An Open Book: What I Read in February

We recently spent several hours in Istanbul’s used bookstores. There weren’t many English-language books, but that didn’t matter. The magic of a used bookstore isn’t necessarily about the words on the pages but in the essence of the books themselves.

The old book smell.

The crinkle of the pages.

The tall stacks with books on such high shelves they aren’t even meant to be reached.

I run my fingers over the textured covers and embossed lettering on the collectors’ editions. I read the back covers on new paperbacks.

The minutes bleed into hours, and my heart is full.

book reviewsThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: The three women who tell this suspenseful story are flawed and unlikable, but intriguing enough to keep me reading. The plot was well-paced, and I liked the format of the book. Unfortunately, I found the ending to be obvious and was really hoping for a better twist.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: I’ve been waffling between giving this book five stars for its lyrical, almost stream-of-consciousness writing or one star for the fact the author has written a character (Jude) who, despite being gifted with practically a perfect life after a devastating childhood, she has admitted is “simply too damaged to ever truly be repaired.” In fact, this book has many faults: the absolute implausibility of the characters’ lives, the strange warping of a 24-hour day, the irresponsibility of the people in Jude’s life despite the fact they’d do anything for him, the divide between their lives and world events that should have taken place around them. And, someone should have insisted upon editing this book; it goes on far too long.

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: This is the complex and tangled story of  the incredibly endearing Tooly Zylberberg and the crazy cast of characters who shape her life. Told over three different time periods, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers is intriguing, convoluted, and, most of all, touching. I couldn’t tell where the leaps in time and place were headed, but when they reached the final destination, I was greatly satisfied.

book reviews

All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life by Winona LaDuke (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: As a white American woman who grew up in a middle-class family, I’ve moved through the world blind and ignorant to Native Americans’ stories, struggles, and histories. This was a stellar book broken down by conflicts and injustices Indigenous Americans have found themselves facing since the United States was “discovered.” This one gets four stars from me only because it was published in 1999, and so much has happened since then, so an updated version of this book would be an even more informative read.

An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers by Danny Gregory (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: This lighthearted and interesting collection of stories from traveling artists was a great book to pick up here and there over the last several months. I enjoyed reading about what drew their attention and inspired them to create, though their lists of art materials didn’t mean much to me. I would have preferred to read this one in print rather than via e-book to better enjoy the illustrations.

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