, I already had four books under my belt. There were a lot of factors – trip to Minnesota, obsession with the Hunger Games, no social life – and I doubt that month’s success on the book front will ever be repeated. I’ll just justify all of my future failures by saying, “I read nine books in July, though!”
Anyway, I always like to give a more extensive rundown on the books I read. I’ll do so in a shortened way, since it’s been a little while since July ended and who knows how much I can remember from alllllllll the way last month.
Hallelujah! the Welcome Table – Maya Angelou: I’m going to admit something that I’m not proud of. I’ve never read any Maya Angelou. I’ve probably read a poem here or there, but I’ve not read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and all of those other famous books. I know, I know; I’m horrified too. Anyway, I listened to this book on tape (which is silly, because it was on CD which I converted into mp3 files – why do we still say book on tape?), and it was perfect. This collection – read by the author, who has a lovely deep wise old woman voice – is composed of short stories revolving around food memories. Angelou starts at her childhood and works her way through young adulthood into success and power. But the food is the star, and not just what she ate but how she felt and what it meant to her. Her grandmother is a beautiful figure at the beginning of her life, and Angelou herself seems to turn into her, taking over the role of cook and protector as she becomes a woman. I highly recommend this book – lovely reading, even if you’re a terrible cook (such as myself).
Catching Fire/ Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins: These books are what I imagine … well, I was going to make a drug addiction reference, but 1) it may be bad form, and 2) I’d have to google drugs and their effects, as I’m incredibly naive when it comes to drugs. Regardless, these books are addicting to the max. Since getting hooked, I’ve gotten three of my friends on the drug, and one read the trilogy in as little as a week. The books are not mind-blowingly well-written or impressive; they’re just engaging, suspenseful, and intense. People die in incredibly gruesome ways, but that’s balanced by an epic love triangle that puts Edward, Bella, and Jacob to shame (in my opinion – don’t murder me, Twihards!) so these novels have a little something for everyone. They’re just SO GREAT. I must say that as a writer, I’m quite impressed by Collins’s openness to letting her characters change. Not to let them do so would be dishonest and false, and the books would fall flat. The reader knows when she’s being lied to. But it can be scary for the author – and the reader. In these books, the characters are changed irreparably, and sometimes not for the better. A bold writer allows this to happen, and these books are popular because of the engaging and realistic characters.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J. K. Rowling: After the initial devastation following the realization that Stephen Fry does not narrate the U.S. Harry Potter audiobooks, I’ve settled in quite nicely, listening to a bit of magic on my morning commute. While I miss Mr. Fry, I enjoy the many voices of Jim Dale. The book itself is brilliant. Certainly, Rowling grows in her understanding of her characters and her world as she goes along, thus making the latter books of the series more rich, complex (sometimes convoluted), and dark, but this is where it all began. Privet Drive. A cat that turns into a woman. A kindly old wizard. And a flying motorcycle. I’m an old softey, but two parts almost forced me into tears (this recent tendency is going to be unpacked very soon). The first was when Hagrid speaks those famous lines: “You’re a wizard, Harry.” Especially with the saga ending and just seeing the final movie, that line is where it all began. The second part was when (SPOILER ALERT) Griffindor wins the House Cup. It makes me want to go to boarding school in Scotland. Preferably a wizarding one.
Divine Right’s Trip – Gurney Norman: I’ve wrote on this book so many times during college, and yet I can’t in good faith recommend it. If you, dear readers, are not disturbed by f-bombs, incessant drug use, some strange hippie worldviews, and a scene of nudity/sex, then please read this book. If you are disturbed by them, well, still read this book. Don’t blame me, though, if it all gets to be too much. The first half is too much. It’s dark and sad, confused and lost, spiraling down and down as our friends D.R. and Estelle keep stepping back from each other and into other things. But in all of the times I read this book, I never realized how utterly beautiful the second half of the story is. I don’t want to give it away, but it is about a man finding himself in the land, hard work, and a community. Maybe it’s just the age I am, but it resonated with me, deep within my chest. We’re all looking for something. The trick is to find it in beautiful things.
There you have it! Now, on to August books! What are YOU reading?