An Open Book: What I Read in April

I’m not going to lie: April was a pretty stressful month. And, unsurprisingly, I found solace in reading.

I read an article the other day by a guy who said he hadn’t sat down to truly read a book in years. He’s been distracted by technology. And social media. And the short news cycle. And, and, and …

Any reading he does is in short bursts, so his attention for books has waned, simply because he isn’t absorbed in them.

I can’t imagine a way of life in which I don’t spend at least an hour a day reading a book. It’s as essential to my well-being as breathing and eating. And if you know me, you know I often forget to eat, so reading may actually be more important than eating.

This month, my reading encompassed a colorful arc of books ranging from travelogues to literary fiction and young adult to inspiration. It was a delicious — and much appreciated — month of reading.

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: For five years, the author essentially embedded herself in Annawadi, a Mumbai slum, and let the characters share their own stories. It is easy to exploit a community like this one, but Boo did an excellent job of letting the world happen around her. At times, I was almost bored by some of the story lines, but keeping in mind that this was a transparent sharing of events, I actually appreciated the day-to-day mundane-ness of it all.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga (2/5 stars)

Three-line review: I’m all about putting more young adult novels out into the world that portray the misfits, bullied, and underdogs — hey, that was all of us at one point, right? — so I wanted to like this one. Unfortunately, the characters felt two-dimensional and overtly unlikable, and I’m not convinced it was an accurate portrayal of the average high school kid. Additionally, the plot was bland, and there was certainly nothing adventurous about the story.

Paris Out of Hand: A Wayward Guide by Karen Elizabeth Gordon, Barbara Hodgson, and Nick Bantock (2/5 stars)

Three-line review: This tongue-and-cheek guidebook to Paris felt like an inside joke I didn’t understand. I picked this book up at a used bookstore, but it was neither funny nor entertaining to read. It gets two stars instead of one because I love the hard-copy version, which features illustrations and imagery masterfully created with an array of whimsical ephemera.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: I like Eugenides’ writing style and character development — adored Middlesex — but this certainly wasn’t his most engaging book. He did a masterful job of weaving together the three main characters’ stories, and I felt particularly interested in Mitchell’s growth, but his female protagonist was bland. I most enjoyed the parts written from the perspective of a character in a manic state; Eugenides’ writing style matched the intensity inherent in the character’s state of mind.

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Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: A fun, humorous book of essays that I’m surprised I’ve just now gotten around to reading. I especially loved and related to Sedaris’ stories about being an expat trying to learn a new language in his adopted homeland. Light and easy, this is a good one to pick up here and there when you’re in need of some levity.

Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland (5/5 stars)

Three-line review: Considered a “must read” by many dabbling in creative fields, this book is a high-level perspective of the minutiae that makes art-making challenging. So many books like this one have been published before, but this one really resonated with me. I don’t reread books, but I’ll definitely revisit this one occasionally just to reground myself in a creative mindset.

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: I admit I’m all in with the recent wave of mystery / suspense novels with slightly off-kilter female protagonists, but I didn’t love this one. Instead of a straight-up plot that kept things interesting, the author relied on a weak literary choice of telling the story backward, and while that’s intriguing for readers at times, it doesn’t work from a character perspective. I also found the language a bit forced and esoteric at times; the fact the main character constantly repeated the same contrived phrase — “tick-tock, Nic” — added to my distaste for the language choices.

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