I made a goal to read 100 books in 2019. Immediately, I was filled with regret, as that seems like too many. Now, two months in, I’m surprisingly on track to achieve this goal, which is a big change from how I’ve read books in the past, say, 10 years.
Over the course of these couple of months, I’ve been asked questions about how I read these books so fast, eg. “HOW DO YOU READ SO FAST” (actual quote). The only thing I can say is that it’s a lot like I’m out in a desert, and books are a full canteen. I can’t get enough.
Here are some things about the books that I read in February 2019.
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
A novel about immigration, homeland, love, loss, abuse, power, fear, and depression, Oscar Wao was a great story that showed just how much family history can impact our lives without realizing it.
Interviews with Francis Bacon by David Sylvester
Francis Bacon was a very sad artist, and David Sylvester was a very good interviewer. What follows is a selection of interviews that Sylvester held with Bacon over the course of his life, particularly about his work habits and how he felt about man’s relationship with creating something. Half of the book is Bacon rambling barely-coherently about his thought process, and the other half is Sylvester summarizing what Bacon just said in an easy-to-understand package.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
Squirrel Girl is the world’s coolest superhero, mostly because she’s excited, brave, and has all the proportionate powers of a squirrel. If a super-powered teenager who talks to animals isn’t your bag, you won’t find anything to enjoy in this hilarious, delightful introduction to Squirrel Girl.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Had I known how many twists and turns Madame Bovary takes, I would have read it far sooner. Just as I began to write it off as a period piece that did little to hold my attention, well, everything kicks into high gear. It certainly lives up to the title of a “classic.”
IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
I know, it sounds like a self-help book you’d find at CVS in January. But in actuality, IKIGAI delves in to the life habits and styles of the world’s oldest living humans, and wonders why most of them are living in Okinawa. Also, supercentenarians are really, really funny. Best line: “What’s my secret to living so long? I haven’t died yet.”
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
Is a good book made good because the writing is technically well-done, even if it’s lacking in personality? I ask because, either way, Billy Liar was not good. Billy’s obsessive-compulsive tendencies that were shown at the beginning of the story were incredibly intriguing, as I was diagnosed with OCD myself a year ago. One chapter later, when that aspect of his personality fell by the wayside and was shown to be merely a compulsion to lie, incessantly. His lies are not even always made to save himself, which could be said to be an accurate portrayal of a compulsive liar. While an accurate account indeed, it does not in this case equate to a captivating read.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Ah, Artemis Fowl. I have loved you since I was a child, and your first book in the series holds up incredibly well after all these years. I decided to pick it up again in anticipation of the movie adaptation releasing this year, and I daresay, nostalgia did not prove me wrong. It’s just as good today as it was in 2001.
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
As time decides to march on and everything gets bad, I find myself hurtling faster and faster into intense anarchism. Unfortunately, not everyone is super on board with Anarchy, so I decided to read up on Communism, mostly because I’ve heard it might be good now, and I used to be told it was bad. While I walked away with many wonderful thoughts and ideals, one takeaway I had was that, okay dude, we get it, you don’t like rich people. Nobody does. Explain to me how to make a community garden, please.
Editor’s note: this is satire. Read the book, double please.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Does a perfect book exist? No, but The Library Book comes damn close. A beautiful mix of the history of libraries, the history of the Los Angeles Central Library specifically, the ins and outs of what make the LACL run smoothly every day, a detailed account of the devastating 1986 fire that destroyed over a million books, and a reminder that libraries are integral to society, I’ve never read a more captivating book. It will make you want to be a librarian.
(in this house, we stan Mary Jones all day)
Room at the Top by John Braine
While it was published before Billy Liar, Room at the Top is yet another late-50s novel about a average-but-charming young man who lies constantly and only cares about getting what he wants (sex). In this case, he achieves it, but not before succeeding in destroying a few lives. Reading it 60 years later showed that it did not age well, and since the pseudo-charming young man trope didn’t stay a cultural touchstone but became an overbearing trait of the entire world, Room at the Top doesn’t even work well as an example of the time it was published in. It’s merely a reminder that too many times, people do bad things because they only care for themselves.
Mahatma Gandhi: From Beginning to End by Hourly History
Hourly History is a delightful series of biographies and historical summaries that are a pretty good overview of a certain topic, without taking up the space of a massive volume. I learned a lot about Gandhi that I didn’t know before, and I am really glad that I checked this out. Hourly History releases their new ebooks for free on Amazon on Fridays, so I will definitely be stocking up some reading material.
Boy Erased by Garrard Conley
I first heard about this book from the wonderful podcast, UnErased: The History of Conversion Therapy in America, and while it lived up to my high expectations, it was still an incredibly tough read. Having grown up in a conservative church, I recognized and related to a lot of what Garrard described and expressed. The horrors of conversion therapy are clear in these pages, and I hope that soon we’ll be able to put an end to it.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
I still can’t get over how beautifully Wells described his version of the future. The ups and downs of the Time Traveler’s week in the year 802701 were interesting to hear told, but overall the book felt kind of anticlimactic.
Cool! So these were the books I read in February, 2019. Check them out for yourself, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you again at the end of March.
I love you all.