You see the link over there, in the blog crouton, to Princess Nebraska? One of my favorite kind of posts that Elizabeth does is when she lists all the books she’s been reading and does a really brief summary of her opinion of them. Not even really what the book is about or anything, just what she thought of them. I like that. I don’t care what the book is about. Well, I care, but all I want to know from a person is if you liked it or not. If your opinion makes it sound like something that I also might like, I am perfectly capable of going and reading the summary. Then, I combine your like or dislike with the summary I am perfectly capable of locating on my own and use that combination to decide if I want to read the book.
Basically what I am saying is that I hate book reviews that start out with, “This book is about…,” and also that I like Elizabeth and I’m pretty much modeling this post off of her style and I wish all book review blogs would, even though that is not practical, as much as it makes sense to ME that the world conform to my needs. But really, I do subscribe to a bunch of book review blogs, and what I do is read the title of the book, the genre of the book, and then scroll down and read the rating of the book. If it’s good, I look it up on Goodreads, and if it looks interesting, I add it to my list. Elizabeth cuts out a lot of scrolling for me. I like Elizabeth.
Anyway, I set a goal to read 130 books this year. The year is half over and I’m not half done, so. We’ll see, eh? (All titles link to Goodreads pages)
1. The Forgotten Garden – I think this was one of those books where if someone had been secretly adding pages on to the end when I wasn’t looking, I probably wouldn’t have noticed and would have gone on reading happily for one long ass time before I was like, wow, it’s 2015, I am one hell of a slow reader.
2. Gathering Blue – The second in The Giver series. I guess I read The Giver in 2011. Middle grade isn’t for me. I felt like I was supposed to like it.
3. Messenger – The last of The Giver trilogy. I didn’t really get a boner for the trilogy as a whole, and I definitely had a limp noodle for the ending. Finished out of obligation. Though I can see why if I had read these at the appropriate age I might have held some fond memories for the three.
4. Speak – This book can go right the hell to hell. I get that it’s dealing with an important subject, and I get that everyone deals with trauma differently, but I swear to pete, the main character is the least sympathetic female in the history of ever, and I hated her stupid face. AND? AND? Some of the most ridiculously unforgivable authorial bullshit shenanigans, the author’s authory fingers should be TAKEN AWAY. “fizz ed?” “toolz eye kan yooz?” WHY? WHY? WHY DID THAT HAVE TO HAPPEN? WHY WAS THAT A THING THAT HAPPENED IN THIS BOOK?
5. Pretty Little Liars – Okay, I don’t really remember much about this book, other than that it was fast and fun and that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
6. Flawless – Second book in the series. It wasn’t as good as the first one, but kept my interest in following the series.
7. Unwind – This was the book that made me need to add a “conflicted” tag to my bookshelves. I don’t know if I liked it, but I don’t know if I disliked it. I don’t think I liked it or disliked it. I… neither. I liked it. I didn’t. I don’t know. I’m not unhappy that I read it. I do know that this book made my mind go down thought paths that I consciously needed to stop. Like, WHOA THERE, BRAIN. LET’S JUST END THAT TRAIN RIGHT THERE. CABOOSE THAT. Parts of this book were quite disturbing, and will force you to think about some disturbing things.
8. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – What in the hell even? I don’t even? I can’t… is this real life? Does this book exist on this plane of existence? Of all the convoluted bullshit… once again, fine sirs, I don’t even.
9. If I Stay – I have literally zero feelings about this book.
10. Hate List – It feels weird to say I enjoyed a book about a school shooting, but there you go.
11. The Midwife’s Confession – This book was kind of Picoulty. I mean, it’s basically a Picoult in different author’s clothing. I personally enjoy a nice Picoult.
12. The Art of Fielding – High fives all around. I was just so FRICKIN’ DELIGHTED by this book. Probably the best thing I’ve read this year.
13. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – Frankie is one irritating whiny bitch. And for someone who is so determined to show that girls are just as good if not better than boys, she sure does spend a lot of time and effort working for male attention and approval.
14. Angelfall – This book was good. But it was dark. And I don’t mean, like, Voldemort kills Cedric, shit just got real dark, I mean like mutilated experimental cannibalistic zombie children with razors for teeth dark. Like, whoa, I am reading this through cracks of my fingers dark. I liked it!
