I've been busy reading this past month. Not only did I do my usual reading in the train to and back from work (45 minutes each, so I get a solid 1,5 hour reading time every day. Count to that, that I'm an exceptionally quick reader and you can see that I get through a lot of books each year!) but I did a lot of reading in the evenings at home. The weather has been awful in the last weeks. Rain and wind, wind and rain. Perfect weather for snuggling up on the couch with a crocheted blanket (what else), a cup of tea and a book. So here's what I've been reading in November:
Nick Hornby - Funny Girl
I LOVE Nick Hornby. High Fidelity is one of my all-time favourite books. So I was really excited when I learned that he has a new one coming out. I bought it as soon as possible and read it in two sittings. This has happened with nearly all Nick Hornby books that I've read so far. I just can't put them down.
Funny Girl is a book about Barbara, a small-town girl in the 60s who wants to be playing a role in a comedy series on TV. And as luck has it - she's able to fulfill her dreams.
Nick Hornby wrote a funny but also a very thoughtful book. It really gives you the impression to be in the middle of the 60s. Though I've absolutely no idea how it must have been to live in London, 50 years ago, reading the book made me think I was in the middle of that era. In his usual style Hornby tells the story of Barbara, who made it, who lived her dream. But he also tells about all the sad and hard times she has to go through to have the career she always wanted. If you want a quick and funny read, Funny Girl is the book for you!
Chuck Klosterman - Downtown Owl
Now I remember the first time I read a book from Chuck Klosterman. I wandered around my favourite bookstore when I picked up a copy of "Killing yourself to live, 85% of a true story". Only in German, the "killing yourself to live" part was omitted and the "85% of a true story" was it, that caught my eye. When I finished reading the book I went online and bought everything else that Klosterman has ever written.
Most of his books are collections of his many essays. Klosterman writes about sports and rock music and typical pop culture phenomenons. Downtown Owl was his first novel.
In this, he tells the story of a few different people who live in the small town owl. At first, nothing happens. I mean, of course something happens, but Klosterman tells the everyday lives and experiences and thoughts and feelings from each of the persons perspectives. And then IT HAPPENS. I'm not going to tell you what happend, obviously, as I don't want to spoil the book for you. In fact, I want you to go to the next bookstore to buy this book, because you really won't regret it. The ending is amazing. It left me breathless. It gave me goosebumps. It nearly made me cry and whoever knows me, knows that I really don't cry easily.
I've read Downtown Owl before. This was probably my third time reading it. I'll do it again.
Donal Ryan - The Thing About December
I got that book from work, the German translation isn't published yet and I was able to read it before it'll be published. Such are the perks of my job. But anyhow, apparently the book has been available in english for quite a while now.
I won't say too much about that book. It reminded me of Frank McCourts "Angelas Ashes" though it wasn't nearly as good as that. Angelas Ashes is a masterpiece. Which reminds me, that I haven't read that book in a long time either. Should really read it again.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Donal Ryan. The story started rather good. An Irish boy, clumsy, overweight and a little slow at thinking tells the story of his life. Right in the beginning of the book his parents die. First his father, who has got cancer, than his mother, who couldn't bear to live alone and died from grieve. The story than unravels how the boy deals with this new situation as an orphan. The story has it ups and downs, but it meanders along without any real highlights. The end was a bit surprising, but not so surprising as to change my opinion about that book. Plus, I always had Angelas Ashes in mind, so throughout the whole book it surprised me when there was talk about telephones, internet or cells.
Read it once, probably won't read it again.
J.K. Rowling - The Casual Vacancy
I first read this book three years ago. I saw it in a bookstore, when I've been on holiday in Malta with a good friend of mine. Wonderful holiday, by the way, but visiting Malta is always great. Just saying.
I already heard a lot about that book. Good things. Bad things. My cousin didn't like it. I read great reviews in the paper. But normally I don't really give much about the opinions of other. A lot of well-praised books were utterly boring to me. Others, that weren't even mentioned in the media belong to my all-time favourites.
