August was a mixed bag of books. It included both the absolute worst book I’ve read so far this year (I’m looking at you, The Savage Detectives) as well as one of the best (thank you, Born to Run). I guess books are like a lot of things in life: You need a solid mix of good and bad to really appreciate either of them.
On that note, I took a look at my yearly Goodreads challenge the other day, and I’ve absolutely blown it out of the water this year. Normally, reading 35 books in a year would be ambitious for me; I’m not an incredibly fast reader either though I love to read. But I’m practically on track to read the equivalent of one book a week for 2018! (Speaking of which, are we connected on Goodreads? If not, look me up!)
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: This timely and topical essay/memoir/letter touches on what it’s like growing up as a Black man in America (spoiler alert: nerve-wracking, violent, uncertain, and tentatively hopeful). I found the first half of the book, which details his time as a child up to college age, to be a bit rambling, but the second half of the book was much more accessible. It was a relatively short, eye-opening, and important book that I would encourage others to read.
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño (1/5 stars)
Three-line review: By far the worst book I’ve read this year, and probably one of the worst I’ve ever picked up. This book is equal parts boring and confusing — I finally looked up the summary about halfway through just to figure out if there was an actual plot — plus it’s incredibly sexist. If you have a choice between reading this and a phone book, choose the phone book.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: I’ve been meaning to read this book for many years, and it did not disappoint. A perfect blend of personal narrative, history, and science, Born to Run is a fascinating story about how and why the quick and sure-footed Tarahumara Indians run the way they do beautifully mixed with practical and enlightening information for recreational runners. That said, even those who aren’t active runners will enjoy this book about McDougall’s personal journey as he tracks down (and runs with) some of the world’s fastest athletes.
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (3/5 stars)
Three-line review: The Lacuna is rambling set of letters, journal entries, and newspaper clippings following the life of a Mexican-American writer from a young age through his disappearance in his mid-30s. Though the plot didn’t engage me as much as some of Kingsolver’s other books, I loved the circular nature of the book and the reappearance of the lacuna (an unfilled space or gap) throughout the story. It takes a masterful writer to incorporate the book itself into the plot of a novel, and Kingsolver achieves that very well.