March Reads (2014)

March 2014

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

This is a short book in three sections: exploring ballooning in the first section, photography in the second, and then giving the reader an intimate view of personal grief in the third.  Barnes’ style appeals to me more than his content, but his style is enough to make me enjoy reading about things (e.g. the history of ballooning) I wouldn’t otherwise.  The rawness of the grief expressed in the third section of this book was so ugly and unguarded that I felt uncomfortable – like I had seen the author naked without his knowledge.  Words and truth are powerful tools.  To be able to reveal painful truths with beautiful words is an incredible gift…and Barnes has it.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

The book opens with a revelation that the wife will murder the husband in just a few short months, then backtracks to tell the reader about those months.  With a big reveal at the beginning, I expected more nail-biting suspense along the way.  There wasn’t.  Harrison tells a sordid tale with clinical coldness.  It didn’t work for me.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

The book equivalent of a chick flick – light, frilly, and immensely enjoyable.  I devoured this delightful story in a day – rooting for each and every one of the likeable characters.  You aren’t going to spend hours discussing the nuances of this book, but you will smile while you read it.

Women’s Work by Kari Aguila

A dystopian novel by a Seattle author that pictures a world in which women have taken over and banished all men except spouses and sons.  This was our March book club selection.  I liked the characters and wanted to like the book…but I couldn’t buy into the idea that if women took over to right the historic wrongs of violence and gender inequality that they would create a society in which known men were treated like 1950’s housewives and strange men were treated like dangerous beasts.  The premise was simply too much of a stretch for me.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka

Easily my favorite read this month, this book was recommended by a dear friend.  This novel was deeply moving.  I had to re-apply my mascara when I was done reading.  I imagine this will be assigned reading for future generations.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

While I didn’t like this book as much as The Fault in Our Stars, I still loved Green’s writing, characters and plot. The book tackled lots of big topics with fresh insights and tender dialogue.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

I felt like the only writer who hadn’t read this book. I’m glad to have finally joined the club and look forward to putting on airs and saying “You haven’t read Bird by Bird?!” in an overly shocked tone next time I find a writer who hasn’t yet thumbed through the pages of this fabulous book. Anne Lamott alternates between patting you on the shoulder and punching you in the gut throughout this book filled with wisdom, encouragement, and a solid dose of realistic expectations.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I picked this book up from the National Book Award Finalist display at Powell’s on a recent trip to Portland. I appreciated the author’s willingness to tackle a tough subject and enjoyed the snarky but accurate insights about highschool from the narrator, a victim of sexual assault. However, because the narrator is so emotionally shut down, it was difficult for me to connect with her or invest in the outcome of her story.

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