Hi all! I'm back from camp and now ready to give a tell-all of my summer reads. I was not able to read all of the Original Eighteen books that my friend and I brought, which was probably fortuitous (I had to eat, after all). However, of the New Twenty (adding two books that were delivered to us during camp), I read twelve, and adding the two extra books that I borrowed from friends, that makes fourteen books in seven weeks. Not too bad, I think! And they were good books, books that made me laugh, shake my head, furrow my brow and even tear up a little. So here's the report, in the order that I read them.
1. The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories by Simon Rich.
2. And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. As my first foray into the beat genre, I liked how the characteristic detachment of the Beats worked to tell an urban murder story that was chilling, not terrifying.
3. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. This book, along with #12, took me forever to read. I struggled to fully understand it, and while it was a bit over my head, I'm glad I took the time because I feel that I got more out of this amazing book (one of my favorites of the summer). To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee names it as "the only war novel [she'd] ever read that makes any sense" and I have to agree with her. There's no praising of the war. Rather, the book shows the ironic parallels in each character's wartime actions in ways that are sometimes funny, sometimes scary and sometimes sad (I can name this book as the occasional tearjerker of the bunch for me).
4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz.
5. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I have to say that the half Russian, half gibberish slang through which the book is told threw me for a loop at first, but once I got into it it wasn't too hard to keep up with. There were some interesting points about the evils of government and the problems that extremely advanced science can bring upon society, but I most enjoyed getting absorbed in the harsh yet beautiful language of the book.
7. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Another favorite! I loved the way that Morrison wove family, community and the plight of a race to create this beautiful novel, while also adding suspense and one hell of a storyline throughout history-laden sidebars and fascinating clashes of the unique and engaging characters.
8. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.
9. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.
10. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. Yet another favorite (there are some pretty great books in this bunch!). One of the only books I've read that ties the narrative itself back to the main character, I really enjoyed the way this book was told. The book read like one of Kilgore Trout's science fiction stories, a sort of "guide to earth", and also featured the narrator as a crucial character (the book was told in third person and first person). It was occasionally inscrutable, always intelligent and ultimately felt really fresh and interesting.
11. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I think this is the only book of this bunch that could be comfortably classified as a YA read, though it could also be great for adults. This book was about relationships--sister to brother, sister to sister, niece to uncle and friend to friend. Not all of the relationships were "correct", and some could be brutal, but Brunt told the story without pointing fingers or condemning a single character. Rather, she showed that there was well-meaning and good in every person. There was a great moral tone to the book, and I definitely benefitted from reading it.
12. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X (told to Alex Haley).
13. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Another awesome Beat book! I found it amazing that, despite there being no dramatic plot twists and, really, not too much plot at all, this book was still really interesting. I loved Kerouac's language and his involved characters.
14. Beloved by Toni Morrison.
School starts in two days! I'm ready to read some new books and get to doing some new posting. A note: no Book of the Month for June, July or August (although several of the above books more than pass muster), but there will be one this September and then hopefully uninterrupted for the rest of the year.