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I’ve read a ton lately. In fact, I actually just reached the mid-way point for my goal of reading 50 books this year!

I’ve been really into short stories lately. Most recently, I read In The Penal Colony and The Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka. I love Kafka and these stories were no exception. The Penal Colony, in particular, was fantastic. I love being able to sit down with a story and finish the whole thing in less than a day. I have this thing about finishing things I start so short stories are perfect for me. I’ve read a few others recently as well but none that grabbed me quite like these. Let me know if you know of any short stories or (even better) books with many short stories. Currently, I’m reading a collection of short stories (Drown by Junot Diaz) and loving it.

I’ve also held true to my absolute devotion to Haruki Murakami. I have yet to read anything at all that I haven’t loved. Most recently, I finished Hear the Wind Sing (his first novel) in hopes of reading the entire “The Rat” series. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find book #2 anywhere locally so I may have to order it from Amazon. I also read Murakami’s Underground during my four plane rides during the past week. Underground is absolutely nothing like Murakami’s novels – it is instead based on real accounts of the Tokyo gas attack. It was very interesting, especially because I had never even heard of the event. It sounds like it was one of the most horrific acts of terrorism in Japanese history. Finally, I just bought a copy of 1Q84 when I visited the Strand Bookstore in New York last week. Cannot WAIT to get started on that one.

Speeeeaking of Strand, I also bought The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa which I already started reading. I think I’ve read before that it’s one of Daniel Radcliffe’s favorite books…lol…which is why I picked it up. It is amazing so far – really, really fantastic. I’m reading it rather slowly though, it is definitely something that needs to be appreciated.

Finally, I also read One More Thing by BJ Novak. I was really looking forward to reading this one. I enjoyed it but not in the way I was expecting. I guess I didn’t really know it was a book of short stories and not necessarily another hilarious celebrity memoir. It was still great! and funny! It is so cool to know that this comedic guy I love seeing on my tv is also a story writer! (I guess that shouldn’t be that surprising considering he’s a writer…anyway…)

Besides starting 1Q84, I’m also looking forward to reading Pride and Prejudice soon. I have to work on my PopSugar challenge a bit – so far I’ve been reading whatever I want and just seeing where things fit into the list. I’m getting to the point now where I specifically have to pick books that fit the challenge’s requirements.

Let me know if there are any books you think I should check out soon. Again, my highest recommendation is for anything by Murakami but I also think, if you don’t mind really sitting with a book, The Book of Disquiet is amazing.

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Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

I read this on Vanessa’s recommendation after she heard about it on The Daily Show. With the seal of approval from not only Jon Stewart but also Goodreads (where the book has some pretty great reviews), I knew I had to read it. Although it has now been about a week since I’ve finished reading Just Mercy, I still find myself thinking about it, in some capacity, every single day. The book follows the real-life situations, cases and encounters of its author, a lawyer who now heads the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama and teaches at NYU Law. For decades now, Stevenson, along with his colleagues, have worked tirelessly to not only save the imprisoned from their unfair and unjust death sentences (often for crimes they did not even commit) but also to prove that the system we put so much faith into is more than coming up short. In the book, Stevenson closely focuses on one man’s overarching story but also dives into shorter anecdotes (like lifetime sentence mandates of minors and the imprisonment of the mentally and physically disabled). I think this book would be an especially inspiring read for anyone who is interested in learning more about current incarceration practices in America but, above all, I think this would be an important read for everyone. We all have something to learn and Just Mercy is a step in the right direction.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I am someone who recently discovered that I do not really like Mystery/Thriller books, even though I’ve always thought that I really, really did. I like wondering “whodunnit?” and looking for clues sprinkled throughout the text…but, as I’ve started to realize, those clues don’t usually exist (maybe I’m reading the wrong books). I know, I know – it is just a book! And the author has full creative control! But that’s kind of my problem (and maybe why I’m starting to love True Crime even more): these books don’t usually have those clues I love looking for. It’s a mystery and it’s meant to stay a mystery until the end and, I mean, that’s cool, but not as much fun for me, problem-solving extraordinaire.

Despite all of this, I actually really did like The Girl on the Train. Yeah, yeah, it’s been compared to Gone Girl but put that all aside (especially because I personally much preferred Girl on the Train). There’s really not much to say about the plot of the book without diving into the story and then diving into each of the characters and their crazy lives. The book is incredibly popular right now and I think it does live up to its hype.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Hi, hello, are we friends? If so, you probably already know what I’m going to say about this book.

Mindy Kaling is just…everything. From The Office to The Mindy Project to this book to her taste in everything, I love the woman. Everyone has their dream celebrity BFF and mine is definitely Mindy (and Emma Watson – wouldn’t we be the best trio you’ve ever seen?). If you love Mindy already, you will surely love Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? because the book will make you love her even more. I’ve read a lot of the recent celebrity memoirs (particularly the ones from female comedians) and I think this one is my favorite of all. There’s a real humor there that comes from more than just recalling funny moments in her life. I know it is so overstated that Mindy Kaling is “real” (like “Celebrities – They’re Just Like Us!” real) but this book really seals the deal. From detailing her beautiful, personally-crafted home office space and later admitting she’s worked from it once and actually writes in bed to talking about her teenage after school hang-out-seshes at The Cheesecake Factory, I spent almost the entire book laughing out (really) loud. Even if you aren’t (yet) a fan, I’d still recommend the book. I’m sure you will thank me.