15. Poison Study – I enjoyed the shit out of this book, but you know what REALLY stands out? Bad hairstyles. I mean, REALLY BAD. Read this book, and pay attention to the way hair is described. God awful. You will have to make an effort to substitute in your own hair ideas.
16. Perfect – The third in the Pretty Little Liars series. They remain quick, entertaining reads that have kept me interested.
17. Unbelievable – The fourth in the same series as above, which can now fuck right off.
18. Wither – A crappy cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and The Truman Show with writing that I did not enjoy. Yet I will probably read the next in the series. And hate it.
19. Private – Book about bitchy cliquey chicks at a private school. It was nothing like the Caitlin books but it made me want to reread the Caitlin books.
20. Ready Player One – Fun! For nerds! And other people, I GUESS. You should read it. It basically ruled. Frickin’ delightful.
21. Now You See Me – Irritating. The main character/narrator figures things out, but doesn’t share with the reader. Uh, then don’t be the narrator. Half-assed hints toward a romance that never develops. Tenuously-woven, really thin plot, and everything was just so CONVENIENT. And the “twist” was just annoying because I was ready to be finished and it just made the book LONGER.
22. Under the Never Sky – I don’t know. I guess I’ll read the next one. I think this is one of those “first book in the trilogy” things that is kind of neutral in terms of hate or love and just kind of lays out the rest of the series. Also, why is everything a trilogy?
23. I’ve Got Your Number – I want to go back in time and read this on a plane and then just leave it in the airport. Also, I hated the lead female. Shut up.
24. The Scorpio Races – I recognize that this is probably a good book, but I didn’t like it. Does that make sense? Too bad, review it yourself, then.
25. Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – This book is the exact reason why only John Green should be allowed to write teenagers because oh my god, fuck these two pretentious assholes.
26. Neverwhere – Maybe I should have picked a different Neil Gaiman for my first, because this book made me feel exactly like the main character in this book must have felt. Just kind of dragged along, bewildered, with no real clue about what was happening around me or why it was happening and just kind of wishing it would end and I would wake up in my own bed. Alone. Maybe with some cake.
27. The Fault in Our Stars – Oh, just fall in line and go read it.
28. City of Bones – I remain undecided on whether or not I will follow up with the rest of the series, but I found this one to be reasonably enjoyable.
29. Legend – Same as above. I read this one, I liked the set up. I liked the worldbuilding, I liked the two leads. I also am kind of just fine where this one ended, I’m not clamoring for the next one. But if I find myself looking for something to read, I’m not saying I’d kick the next one out of my Kindle.
30. Fifty Shades of Grey – The “inner goddess” thing was pretty intolerable. Otherwise, my sense of shame went on a permanent vacation once I cracked this one open.
Also, I have a pretty low tolerance for the whole, “ugh, I can’t believe people are READING that” shit, so take it somewhere else. Also ALSO, if you did read it and then did the whole, shrug, I don’t get the fuss thing, oh, shut up. Of course you get the fuss. Just because you don’t feel like MAKING a fuss, don’t act like you’re above even understanding why there IS a fuss. In shorter words, a lot of people have made themselves look like HUGE assholes over these books, and I have written down names on a post it note right here.
Anyway, I wish Ana wasn’t such a… I mean, come on. Who doesn’t own a cell phone? Who doesn’t Internet? Why does every female innocent need to not just be a virgin but also need to be like, completely shut out from the whole world ever?
31. Fifty Shades Darker – More plotty. It was kind of better than the first one.
32. Fifty Shades Freed – Maybe, if you’re okay with being a non-completest, you can just not read this one. There’s this one part, it’s kind of disturbing, when Ana is pregnant, and look, everything is ruined forever.
33. Hush, Hush – Oh, this was the worst. This was just the worst. What an ugly mess of a book. Don’t even. I mean, seriously. DO NOT EVEN.
34. Attachments – I liked this book. It was fun, and quick, and cute, and spoke to my old school inner nerd, and my only minor irritation was that it was one of those books where I felt like I was just supposed to ACCEPT that there was some kind of magnetic draw between the dude and the girl. I mean, there were two girls, and I didn’t even know which was the romantic interest until it was spelled out for me.
35. The Declaration – This book was… fine.
36. Ender’s Game – I want to go back in time to one day before I started this book so I can read it again, fresh.
37. Ender’s Shadow – Reading this book was almost as good to going back in time to one day before I started Ender’s Game and reading it again fresh.
