Good Reading

Confession: I hate book clubs. I do. I already have enough books that I want to read without having to read something that I don’t really want to read for some club. I feel bad for this because one of my sweet friends wants to have a book club and I just do not want to do it. I mean, I’ll go if I don’t have to read the book, but that seems to defeat the purpose. And our taste in books are so completely divergent that I just don’t see how we come out of it friends. I will only go if it is like Jane Austen Book Club with beautiful geek Hugh Dancy who will fall in love with me despite our mutual awkwardness and overall strangeness.

Anyway, just needed to get that off of my chest. I’m a selfish jerk with my precious reading time and I’m not sorry.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Katie, I will love you until the end of time for recommending this. I have not been so completely and wholly sucked into a world in a while. I felt jarred and disoriented every time I had to put the book down and found myself in reality. As I mentioned last time I did one of these, I’m pretty over the whole dystopian movement, but this novel was a complete departure from everything I have read with that theme. It was fun and unique with infinite 80s pop-culture references.

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

I was told that this book was just as dark and twisting as “Gone Girl,” so I figured I would love it. I’m not one to ever figure out a twist in a story before it happens, but I realized the responsible party pretty early on. From there, it was just endless pages dealing with a frustrating and drunk main character who is was such a mess I couldn’t even feel empathy for her.

While no one in “Gone Girl” was likeable either, I at least respected Amy for being a calculating and brilliant stone-cold sociopath. She wasn’t ruthless to save her kids or her family, she was violent and angry because she was outraged at her life and the man in it. And the entire time she was completely unapologetic about it, and that, I can respect. I never had that respect for Rachel. I can appreciate characters that aren’t likable, but she just seemed pathetic. Additionally, I enjoyed that “Gone Girl” was left open ended. There wasn’t a neat conclusion that wrapped it all up nicely. Instead, it ended with a whole other level of manipulation. “The Girl on the Train” did not do that. There was no ongoing element of mystery at the end.

Descent by Tim Johnston

20312459The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, a young family from the plains taking a last summer vacation before their daughter begins college. For eighteen-year-old Caitlin, the mountains loom as the ultimate test of her runner’s heart, while her parents hope that so much beauty, so much grandeur, will somehow repair a damaged marriage. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic, as suddenly this family find themselves living the kind of nightmare they’ve only read about in headlines or seen on TV.

Thanks to those who recommended this! I really enjoyed it. I was hooked immediately since going missing while running is a fear that hits very close home. From that point, the novel then focuses on the family and their life dealing with a child that has gone missing. Initially, I was kind of bored by these sections because as you can imagine, reading about people dealing with something so tragic is not exactly the most fun ever. Thankfully, things start bouncing back and forth between present day and the day she went missing until the pieces started to connect. Overall, I thought the story was thrilling and it kept me guessing and gripped with uncertainty until the very end. The writing was beautiful and the pacing and tension kept me thinking about it all day.

Alan Turing: The Enigma

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First off, I highly recommend reading this in the Kindle version or a different paperback version than the above pictured one. That printing is just over 600 pages with the tiniest type and most miniscule margins I have ever encountered. Maybe my eyes are just getting old, but it was physically difficult to get through.

In reality, I often felt stupid reading this book because there were so many complex issues that I was completely incapable of wrapping my mind around. Despite a lot of re-reading and just accepting that I would never actually understand parts of this story, I thought it was excellent. The author really strives to investigate and detail the mathematical elements of the story which makes it complicated for someone like me. Outside of the difficulty of reading about SO MUCH MATH, there is excellent insight into the character and intelligence of Alan Turing as a man as well as his life as a gay man and the consequences of that. It’s certainly not light reading, but well worth the effort to learn about this remarkable man.

39 thoughts on “Good Reading

    • That looks cool, but it also looks like it requires common sense and logic to build. I have neither.

  1. I liked The Descent but I couldn’t help but feeling that the author started out using one tone and then tried to go all Cormac McCarthy/Ernest Hemingway with his writing. The writing was beautiful, but the voices of the two main male characters change into Western sounding voices shortly after the main event. I did love the evolution of the bad egg character though.

