What I Read | JANUARY 2018

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The Queen’s Thief Series (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings, Thick as Thieves) by Megan Whalen Turner

This is my go-to comfort series, and I reread them when two of my friends in Greece decided to read them as well.  We literally had parties where we talked about the books for hours and fell all over ourselves squealing about Eugenides’ perfection.  They are children’s adventure stories with a political backstory that becomes increasingly important throughout the series, and seriously.  Eugenides is the embodiment of my Ideal Fictional Hero and I cannot even hold it together any time he does anything.

51IpIExqbQL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Pegasus by Robin McKinley

This is an unfortunately cut-off first book in a series that I assume is leading to a human/pegasus romance that I…was super into??  McKinley’s ability to create lush fantastical and creative worlds is very evident here, and I’m really disappointed that there seems to be little possibility of a sequel, just as the political aspect of things were heating up!  I wanna know if humans and pegasi can coexist when led by representatives of their species that can speak telepathically!

6a016760e4a142970b01676103f988970bThe Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart

This was one of my favorite childhood movies, so I was curious how the novel that inspired the Disney movie held up.  While mostly similar in plot, Stewart’s novel feels more grownup, to the point that I believed a devastating plot twist that fortunately turned even twistier.  A perfect book for those of you who like murder mysteries set on Greek isles!

516RKT4NIAL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr

The final conclusion that Rohr reaches “Everything is holy” feels incredibly satisfying and encouraging after a deep dive into the relationship of the Trinity (both amongst themselves and with humans) and how that informs all of life.

2337457The Art of Crossing Cultures by Craig Storti

I read this as I was flying back from Greece, and it was incredibly validating to see my cultural experiences laid out on the page before me.  It helped me to see what I did well and what I did poorly while trying to adapt to a foreign culture, and I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone considering living in a country not their own.

a328d7c9caf2857e082fe981af6df5b8Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

I read this because *ahem* it was a significant plot point in the amazing television show Black Sails, and I’m glad I did.  It’s a bit like the book of Proverbs, and there were quite a few bits of wisdom that I really took to heart, including this one:  “But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human – however imperfectly – and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.”

31207017Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Half teenage romance, half social commentary, I didn’t like this book as much as I should have.  Everything felt a little too perfect, and I couldn’t help wanting a bit more grittiness in a novel about hate acts and terrorist attacks.  But it’s a fun quick read, and well worth a day’s read.

 

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What I Read | FEBRUARY 2017

This month I read some fantasy, some non-fiction, and some contemporary fiction both satirical and…weird.  Recommended books are italicized!


1Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

The second book in Hobb’s Farseer trilogy started out slow but became quite engrossing about halfway through.  Initially, I complained about the dearth of female characters, but then Kettricken wound up being amazing (I’d still like more amazing female characters in this series, please!).  I liked how the Wit was explored more, but I’m still very confused as to why it is so stigmatized when Seeing is not.  Of course, since it is the second book in a trilogy, the novel ended with everything horrible.  Here’s hoping things will get better in Assassin’s Quest!

2Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Recommended to me by a bookkeeper in Santorini, this book totally lived up to my expectations!  It’s a post- (and pre-) apocalyptic novel that focuses on cultural and individual changes rather than Outrageous Action.  It’s both haunting and hopeful, and the writing is stunning.  I definitely recommend it!

3We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

This is a beautifully sad and hopeful book about bullying, suicide, and depression that ultimately proclaims that there is beauty in the broken.  This is all pretty standard when it comes to YA novels, but this stands apart by using alien abductions as a metaphor…or maybe they were real!

4Gender & Grace by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

This has been sitting on my bookshelf for years, and I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it.  Using both theology and psychology, Van Leeuwen creates a very compelling and easy to read defense of the biological and cultural influences on gender and sexuality.  It’s conservative while also being open and accepting, and I really admired her balanced perspective.

5South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

I’ve been hearing a lot about Murakami recently, but I have to admit that I was disappointed by my first foray into his work.  I feel like I missed something, but maybe this book really was about a self-obsessed and possibly psychotic middle-aged man getting over his exes and finally choosing commitment simply because he doesn’t want to be lonely.  It all felt like obnoxious patriarchal “literature,” but I’ll give him one more try.