So I bought that book (I love buying books as souvenirs) and waited until I came back home, to read it. I was living with my parents at that time, waiting for December to come so I could board my plane to Bangkok and join my man in his travels around the world. Strange time, that was.
Anyway, I remember waking up on a Sunday morning, with the book on my bedside table. Now one of the things that I enjoy most on free days is being able to wake up and go straight to reading. I love doing that whenever I can. So I started reading that book. And I didn't put it down. And I'm not just saying this, I really mean it. The only times when I stopped reading was when I had to go to the toilet or have a quick bite to eat.
I. READ. THAT. BOOK. In one day. In one sitting. At once. And I loved it. I loved every single page of it! See, I really like the structure of that book. I love it, when one story gets told out of different perspectives. It's the same with Downtown Owl. Same story. But depending on whos telling it, the story changes. Different things become important, different outcomes are happening.
It's the same with this book. And when I finally took that plane to Thailand, and left Thailand again and took a plane to Manila and from there on I took a plane to Palawan and I spend one of the greatest weeks I ever had there, I read the book again. I had a massive sunburn from snorkeling at the most beautiful island that I've ever seen and so I spend two days at our wonderful bungalow, eating fresh coconuts that had fallen from the palm trees in front of our hut, munching on the most delicious bananas that I've ever tasted and gobbling down tons of the ripest and juciest and sweetest mangos ever known to man - rereading that book.
And now I rereread it. And I'm sure it's not the last time that I've done so. To me, J.K. Rowling is an amazing writer. She managed to turn a children's book about a little wizard into the most gripping and imaginative stories that I know. And now she managed to tell a rather "banal" story, a story that could have happened that way in real life. And she wrote it in a way that makes it unable for you to put the book down, before you finished it.
So, when you're in that bookstore, buying Downtown Owl, ask the bookseller if he has a copy of the Casual Vacancy lying around. You won't regret it.
And if you're still reading - thank you, by the way - just keep on reading a little bit more, as I have the best recommendation left here for the end.
Jeffrey Eugenides - Middlesex
Now I think that I've already recommended that book in another post, quite a while ago. But one can never recommend Middlesex enough. I actually don't really remember the first time reading it. I think it was the summer 2011, when I had an internship at a library in Vienna. At least I have a picture of me sitting in front of the library, during my break, sipping coffee and reading that book. Which is a posture that you get to see quite often, if you know me. I really do a lot of coffee sipping and book reading.
Middlesex is the story about a taboo. It tells the story of Calliope, a Hermaphrodite, though she doesn't know this until she's fourteen. But more than that, Middlesex tells the story of a Greece, that doesn't exist that way anymore. It tells a story about war, about love and secrecy, about forbidden marriages, guilt, fear and loss. It tells the story about bravery, about new beginnings, about children, caring, growing up, being confused, about feeling lonely and sad and happy and ignorant and naive.
Middlesex is one of the great novel of our times. Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer Price for it and in my opinion, it is underrated.
I must be the fourth or fifth time that I'm reading this book. And it gets me. It gets me everytime. It still leaves me dazzled, with my jaw dropping and my mind blown by the talent and the great gift that this man has, to be able to put words into sentences and these sentences into chapters and these chapters into this book that loses nothing of its charm and fascinating curiosity that engulfes you when you start reading the first pages.
Okay, in addition to Downtown Owl and Casual Vacancy you HAVE to buy Middlesex. And take some time off, when you've done so. Because you won't be able to stop reading. You will read page after page after page, without being able to put it down. And when you finally finished it, it will leave you struck. It will make you sad and happy at once. And after a few weeks or months or even years you will read it again. And I'm pretty sure that this will continue for the rest of your lives. You think I'm exaggerating? You don't believe me? Go on then. Buy the book, experience what I told you and then come back here and tell me that I was right. I'd love to hear that!