    • I never would have noticed that on my own, but now that you’ve pointed it out I totally see what you mean! I enjoyed it even though some of the middle parts felt frustrating.

  2. THANK YOU! Book clubs are not my taste either!My friends have one that they’re always asking me to join, but they always pick books that I have no desire to read. Is it wrong that I still have the idea that book club is not exactly the most…engaging discussion that one would hope for? I get really excited talking about books and sub-par conversations/analyses irritate me. Not sorry

    • Same here. That’s why I might attend and just not read the book. That way I can hang out, but I don’t have to worry about being an asshole because we aren’t really dissecting the book and having meaningful discussion.

      • My book club only has about 50% participation, but 100% voting on the “next” book. I like it because it forces me to 1. read for fun 2. research books to try to taint the voting pool. This blog has been wonderful for that, and 3. it’s a fun social thing on a weekday. Unfortunately, I’ve read some books that were not up to my standard, BUT have also been pleasantly surprised by authors/books I would have never considered. Looking at you Maeve Binchy. I bet reading the book won’t be strictly enforced and you can opt in as you see fit.

  3. Ahh i’ve got Descent on hold at the library. Can’t wait till it comes in! And I 100% agree on Girl on the Train. It was recommended to me as “like Gone Girl” as well and I thought it was…. nothing like it! Gone Girl was SO well crafted and I’m really just such a fan girl for Gillian Flynn that this seemed very bland and generic. And I agree about Rachel. I wanted to like her and root for her but I just felt embarrassed for her most of the time.

    Have you read The Martian? I didn’t think it was the best written book ever but the plot was so compelling that it kept me reading. It would be a good summer read – plus they’re making a movie of it with Matt Damon and my imaginary BFF Jessica Chastian so I was glad I read it before.

    • So, this is silly, but reading about or watching people going to outer space really freaks me out. I can’t really pinpoint why, but I just get overwhelmed with terror. Gravity almost gave me a stroke.

  4. I really liked my book club because no one read the book and it just turned into the drinking wine and eating club. That I can get behind.

    And great, now I have another bunch of books to add to the ol’ to-read list! Disappointed to hear that about Girl on the Train because that was next in line for me… Oh well, I’ll still read it.

    • A wine and eating club I can do. Obviously. A lot of people really enjoyed “Girl on the Train.” I think if I had never heard the “Gone Girl” comparison, then I would have been less frustrated with it. So, I say that you should still read it, you may love it!

    • Same here- I just ordered Girl on the Train the other day. I guess the good news is that I used a gift card to pay for it.

    • Some friends and I have been tossing around the idea of doing a ‘book club’ that does not involve all parties reading the same books. Instead you bring a book you have recently read and tell the others about it – the good and the bad, to give others ideas about what to read next. And obviously, there would be wine and food involved. My mom and her friends do it this way and have found it a lot less painful than having to read books that don’t appeal to you. I’m always down for wine and snacks 🙂 – with or without books, or other people for that matter.

      • This is brilliant. I would totally be down to talk about what others read and loved/hated.

      • That’s fun! It’s kind of the same idea that we do for our family White Elephant exchange every year. Everyone brings a book they either loved reading in the last year or one they want to read. Then we do it White Elephant/Yankee Swap style. It gets CRAZY competitive (alliances are formed, cheaters are exposed) but everyone goes home with a good book.

        • That sounds like the best thing ever. Are y’all looking to adopt?

  5. We were out to dinner the other night, and the table of 10 ladies in our section were clearly a (entertainingly rowdy) book club. We couldn’t help but overhear them, and one girl made the suggestion they read “The Girl on the Train” as their next book. Don’t know if they did, but I’m definitely a solitary reader myself (reading “The Silmarillion” now – it’s J.R.R Tolkien’s background/creation story behind Middle Earth/LOTR). Thanks for some good reading suggestions!

  6. Lately, I’ve noticed that book clubs are choosing books that came out, like, years ago. I’ve already read those books!
    I liked The Girl on the Train, but definitely didn’t feel any sympathy, empathy, or attachment to Rachel. And you’re right: at least Amy was smart and deliberate.