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Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

I have never read anything else by Vladimir Nabokov but I am fairly familiar with the premise of Lolita (I’m a bad film student – I haven’t even seen all of Kubrick’s filmography). When first stumbling across this book on Goodreads, I thought “oh! this will be a quick read” and “what a nice place to dive into Nabokov’s work!” but it wasn’t quite that simple. I found Pale Fire to be…a lot…to take in. The structure of Pale Fire is unlike anything I’ve ever read – a 999-line poem “written” by a deceased (yet fictional) writer and annotated by a (fictional) scholar and friend of the poet. I almost feel like I need to buy a hard copy of this book (I read it as an e-book) and re-read it to even begin to appreciate it to its full potential. Pale Fire has opened the door to the mind of Nabokov for me and I am fairly certain that you’ll be able to find me here for some time.

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

Birds of America is a collection of short stories. I haven’t read too many books consisting solely of short stories but I was constantly getting Lorrie Moore recommendations so I decided to go for it. Mostly, I absolutely loved it. Moore is a fantastic writer and the stories are clever yet manage to convey an extreme range of emotions. The only thing I didn’t like about the stories was occasionally feeling like I was reading about the same character placed in different situations when it fact it was an entirely different story with different characters. Many of the characters are very, very similar which I suppose can actually be a really good thing but I found just slightly off-putting. Again, I’m just someone who doesn’t really read short stories so maybe that’s just something I’ll have to get used to reading. I did, however, find her style very engaging and I am definitely planning on checking out more of her work very soon.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl was the first book I read after a couple months of not reading anything except for stuff for school. I was so excited for it! I was mostly reading it because I heard it was being adapted into a film and I love reading “soon-to-be-a-movie” books. I loved Gone Girl…for the first 300 pages. Things quickly (very quickly) went sour for me. I realized 75% of the way through the book that I hate almost every single character in the book. I know it’s “just a book” but they were all SO annoying and bratty. Between Nick’s insufferable indifference towards his wife and Amy’s insufferable desire to prove a point, I just couldn’t wait to be done with the book. And, of course, I’m one of the people who was just not satisfied with the ending. Although I wasn’t crazy about Gone Girl as a whole, I do hope to read more books by Gillian Flynn. I definitely was intrigued by her ability to make me feel so much towards the characters…even if those feelings were not so positive.

lostgirls

Robert Kolker’s Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery is the story of five women whose remains were found in a 15-mile strip of beach in Long Island. In the book, Kolker doesn’t just piece together the police investigation and the media’s response to the crime, but also gives the reader an inside look into these women’s lives: their childhoods, their families, and their dreams.

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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Despite the fact that I’ve heard that the author of this book is (to put it lightly) a rather unlikeable person (1, 2) the book itself is actually quite good. I read it a few years ago after hearing loads about it from a ton of my friends. Although its mostly the story of a bunch of kids doing amazing things, it isn’t told in a way that is condescending or childlike, which I loved. If you can find someone who already owns this book (so you don’t have to give more money to the author), I’d definitely recommend borrowing it.

 

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

The first book I ever read by Kurt Vonnegut was Slaughterhouse-Five and obviously I loved it. On the hunt for more, Cat’s Cradle was next on my list. I loved this book. Not as much as Slaughterhouse, but it’s pretty darn close. Even though the book is about average-sized for me (300-ish pages), it felt like a really quick read because I just couldn’t put it down. It is incredibly interesting and detailed in a way that makes you wonder how anyone could think of all of this stuff. And of course, in classic Vonnegut style, the book blends science-fiction aspects with satire. And, duh, it’s very funny.

 

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I read In Cold Blood a few years ago and I still think about it all the time. This book is amazing and will have you instantly hooked. I mean, obviously it’s something of a classic and has inspired tons of true crime novels since its publication. In fact, In Cold Blood is definitely something I’d recommend to people who loved Serial because the book was actually originally published as a four-part serial in The New Yorker. In true “Lil’ Book Review” fashion, I won’t give anything away except that it is the story of the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. You’ll love it, promise. 

I’ve been reading a ton lately and honestly can’t seem to keep up with writing a whole post about each book! So I thought I’d start my “mini reviews”/basically just let you know if I’d recommend them!

 Post Office – Charles Bukowski

My first Bukowski read! Obviously I went into this with high  standards after hearing endless praises for the man. I  wasn’t blown away by the book but I definitely liked it a lot.  Because I’m trying to keep these short, I’m going to try to create  the shortest synopsis ever: this is the story of a man who works at  the post office. He is hilariously  insubordinate, bittter and  passive. It is a fairly quick read so I’d definitely recommend it and  I am definitely looking forward to read more Bukowski very soon.

The Beginning of Everything – Robyn Schneider13522285

I read this book because a ton of Internet-y people I follow  recommended it. Unfortunately, I was severely let down. I feel  that maybe I’d like it if I were 14 or 15 but I’m 22 and I just can’t  relate. Even so, I don’t think 14-year-old me would’ve really  related either, but I just would have liked a story like this: “quirky”  girl comes into the life of our off-beat boy next door with a twist.  Not gonna spoil it but things ~are not as they seem~. Anyway, I  wasn’t crazy about it by any means.

 The History of Love – Nicole Krauss

I can’t remember where I heard about this book but it was on my “to  read” list…so I did. It is a twisting story about a group of people  trying to figure things out. I’m not sure what else to say that can  be short but also not give away too much. Anyway, the entire time  I was reading this book, I kept thinking about Extremely Loud  and Incredibly Close and how similar these books are…and to my  surprise, the authors are married! Tangent aside, I really liked this  book. I like books about New York and I like books with a little bit  of mystery. I felt slightly disappointed during certain  “developments,” but overall I really enjoyed it.