WHAT I READ IN APRIL:
Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondō. Just as pleasant and calming to read as her first book. I am sure there are people who are put off by her charming way of anthropomorphizing household objects, but those people are heartless and wrong.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Lawson, Jenny. Having followed her blog for a while now and having read her first book I had complete faith that I would enjoy this one. It was snort-laugh funny but at times she also got very real about living with mental illness. To quote my own tweet: “OMG. There are people I love who need to read this book and people I don’t love who need to be beaten with it.”
Francesca Woodman ed. by Corey Keller. I read this for research for a book I’m not supposed to be working on right now. It was the only book on Francesca Woodman the library had. I didn’t understand a lot of what the essayists were going on about but I am not well-versed in the jargon of art criticism. That said, I got what I needed for my research and I still dig her work.
It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell. Another book written by a blogger I follow. I read a lot of weight loss memoirs, but this one seemed to particularly resonate with me: the pain of getting fat without realizing it, the pain of being fat, the pain of losing the fat, the pain of being skinny and having people who have never been in your situation micromanage everything that goes in your mouth and make rude comments if it’s healthy and make rude comments if it’s not and they think they’re helping but they just make you want to quit.
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. I finished this because I was worried that I had set aside too many books and was going to get behind, but I wish I hadn’t felt pressured. There’s nothing original in here (the author does state this herself in the opening) and what’s in here is not for me. I’m not sure where Sincero gets off calling other self-help books “woo-woo” because this is pure woo-woo. Positive thinking, affirmations, and visualization really are powerful tools, but Sincero is misinformed or ignorant if she thinks you can “fake it til you make it” to get out of depression or cancer.
Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 1 by Julietta Suzuki. This is the manga that the anime was based on. I binged the first two seasons (number three is currently airing in Japan) and was left with a powerful need for more, so I was delighted to find that the library had this series. (Well, they have volumes 1-21 out of 22, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Like damn near every shojo manga, it’s about a high school girl. In this case, a suddenly homeless high school girl who is made the land god of a local shrine and has to learn to answer prayers while simultaneously keeping up her grades and attendance at school. I will not apologize for falling hard and fast for this series: shojo goodness with almost no angst and lots of positivity about life in general.
Going Gray: How to Embrace Your Authentic Self with Grace and Style by Anne Kreamer. I thought this was going to be more of a memoir-y memoir, but it was a sort of journalistic memoir; 50% anecdotes 50% research. This gave me a lot to think about in my own journey towards going gray (which was delayed from age 30 to age 40 when I balked, but that’s a story for another time).
Batman Adventures: Mad Love (Deluxe Edition) by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm. I don’t read a lot of comic books (although this month’s list makes it appear otherwise) but I was a big fan of the Batman Adventures cartoon created by Dini and Timm that birthed the character of Harley Quinn, on whom this book centers. This book unveiled Harley’s origin story as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, the Joker’s psychotherapist in Arkham (if that sounds familiar it’s because they later made an episode of Batman Adventures about it).
Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 2 by Suzuki, Julietta. In this volume an adorable little sidebar began that was not in the anime: pages from Tomoe’s “Ennui Blog” in which he whines about how bored he is while Mikage is gone (these sidebars take place before Nanami became the kami). They are drawn in a different style (very simply, with a brush) and they always make me giggle.
How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy) by Julia Cameron. I think this was recommended in Writing is My Drink, which I read last month. A quick read, as it is mostly illustrations with captions, but the advice (or anti-advice) is sound.
A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart by Maria Alexandra Vettese, Stephanie Congdon Barnes. Lovely, simple diptych photographs of the mornings of two women, one in Portland, Oregon, one in Portland, Maine. Restful yet oddly invigorating. Makes you want to get up and make breakfast foods, clean something, take pictures, appreciate small things.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. I was kind of surprised, when I ran across this in my TBR list, that I hadn’t read it already, having devoured Gone Girl and Sharp Objects. These books are fucked-up, to be sure, but in a compelling, unusual, and fascinating way, like Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal or True Detective (Season 1).
The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit. A fictionalized account of the lives of the wives of the scientists at Los Alamos told in a POV I had never encountered before: first person plural (we). The book starts in a tone that is a little irritated by the forced move to the middle of nowhere but is surprisingly pleasant. You begin the book wishing that you, too, could live a simple life on a desert plateau in a small community in the 40s. But you know what the narrators don’t know – why they are there, and what their husbands are doing – and as the book meanders along the tension increases incrementally, almost imperceptibly at first, until by the time the tests actually begin you are writhing with the suspense. I feel like the conflicting feelings of victory and guilt over what all that research culminated in was handled well.
Man Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss. Wow. Read this book. I’m not going to be able to explain it properly, but it was compelling and deep. The protagonist loses 24 years of memory, which drives a wedge between him and his wife (no – more like a chasm, because there’s nothing there) who he no longer knows. His memories end at age 12, but he is able to make new ones. He volunteers for a charismatic doctor’s project to copy and paste memories from one brain to another which has, as they would put it on a dust jacket, “disastrous consequences.” This is a phrase that normally turns me off cold and makes me put a book back on the shelf, but I’m glad I checked this one out anyway because the consequences and their fallout (all of which are emotional) are written so deftly I hated the author a little bit. (Always a sure sign of good writing: I curse the author.) A quote, if I may: “And what is a life, Samson wondered now, without a witness?” Ugh – so many implications for writing, for reading, for memory, for relationships.
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore. The sequel to one of my favorite books of all time, A Dirty Job, which was recommended to me by my dear friend Heidi (*waves manically*). A good, solid sequel. Lots of laughing out loud.
Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 5 Julietta Suzuki. This was the first volume to differ in any way from the anime (or rather, since the manga came first, this is the first volume in which the anime differs). There are minor to major deviations in all five chapters of this book. Interesting.
Alfred Stieglitz: A Legacy of Light by Katherine Hoffman. Probably would have been more interesting to someone who was more interested in Stieglitz. I was there for pictures but the book is mostly text and about 50% of the pictures are paintings or photographs by Stieglitz’s contemporaries.
The Seeker: A Novel by R.B. Chesterton. Dialogue was unrealistic at times. At the midpoint of the book the action reached a fervor and I just mentally checked out.
Sweet Thunder by Ivan Doig. At some point I realized I was not paying attention to this book at all and also that it was going to be action and intrigue – not my cup of tea.
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think I only made it about 20 pages into this before the racism (“a strange and terrible dialect which she imagined to be the speech of the Southern negro”) and misogyny (see my tweet, below) ran me off.
In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way: A Graphic Novel by Heuet, Stéphane. Proust’s masterpiece has been on my TBR list since I first heard the madeleine anecdote. (Probably in The Transporter.) But a five volume work with paragraph-long sentences is a daunting reading task, so I have been putting it off for more than a decade. When I started reading comic books and manga I thought, Hey! There’s got to be a graphic novel version I could read! Yes and no. There was this in the library system but when I got it in my hands and started to read the introduction I found a rather vital piece of information that had not been in the library catalog or on the back of the book: this was an adaptation of the first volume only. And it was still 224 pages. I was looking for significantly more abridgement.