  7. you just expressed my feeling about my book club perfectly. I like the chicks in it, but the leader keeps picking the same boring high school cannon books that I hated the first time. I get a few hours a week to read. I’m not wasting them re-reading ray bradbury. I did join a few book clubs on good reads because they are reading current books on my to read list (yes, they can sort for that! love goodread!). I like seeing the commentary on the books with no pressure to go to some meeting

  8. Could not agree more with the Girl on the Train. I felt like I was just internally yelling “Noooooooooooooo” at the main character for the better part of the book. And then after awhile it’s exhausting and you’re like fine, you clearly will never learn from your mistakes so go forth, be a disaster. I don’t feel bad for you anymore.

  9. I actually really liked Girl on the Train; it’s been a long time since I read a book as quickly as that one. I definitely agree that no one is particularly likeable (Rachel being not only pathetic but doing absolutely nothing to improve her situation was totally irritating), and also that things wrapped up just a little too neatly. But I didn’t figure out what happened until I was fairly far along; maybe I’m just a dummy, but I think that was part of why I enjoyed it so much.

    Descent, on the other hand, I was really excited to read, but I just didn’t end up enjoying. I kind of felt like nothing really happened after the first chapter. And, even though it was only used in dialogue, the many uses of “would of,” “should of,” etc. made me CRAZY. I can’t imagine that that didn’t bother you, too, knowing your penchant for grammar.

  10. I had an ill fated book club with several friends. On average two people would read the book and then spend our “meeting” explaining the plot to the others that didn’t read it. Needless to say, that’s over.

    I really appreciate your book recommendations, All The Light We Cannot See is my favorite book I’ve read so far this year, and after I’m done with The Cider House Rules (slow moving on that one), I think the Descent will be next.

  11. I want a book club just so I can have a social life. I guess that’s not a good enough reason. Especially since I’m with you…the book needs to be one I’m interested in and really, chances are slim. I can’t stand reading the “popular” book because I’m always disappointed.

    • Do they have Meetups in your city? That’s how I found my Book Club. There are over 200 women in the Meetup so anytime I can make it, there are always fresh new faces. With that many people, it’s a super diverse group and we vote on books every quarter so the crap gets filtered out and we end up with a great selection.

  12. I love my book club, but we are definitely more of a social group. I think the last time we actually read a book was 2013.

    I know you said that you’re over dystopian literature, but I have to recommend Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. I really enjoyed it, but the version of the future (massive California drought, religious conservative takeover, etc.) hit a little too close to home and I had to put it down a few times. But in a good way! Also, my version had a little bio of Octavia Butler, which was almost as interesting as the book!

  13. Ready Player One has been recommended to me on multiple occasions (usually immediately after I’ve made a geeky comment in a meeting) and is sitting on my nightside table. (Now to find some time to actually read!) A+ use of the War Games gif!

    I have a love-hate relationship with book clubs. I had one that I loved but eventually ended because people moved, so when I was invited to another one I was really excited and enthusiastic about it. Wanting to stab a fellow book club member every time he/she starts talking does not make for a good book club. Needless to say, I am now book club-less and happy to remain that way.

    • I am honestly shocked that you haven’t read “Ready Player One.” SHOCKED. Not the cool nerd indeed… READ IT.

  14. The first book review caught my eye because I read “Wade”–which is also the name of my fiance. And it’s not a very common name. But after reading the book description, I think I would actually enjoy it! Thanks for the recommendation! I even sent this post over to Wade and HE thinks he would like the book too. Of course, he might be slightly biased…;)

  15. Can’t remember if you have mentioned this, but I don’t think so. (Quick search says you haven’t in the posts that still excist.) You really really really need to read “The Elegance of the Hedgehodge” by Muriel Brabery. It is truly excellent!

  16. Ok, so this is a very delayed reply, but I keep forgetting to say – YAY! I’m so glad you both read and enjoyed Ready Player One. Great book.

    Your book posts are so interesting – I read City of Thieves last month based on your recommendation – good story, thanks!

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