6The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

What is the opposite of patriarchal nonsense?  CARRIE FISHER!  Her last book is amazing: a testament to her wit and ability to self-reflect, and wow, when it was over did I wish she were still alive to continue gifting us with her talent.  This is the book that reveals her affair with Harrison Ford while filming the first Star Wars movie, and her memories of that time are both humorous and touching.  The world needs more people like her.

7The Liar by Stephen Fry

I picked this up at a book bazaar, and it is quite possibly the most British book I’ve ever read, by which I mean it is extremely absurd.  If you like twisty words and witty dialogue (and don’t mind a LOT of absurd British sex thrown into the mix), you’ll probably enjoy this.  Just remember, everyone is lying, all of the time.

8Packing Light by Allison Fallon

A book about a Christian writer who doesn’t want to be a “Christian writer” and packs up all her things to go on a 6-month road trip in pursuit of a simple, adventurous life couldn’t be more tailored to me.  Perhaps that is why I highlighted so much of Fallon’s memoir, but I think it’s possible that she’s also just extremely quotable.  It’s more of a thinkpiece than a travel memoir, but I recommend it nonetheless!

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

I loved this book far more than I anticipated.  I like memoirs written by comedians, so I knew I would pick up Aziz’s when it came out.  I love him in Parks & Recreation, and his stand up on Netflix is some of the smartest, most modern, most feminist comedy I’ve seen.  I knew his book would be funny.  I did not expect it to be so smart!  He’s an insightful guy, but teamed up with Eric Klinenberg, sociologist, this book is everything my humor-loving sociology-major heart could want.

I found it fascinating to look back at courtships of yesteryear (aka 30 or 40 years ago) and compare them to my struggles as a single with an iPhone.  So much has changed with the advent of the Internet and phone apps that allow us to check out singles all over the world.  In an especially effective analogy, Ansari likens dating to a hallway.  Men and women used to enter a hallway with four or five doorways–they peeked through a couple, found one that wasn’t too horrible, and walked through.  Now, singles stand in a hallway with millions of doorways.  This enormity of options means that we are more likely to find someone who aligns closely with our interests, values, and personality.  But it also means that we are often paralyzed, terrified to walk through any doorway for fear that the next one down will be better.

Ansari hilariously describes and analyzes the frustrations of modern dating.  I appreciated his honest assessment of the good and the bad, and I really appreciated how he managed to find humor in it all.  I finished the book both thankful and horrified to be in the dating world at this time in world history.  But at least now I have the tools to understand what I’m going through and hopefully wade through the complications a little more effectively.

81IWfWiI1vLBook Jacket

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love.  We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection.  This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago.  Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history.  With technology, our ability to connect with and sort through these options is staggering.  Just a few years ago, in 2010, 10% of single Americans said they met their significant other online.  Three years later, in 2013, that number was up to 35%.  We are truly in a new world.  What’s the good in all this change?  What’s the bad?  Why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time:  “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?”  “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite food snacks?  Combos?!”  “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan.  Who’s Nathan?  Did he just send her a picture of his penis?  Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone.  In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically.  A few decades ago people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood.  Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid–all by the time they were twenty-four.  Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided to take things to another level.  He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita.  They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages.  They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer.  The result is Modern Romance, a marriage of cutting-edge social science and razor-sharp humor to form an assessment of our new romantic world that is as funny as it is groundbreaking.

Release Date:  June 2015

Safe People by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

This is an excellent book for people who have ever been in an unhealthy relationship (everyone).  The three sections, “Unsafe People,” “Do I Attract Unsafe People?” and “Safe People” concisely describe the patterns of relating that people naturally fall into.  Cloud and Townsend help their readers identify people in their life who are unsafe, and equally important, help readers identify what personal habits they have that perpetuate unsafe relationships.

Boundaries (which, coincidentally, is another book by Cloud and Townsend) play a huge role here.  I loved the delicate balance they find between owning our own flaws and holding people responsible for theirs.  There’s no blaming, just understanding.  And there is so much hope!  Whether you constantly find yourself in draining and/or abusive relationships, or perhaps you simply have a person or two in your life that drive you nuts, this book offers the possibility of reconciliation, growth, and maturity.  I loved it, even when some of the descriptions were a little too on-the-nose.  Continue reading