Starting in middle school we were assigned summer reading lists. Some years it was a long list of suggested books from which we were required to select one or two to read. Other years there were specific ones that we would be tested on at the beginning of the school year. For one AP class I was required to read 5 books. It was such a chore!
Being required to read is very annoying. At least for me, I have a hard time concentrating on the story or enjoying the language because all I can focus on is how many pages I have left to read. I remember hating The Great Gatsby when I had to read it over Christmas break in ninth grade. But when I read it again, it was actually a remarkably enjoyable book with amazing language. I don’t think I was incapable of enjoying F. Scott Fitzgerald when I was 14, I think I was just bogged down by the fact he had written something I had to read for homework.
I’ve been home from Europe for 2 months now. (I can’t believe it! Can it really have been 2 months since I’ve last seen my beautiful castle home?) And in those two months I’ve finished 4 books. I’m quite pleased with myself as I never have any time or motivation to read that much any other time of the year.
Two of the books were written by John Green, an author who I’ve liked in the past. In high school I read Looking For Alaska and loved it so much I suggested it to all my friends. During my last final exam of senior year I started An Abundance of Katherines but never got to finish it because graduating seniors are not allowed to borrow books from the library that late in the school year. So that was the first of the books I read this summer.
An Abundance of Katherines was a good read, but I had grown out of the targeted age range since I began the book two years ago. I think if I had read the story while still in high school it would have resonated more deeply. The plot of the book is about a boy named Colin who is trying to get over his 19th ex-girlfriend named Katherine by trying to make their relationship into a mathematical formula. He is a child prodigy and bent on doing something remarkable with his gift. He and his best friend Hassan go on a road trip from Chicago to Tennessee where they meet some new friends and stay with a family that is quirky and funny and teaches them about themselves. By the end I was tired of the main character, but happy with his character arc. Despite my slight disappointment I still love John Green’s work.
My love for him grew bigger after I read his latest novel, The Fault in Our Stars. It’s about a girl who has terminal cancer who finds a reason not to watch marathons of ANTM in a boy called Augustus Waters. I won’t give away any more of the plot, because this book is really worth a read. It made me cry while I was reading it in a Saladworks, but I still love it. It’s about teenagers, but unlike Katherines it is a book anyone at any age could appreciate and enjoy.
I finally got around to reading something by Hemingway, one of the greatest journalists and American writers. I read The Sun Also Rises mainly while lying out in the sun. It’s finally nice enough to lay out on the hammock in our back yard, so I’ve been taking full advantage of the opportunity to read and collect more freckles. It’s a classic book, and written in a way I liked. Rather than being description-heavy like many of the books written in the 1920s, it has an active voice and a plot that moves along at a nice speed. It made me want to go back to Spain so I can see the places he wrote about. I would like to read more by Hemingway, and I’m sure I can find everything he ever wrote at the library. Hooray!
The book I finished today is called What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. This novel focuses on the idea of what our younger selves would think if they could see our lives today. Alice Love is 29, happily married and expecting her first baby until she wakes up after a fall at the gym. She is actually 39, is divorcing her husband and has 3 children. She doesn’t remember the kids, why she (who hates the gym) is taking a spin class, what got between her and her sister, or why the husband she loves is speaking to her with such a nasty tone. As the book unfolds, you discover more details about the woman Alice became and the opinion younger Alice has about her foreign new life. I loved living in Alice’s head for the few days it took me to read this nearly 500 page book. It was engaging and made me wonder what kind of opinions past me would have about the life I lead now.
Next week the latest book by Curtis Sittenfeld will be released. It’s called Sisterland and I have it preordered from Amazon. I’m really excited about the day I find it on the front porch. Sittenfeld is one of my very favorite authors. She writes books with main characters who stick in my memory and help me think through situations. Lee Fiora, the main character in her novel Prep has a voice similar to my own thoughts, and its comforting to know I’m not the only one who thinks the way I do. I’ll write another post to let you all know what I think of Sisterland and the latest ways Sittenfeld has reached right into my brain and plucked the my thoughts out of my head.