38. 11/22/63 – I really loved this book, except could happily have done without huge parts of it. Like, all of the parts that were part of the plot. I just want to read about time traveling back to the 50s and living there. I’ll read about that all day long.
39. A Monster Calls – This book can shut the fuck up. I wish I owned a real copy, I’d tape it shut.
40. Insurgent – I was bored. And Tris? Why, Tris? Why?
41. Bitterblue – If you haven’t read Graceling and Fire yet, you should. And then read Bitterblue. I’ve seen some complaints that Bitterblue was kind of unnecessarily long, but I disagree. I could have read Bitterblue forever. I will read a billion books set in this world.
42. Fair Coin – Okay, stuff happens because science. And then some people die, and that’s unfortunate, but it’s okay, because it’s not us. And suspense, used in a really annoying, boring kind of way. Hate.
43. Magic Study – This is the book that comes after Poison Study, which I loved. Magic Study was actually kind of bad. Which was surprising and sad. But I held out hope. There was a lot of that “ONLY I CAN HANDLE THIS SITUATION!” type crap which, in the framework of the world, makes ZERO SENSE. And also a lot of convenience. Like, “Oh yeah, and suddenly I have this power. And in this situation my power also does this. And… oh yeah, I have this magic.” Disappointing.
44. Fire Study – YET I PERSISTED TO THE THIRD BOOK. You guys. Read Poison Study. It’s great. AND THEN STOP. Life is too short for shitty books.
45. Bared to You – A little convoluted, a lot dirty. Another female lead who solves her problems by storming off, another male lead with a damaged past, another couple brought together by lots of sex, but at least these two wipe down afterward.
46. The Selection – This book is supposed to be like The Hunger Games combined with The Bachelor, which sounds REALLY FREAKING AWESOME until the author ruins it with the worst female lead I have read in a thousand years. It’s like she tried to write a Katniss but accidentally Bella Swanned her.
47. Unwanted – I was seriously really enjoying this book until the end, until the “twist,” which was a bit of an unconventional kind of twist, but not in the kind of way that you’re like, “Oh, that was innovative,” but more in the kind of way that you’re like, “Oh, fuck you then.”
48. Cinder – This was okay. It just didn’t grab me like it seemed like it was supposed to. I didn’t get sad, or feel the righteous fury at the injustices, no suspense even though I could see I was supposed to. The male lead was uninspiring, the female was meh and I couldn’t pull for her. Maybe this was a laying the groundwork book. We’ll see.
49. When You Reach Me – This one went quick. I guess it was fine. I don’t really have particular feelings one way or the other.
50. Backstage Pass – There’s actually a good story under all the filth. I liked Myrna, and it was nice to read about a mature female lead in one of these trash books. Also, hint: backstage means butts.
51. Rock Hard – Far fetched, filthy and emotionally manipulative, just like a lady likes.
52. Thoughtless – If you can put aside the fact that the main female character has not been developed with any sort of characteristics except for the fact that she’s terrible, this is a good trashy romance.
53. Effortless – The follow up to Thoughtless, which you will want to read because you will be in love with Kellan Kyle, but too bad for you, because I already dibbsed him.
54. Love Unscripted – Yeah, I’ve been on a trash streak, and I point my shame finger straightly at Jonniker, but mostly I have no shame. I liked this, and you will, too. It will allow you to imagine your eventual and inevitable whirlwind romance with Ryan Gosling.
55. Across the Universe – Another one that will make you think thinky and somewhat disturbing thoughts. I don’t know if I’ll pursue the series. It depends on how many thoughts I’m prepared to have.
56. Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain – I mostly do not usually end up liking celebrities books, not because I find them shallow or anything like that, I’m just not a big non-fiction writer. I actually ended up kind of liking this one, but skip the epilogue, it gets preachy and ruiny.
57. Everlost – Ooooh. I love a well set up alternate world, with good rules that are stuck to and all thought out and logical. I will read this whole series. Unless the next book sucks. Then I will probably still read it, but with a scowl.
Now that I am watching John Green of the Vlogbrothers dissect The Great Gatsby with all that critical reading stuff I had no time or patience for in high school (also, only pretended to read The Great Gatsby in high school), I wonder if I need to go back and re-read all the crap I blew off back then. Because, you know what? Aside from Jane Eyre and maybe Emma, nothing that falls into the “classics” circle really overlaps with my “favorites” circle. And I think that’s because I was turned off from that kind of stuff in high school, because I was an idiot who thought critical reading for themes and symbolism was a waste of my time and probably just stuff the teacher made up, because, really? The author just buried all that stuff in there? Why, to make my life hard? AS IF. (It was the 90s.)
