An Open Book: What I Read in May

May was apparently the month of embracing my inner bookworm. I love to read — I always have— but I absolutely couldn’t get enough of it in May. In addition to several books, I worked my way through a stack of long-form articles I had saved to read.

Just the other day I was talking to someone about my to-read list of books … which is almost 800 books long! Let’s face it: I’m never going to get through them all. At this rate, however, I just may make a dent in that list!

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Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: By far one of the best books I’ve read in a long time — made even better by the fact Noah reads the audio version of the book himself. Not only was this a well-written book, but I learned so much about South Africa’s history, culture, and society. This should be required reading for everyone, especially those who grew up in the West where history is tied up neatly in a way that favors colonialism and dismisses all of Africa in such a way that few know anything about it, including apartheid.

The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: I think this is one of those books where people finish reading and look around thinking “I totally don’t get it, but I think I’m the only one who didn’t so I’ll just pretend that I, too, think this is a literary masterpiece.” I liked the beginning of this book far better than the end; I was intrigued by the characters and the potential for the story. But I’ll admit I didn’t understand some of the literary choices — What’s up with the clouds? Why are Madeline’s chapters written as number lists? What value are the few flashback chapters? — so even though there were aspects I enjoyed, I’ll also be the first to stand up and say I don’t get it.

Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: For some reason, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book — so much so that I barely remember reading it because I read it so quickly. The entire story is based around the protagonist’s question “Can I live alone?” and six women in a ladies coupé (a female-specific train car) who share their life stories to help her find an answer to the question. Though engaging and interesting, this one gets four stars from me because I wanted to see more interaction or discussion among the women about their different histories and situations.

States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction by Paul Jury (1/5 stars)

Three-line review: Seriously, there needs to be some sort of law that keeps 20-something guys from writing books about their “journeys” to find themselves in the world. Every single one is self-centered and selfish, laced with privilege and a female character who ultimately takes the fall. This book fits right into that category, only it’s a bit worse because Jury races through the U.S. on four wheels without experiencing anything meaningful and spewing car exhaust into the atmosphere as he goes.

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (4/5 stars)

Three-live review: What in the world was this book?! Despicable but well-written characters, impressively and impossibly conceived suspenseful plot, complex twists and unexpected turns. It was a cringe-worthy page turner that kept me up way too late at night, and I understand completely why it became an instant hit when it came out.

My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests by A.J. Jacobs (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: Jacobs is known for integrating strange cultural experiments into his life (reading the whole encyclopedia, living biblically for a year), and this book seems to mop up many of them that are worthy of mention but not worthy of their own book-length manuscripts. Broken into chapters by experiments, my favorite sections were those detailing his attempts to outsource his life and doing everything his wife, Julie, asks him to do for a month. Jacobs is humorous and fun — always good for a laugh — and I appreciated the short, readable chapters in this book.

The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: Heavy with dance-related terminology and references, this book was interesting to me because I’m intrigued by dance culture but those who aren’t would likely find it tough to read. Though the book’s themes are pretty heavy — depression/anxiety, mental health, drug abuse — I didn’t feel invested enough in the characters to care too much about them. And while I found the heavy reliance on flashbacks to be a bit burdensome, I was also engaged enough to keep reading at a fairly healthy pace.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki (2/5 stars)

Three-line review: I sure I hope I got this one for free many moons ago because it was a disappointing read if I paid for it. Unfortunately, these books go out of date really fast, and that is particularly obvious in the author’s section on marketing promotion in which he pushes Google+ relentlessly along with the book he wrote about the social media platform; I think it’s pretty safe to say G+ has always been a ghost town. I skimmed this one because it was in my reading queue and while I learned some basic things about the self-publishing process, I’m in no rush to revisit this as a legitimate resource should I ever need such information.

2 Responses to “An Open Book: What I Read in May”

  1. Jill

    GONE GIRL was certainly not a literary masterpiece, but as an addictive page-turner it was spot on. Fortunately it didn’t take long to read! Glad to see your opinion of Trevor Noah’s book, BORN A CRIME. My book group has been considering it for next fall’s list, and I’ll be letting them know what you think.😊

    • JoAnna

      DEFINITELY read Born a Crime! It was so good – so insightful! C is going to teach it next year.


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