As with exercise regimens and New Year’s resolutions, summer reading lists are those kind of goals that, despite the best of intentions, never seem to get finished. Still, I’m pretty jazzed about the amount of reading I’ve managed on the subway and at lunch, and I forgive myself for not getting to the rest of the list – I had two trilogies to attend to!
I realize that I never expressed my post-reading feelings about some of these titles, so here’s a round up of the books I promised I’d read, and actually did!
Murder mysteries aren’t exactly my thing, but I can see why this trilogy has so much buzz. If you can get through the first 250+ pages of exposition and keep up with the host of Swedish names, Larsson’s first book is a truly engrossing thriller, and the sequel takes it right on par from there.
I’m not sure why Dragon Tattoo, and especially detective/journalist/man-about-town Mikael Blomkvist, would be considered feminist in the least, as pointed out by The Rejectionist in this deliciously seething review. Blomkvist is exactly the man who male fiction writers like to fantasize they are (see Robert Langdon), and he spends way too much time being a lady-magnet in tweed to actually be a believable character. Salander, on the other hand, may be seriously screwy, but at least she is interesting.
I also agree that reading or watching highly disturbing scenes of rape and torture is not my idea of a good time (really, I only watch Law and Order SVU for Chris Meloni and Ice-T). I could stomach parts of the no-holds-barred Swedish film with the sound off, and reading those gruesome scenes left me needing some Glee songs and a cupcake.
That being said, take Stieg Larsson’s trilogy for what it is – crime fiction – not some icon of feminist literature. Maybe, like me, you don’t only read characters who hold to real-life moral standards (if that’s the case, knock yourself out with Left Behind, please). Get lost in Larsson’s cold, cold Scandinavian underworld… then come up for air and find something happy to do.
This Is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper /
Several months after hearing Tropper speak and praising the cover design, I finally, finally read This Is Where I Leave You… and found a voice that I wasn’t exactly prepared for. Sure, the dark comedic elements were impeccably timed, as expected. But Tropper’s protagonist, Judd Foxman, also left me with a perspective on the middle-aged male psyche that I never experienced in any other story – not even Nick Hornby’s.
First of all, the entire premise of the book lends itself well to hilarious chaos: 4 siblings and in-laws in an otherwise non-religious family are forced together when their dying father’s last wish is for them to sit Jewish shiva. Each quirky character brings a fresh, funny element to the dysfunctional family drama… but the pain and issues are real, too.
What surprised me, though, was how much insight I got from the inner dialogue of Judd, who is falling apart after his wife’s infidelity. The way that he narrates his relationships to women, brotherhood and ego are truly revealing, especially for a 22-year-old female reader. I may not have been able to relate to the book at all, but I could certainly appreciate it’s honesty.
Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld /
Prep was, by far, the biggest surprise of my summer. I was looking forward to a juicy, fluffy YA read, but this was high school drama taken to a whole new level. Prep chronicles the four years of Lee Fiora, a scholarship student at an elite boarding school. But the book contains none of the over-the-top, Gossip Girl-style cat fighting you’d think. Instead, it is a poignant coming-of-age tale that is brimming with truth.
After a few weeks of devouring both the American Prep and British TV show, Skins, I have to wonder… is high school really that crazy for everyone? Somehow, I’m not feeling that I missed out on much.
Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs /
I read the first chapter on my way to work this morning, and I’m not sold… yet. I think it’s time I Wikipedia some background on Augusten and grab a ’70s print cocktail dress before I jump into this freaky family.
Do I really need to review this? WHY HAVEN’T YOU JUST READ IT YOURSELF ALREADY?!
Or just read my blog posts about it.