Except, yeah, they kind of do bury all that stuff in there. And I want to say I regret not being more critical in my critical reading back in high school, but let’s be honest. I don’t. I was an honor roll student without reading any books. I feel I made pretty excellent use of my time back in high school. I didn’t not read (what?) any books. I mean, I didn’t read the ones I was assigned. And I still did pretty okay.
But I’m wondering if now, in my totally mature almostthirtyhood, I am ready to give some of these books another try, maybe with a little more patience. Except for Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I won’t. I can’t even remember the slightest hint of what the plot of this book is, but I distinctly remember flinging myself to my bedroom floor when I attempted to read it my senior year of high school. So. No. Won’t be having any part of that again.
But then I remember that I have about three minutes a day to actually read. That I read books one page at a time. Okay, everyone reads books one page at a time, but I mean one page per session of reading. That it took me an entire month to read A Discovery of Witches, even though everyone else in the world lapped me twice on Twitter during my reading. And I also remember that I have a Kindle loaded with fun books and I’m reading The True Meaning of Smekday.
But maybe – MAYBE – I don’t have to get all D’Ubervilley. Maybe all books have something to offer to the critical reader. Right? Maybe, in The True Meaning of Smekday, there’s some deep symbolism to when the main Boov, J.Lo, is wearing is ghost costume, like when Holden is wearing his stupid flap-hat.
Maybe I’ll just watch all of the John Green videos on The Great Gatsby and continue to say I’ve read it, like I have since high school.
Tell me the truth. As an adult who is out of school (I KNOW THAT SOME OF YOU ARE NOT ADULTS AND ARE NOT OUT OF SCHOOL OR DON’T CONSIDER YOURSELVES ADULTS OR THINK THE WOOOORRLD IS YOUR SCHOOL), are you a critical reader? How often are you picking up books that could be found on a high school honors English reading list? If you do help yourself to classics on the regular, are you reading them to read them, or are you applying your deep reading skills to discover themes, symbolism and whatnots?
Oh, MAN, it used to make me SO ANGRY when a teacher would ask me to choose and discuss a major theme of the book, because I never grasped the definition of the word “theme” as teachers wanted me to understand it in that context. Um, plot? Moral? What? I don’t know. Never got it. Don’t explain it to me. I’m skipping that. Forever.
What about books that fall outside of what we, right now, consider to be the high school English class classics? Do you read all of your books with a critical eye, or do you just read for enjoyment? Or do you think that deep and critical reading of all books is part of the enjoyment?
I really want to know your honest answers. Don’t pretend, because I’m past the point in life where I’m impressed by intellectualism, pseudo- or realdo-. I’m more impressed with people who can read an entire book in a reasonable number of days and also keep the dog hair tumbleweeds under control and wash the stank off their gross baby once in a while. I am not that person. That is the person who impresses me. So you don’t have to feel like you need to be impressive in the comments.
I do want to know, though. Do you make a place for deep/critical reading and examination of texts for all the literary businessy things in your everyday reading, out of school? To all books or just “classics?” (I use quotes because I suppose it is hard to predict right now what exactly will be the “classics” of the future, and you could be reading one and not know it, so we’ll just go with “classics,” as defined by high school summer reading lists.) Or do you read just for pleasure? OR? Is a deep reading a part of the pleasure of reading for you?
I enjoy reading. I do it a lot. When Phil comes home for lunch, I always want to run and take a shower (see above re: gross baby stank), and I take a book with me. Into the shower. Not into the bathroom. Into the SHOWER. And that’s about the only time I get to read right now. But I do enjoy it. But are you enjoying it more? Or did you leave behind the critical reading practices when you turned in your final essay?
(Related but not related to my questions, I have always been impressed (well, throughout the life of the Vlogbrothers YouTube career) by their – specifically John Green’s – belief in young adults. Both in general – to do big things, impressive things, and world-changing things – and specifically – to read tough books deeply and critically, to understand them on a level that most adults do not, and to enjoy learning how to read deeply and critically despite those who might not have faith in the ability of young people to do that. If you know a young person who is not involved in this community, I highly encourage you to encourage them, because it’s something I enjoy now, as an adult, and can only imagine the difference it probably would have made in my life as a teenager.)