This year, I’ve decided it’s time to start reading again. Not that I ever really stopped but my personal reading has really slowed down since I started college and even since I graduated. Being in Honors and an English minor means that some semesters I read (or was assigned) well over twenty books and to be honest, that was a bit much even for me. My reading for pleasure took a nosedive and even on breaks I was hesitant to start reading anything because I felt like I was wasting time if it wasn’t something for school. After I graduated, it was so nice to not have to read anything that I just didn’t. Now, I feel like I can read for myself and really enjoy it again so I decided the best way to do that was to use my excessive time on the subway to dig in. This post is about the first four books I’ve read this year and you can expect another update with the next four in a couple of months.
The Joy Luck Club has been on my list for a pretty long time. It was recommended to me after I fell in love with The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston in a freshman English class (would also highly recommend). I think this was mostly because the two authors are similar in heritage and upbringing and the short story layout of the books lend an air of oral history to each though I would like to go on record and say that beyond those two surface level connections, the books are fairly incomparable. The Joy Luck Club is a multi-perspective first-person novel about growing up Chinese and growing up Chinese-American. Each story is told by a different character—women who are members of the Joy Luck Club and their daughters—about coming of age, coming of old age, and the intricate relationships of family. Of course, the writing is beautiful. The prose is simple and powerful. The different generational voices and the stark contrast between the Chinese Mothers’ stories and the Chinese-American Daughters’ is both compelling and mystifying. As someone who finds herself squarely outside of the cultural representation of this book, I was intrigued by family dynamics and a sense of deeply historical heritage I had never experienced. If you’re looking for a classic but want to stray away from the stereotypical canon populated by white male authors, I definitely recommend this book.
The next book I read was Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. I had this book on my Amazon wish list for a few months, mostly on the merit of the author, but finally picked it up in November at a little bookstore in West Village. Shop local, friends! To be honest, I had no idea what this book was about when I bought it. I pretty much assumed it would follow a similar pattern of other comedians’ books—generally memoirs, often anecdotal in content—but with the specific theme of finding love in the age of Tinder. What I found out (ironically, from a Tinder date who had read the book) is that it is actually a sociological study on how people in the modern age find love and behave in relationships. While Ansari’s voice is clearly heard throughout the book, the tone is serious, the science is authentic, and the result is striking. I’ll let you read it to find out what the search for love is really like for the unhappily single, but as someone who is going through the dating scene now, I can say that the book is pretty spot on. Full disclosure, Modern Romance is a few years old and, while not much has changed, there are some differences in the technology discussed in the book and what is available to the modern dater today. If you want to get the most out of reading, I would recommend picking it up sooner rather than later.
One of my goals for my reading this year is to knock out some books that got lost in the shuffle while I was going through school. These are books that other people probably read in school but I didn’t get to it until now. My next read was one I hadn’t even heard of until my senior year of college but has apparently read by every high schooler in the country. Night by Elie Wiesel is a heart-wrenching piece of literary nonfiction documenting the author’s experience in concentration camps during World War II. I love Wiesel’s poetic style and turn of phrase. Everything about this piece is stunning. I’ve read a couple of his other books and one of my favorite thigs about his writing is that it is poetic but very straightforward. He doesn’t ask for pity, just that you listen as he tells you the truth. I can’t get enough. It may also be worth it to mention that this and several of his other books are works in translation so if you prefer to read the original French, you may.
I wrapped up February with one of the single most iconic female science fiction writers ever. While I had never read anything by Ursula K. LeGuin before now, I had always felt a deep connection to her as a person because of her history and stature within the literary world. She’s one of those women who can do no wrong. I started my LeGuin journey with The Dispossessed. There is no particular reason I picked this book over any of her other novels besides the fact that it was the most accessible one on my shelf at the time. I also have The Left Hand of Darkness lurking around here somewhere to be read later. To be honest, this book was not quite the experience I thought it would be when I started reading. I expected some sort of life-altering reading experience, something that would really blow me away and change the way I saw things which, to be fair, is a lot of expectation to place on a single book. While it was not all of that, it was a very good book which was well written and thought-provoking. It is also definitely a science fiction book (but I don’t think it was cheesy or anything) so if you’re not into that, maybe pass this one up.