I find books incredibly life-giving and therapeutic. I pretty much end every day with one. I studied literature in college because it just made sense - I spent so much time reading anyway, right?  And though my studies have perhaps helped me become a more educated and discerning reader, I still read across all genres. Occasionally (okay, rarely) historical classics and lengthy tomes and, often, whatever is close at hand, on my shelf, or recommended. I'd love to know what you're reading!

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Beautiful Ruins
- Why'd you read it? Gift from mom. Also, a Notable Book from the NYT Book Review. 
- How'd you like it? It took me a while to get into this one. I read it mainly on our front porch in short spurts after work or on Sunday mornings before church. But, in the end, I really enjoyed this story with its fascinating characters, spanning countries and decades. At times, it read like a dramatic Hollywood film, which makes sense since much of it takes place in Hollywood or is about Hollywood characters. There are some deeper moral elements at play but it's mostly just an entertaining read. 

 

Bel Canto
- Why'd you read it? This has been on my shelf for a while and I think it's because I may have borrowed it from my friend, Natalie. Natalie, is this true? If so, I have been holding your book hostage for at least a year. 
- How'd you like it? This was an unexpected top book for me. Patchett's writing is beautiful and effortless. The story begins with an act of terrorism and ends with a wedding. How you get from one to the other is a heartfelt, heartbreaking tale of what happens when people's identities and ideologies are stripped down and only their humanity remains. I cried.

 

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
- Why'd you read it? We were headed to the beach and I needed a good book (or three). This was on Barnes & Noble's buy 2 get one 50% table and it's a bestseller. 
- How'd you like it? I devoured this book. The author, Susannah Cahalan, is an investigative reporter and does an excellent job chronicling her own terrifying experience with an unexplained psychosis. It is thrilling, horrific, and completely enthralling. Stay away if you have hypochondriac tendencies.  

 

Station Eleven
- Why'd you read it? Again, we were headed to the beach! And I love apocalyptic books.
- How'd you like it? There's something about end of world fiction that gets me every time. I love imagining the scenario of a world in crisis and what people do with limited resources, lack of technology, and an unknown future.  (That being said, I really do not like zombie books/movies or the entire horror genre. This is neither.) What I really enjoyed about Mandel's approach is that this storyline is about more than the end of times; it's really about how a group of people are unexpectedly connected. In the end, their connection is perhaps a bit too convenient but it's still an interesting driver of the plot. It is a deeply human, moving story that I couldn't put down. 

 

The Namesake
- Why'd you read it? Hasn't everyone read The Namesake? Well, it seemed like it. And I hadn't. So I did.
- How'd you like it? I was underwhelmed. To be fair, I feel like there is a lot of hype around this book and that, perhaps, set my expectations too high. It's a coming of age story about an Indian boy in America, his family's struggles and triumphs as immigrants both trying to preserve their culture and pushing their children to take up all that America has to offer. The instances where those issues are brought to the forefront are where the book succeeds, in my opinion. I think I struggled with not feeling close to the main character, Gogol. Lahiri writes in the third person and I felt like she keeps us at arm's length by doing so (which is maybe the point? I'm not sure).

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
- Why'd you read it? I hardly ever read nonfiction (I really should read it more often, note to self) but this was a gift from my sister who reads probably more than I do.
- How'd you like it? This is a fascinating and maddening book. It's as much a book about the history and origination of cell studies in culture (and how those studies revolutionized how we think about vaccines, cancer, and a host of other issues) as it is about our history with racial discrimination, educational disparity and systemic socioeconomic divides. Skloot does an excellent job at both relaying, in frank and moving detail, a family's very real and personal struggle with its own interpretation of events and examining the broader ethical and legal issues. 

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