books I’ve read lately – March & April, 2012

Kind of a mixed bag recently… well, actually one kind of terrible book and a bunch of good ones!:

  • Palo Alto by James Franco. OK, I kind of finally understand why people bag on Franco. The truth is – this book is just not very good. The writing is essentially very-good-undergrad, or very-mediocre-MFA level. There are moments where he captures the California suburban teenage experience well (I was a teenager in a town very similar to Palo Alto) but in the end too many of the stories are too similar, and gratuitously violent beyond the gratuitous violence of teenage-hood. He shows promise here and there, and it’s honestly too bad that this was published, as it will (or, should) turn people off from his writing in the future.
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. gah, this was good. No big surprise, as I adored Russell’s first book. It took me a while to get into this one (the first third didn’t grab me that much) but Russel is definitely a young writer to watch.
  • Accidentally on Purpose by Mary F. Pols. A really lovely, engaging memoir, that is much more than the cover gives it credit for. About single-motherhood, yes, but more than that about family as a bigger picture. (apparently this was briefly made in to a TV show… I never saw it but the online description makes the story sound rather different.)
  • Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein. Orenstein is a generally brilliant writer, and this book is no exception. A kind of terrifying look at the craziness that is infertility medicine in the United States – worth reading if you are or know a woman of childbearing age (so, everyone.)
  • The Ride Down Mount Morgan by Arthur Miller. This is the first play I’ve ever read outside of school (and I haven’t been in school for years.) My favorite quote in the world comes from it, so I figured I needed to actually read the source. Plays are an adjustment to read, but I really enjoyed it a lot.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I was stoked when one of my bookclubs decided to read this, as I’d been wanting to re-read it for a while (I hadn’t read it since it was assigned in school… 8th or 9th grade?) There’s a reason it’s a classic – I literally could not put it down, to the point of distraction, and finished in in two days. Scout Finch is definitely one of the most enduring narrators in the American literary canon. (also worth noting – the 50th anniversary special edition hardback is beautiful.) Reading it made me think a lot about my late grandmother, who, like Scout, grew up in small-town Alabama during the depression, and appreciate even more how incredible it was that anyone who was a product of that place and times could grow up to be such an outspoken advocate of civil and women’s rights.
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  1. Posted May 2, 2012 at 19:46 | Permalink

    I can’t BELIVE you hadn’t read To Kill A Mockingbird in so long. I read it every few years, as it’s certainly one of my top five books ever written. In fact, I gave David and inscribed copy when he started Law School. He didn’t know where he was headed then, but I sure did.

    • elizabeth
      Posted May 3, 2012 at 14:08 | Permalink

      I know, I can’t believe it either. No worries, it’s now been added to the small selection of books that I reread every few years! (others include: Angle of Repose, Bel Canto, A Kind of Flying.)