Oh hey, book talk time. So if you don’t really like reading about the books other people are reading… then I’m not sure why you’re here anyways. Books, guys. Like the lifeblood of my soul.
Errr. And on that note, here’s some short and sweet (or long and rambly) reviews of a few of the books I read during July. Hint: they were mostly pretty awesome.
The Girl You Left Behind Jojo Moyes
Jojo Moyes stole my beating and reading heart with Me Without You. On my second of her books, she didn’t fail me one bit, with a story of two young women and a painting that connects them. The Girl You Left Behind begins with several chapters with a young woman named Sophie Lefevre trying to maintain the family’s hotel and tavern in WWI German-occupied France while her husband fights for their country.
But when we get to the biggest cliffhanger of Sophie’s story, it ends for the time being, and the main plot begins. (I had to put the book down at this point and pick up the next chapter after a night of sleep. The transition feels odd at the time, even if it makes sense later on.) Liv’s story takes place in the present and unravels the mystery of a long missing portrait of Sophie, painted by her husband, Edouard Lefevre—as well as unraveling Liv’s own life.
Conclusion: loved it, will read more Moyes.
I was able to read this a little early (it comes out in October) so I won’t give much away. I particularly loved how much I learned here: about aid work, about Afghanistan, about being an expat of any sort in an unfamiliar, and sometimes unfriendly, culture.
It was enjoyable fiction, but I think I valued how much I learned about a foreign culture just as much as, if not more than, the entertainment value.
Floating City Sudhir Venkatesh
But here’s the funny thing: I also really enjoyed it. It was just the sort of thing that I really enjoyed a few pages at a time. In a funny way, I think I also kept forgetting that I would enjoy reading it—despite the memoir tone, the amount I was learning about underground culture made it feel like it should be too educational to be all that enjoyable!
Venkatesh recounts several years of his work as a sociologist at Columbia University, from when he first arrived and was struggling to gain trust in the circles he was researching, to years while tenured with a vast network of contacts in the underground markets of NYC. Very interesting, very informative, and very enjoyable.
Garlic and Sapphires Ruth Reichl
I wish I could pronounce “Reichl,” because I would be talking about this memoir so much more. Ruth Reichl’s stories of her time as the chief food critic at the New York Times in the late 20th century are brilliant. I love her writing, her sense of humor, and her storytelling style.
I basically know so much more now about food and restaurant culture and lots of things about fancy eating that I will very likely never actually need to know.
And I was also reminded on about every single page how much of a picky eater I am. Really, really picky. It’s an awful thing. But this book? This book is a great thing.
The Tent Margaret Atwood
This is my second experience with Atwood. I am STILL enamored by her The Handmaid’s Tale (and still equally tempted to go back and reread or to shove it into the hands of any willing reader friend) and have since picked up more Atwood for my TBR list.
The Tent is dozens of short pieces, ranging anywhere from two to seven pages. Some read like poems, others like essays, and still others almost like short stories. I read these over several months, so the reading experience was fragmented, but I overall enjoyed them each time. I’d love to go back eventually and reread some or all, because I feel like these pieces are the kind that just get better the second time around.