Summer Reading 2014

I had high hopes this summer for my newly-literate 7 year old, and all the summer reading rewards programs she’d be accomplishing.

It isn’t that she’s not reading.

I’m just not keeping track with all of it. And I’ve sort of stopped caring. The truth is, for everything I complain about when it comes to Eliott, I should probably consider myself pretty lucky that she enjoys school, works independently, and with the exception of handwriting, is probably above average on the relative intelligence scale. I hope she hasn’t spoiled me so much that when it comes to her siblings and homework, I have no will to fight. (Oh please oh please oh please, let me have given birth to only dorky little teacher’s pets like myself.)

Meanwhile, I’ve also taken this summer to check off a few books that have long been on my to-read list. For me, summer reading is mostly about entertainment. Obviously I don’t want to do much thinking, and I also want to feel a sense of accomplishment. More often than not, this means creating a list of library holds on the books that popular movies have come from. And, more often than not, most of these books include the kind of young-adult fiction that carry undercurrents of mind-numbing teenage romance to what might otherwise be perfectly acceptable story lines.

Okay, I admit it. The romance helps.

Book #1: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

This book was a little weird, but definitely held my interest. Honestly, I think if I had read it in high school or college I would have felt like I was secretly holding the key to the world in my naive and sheltered little hands. Subjects ranged from popular music, to whiskey, to drugs, and sexual orientation, and because it was all told through the first person perspective of a socially awkward (and way too good with words for his age) narrator, it definitely had a tone of pseudo-intelligence.

A few of my former students chimed in when I posted it on Instagram raging about this books “greatness” and how it changed their lives (and continues to). And I can see where that might be true if I were also still a virgin.

I give this one a my classic “entertaining” stamp. It wasn’t a waste of time, but it certainly didn’t change my life.

 

Book #2: Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs

I’ve picked up and attempted to read the book more than once, but this time I finally got into it and through it. It took about three days. It was a quick read, and so completely strange, I couldn’t put it down. When I say strange, I actually mean straight twisted. Half of me was thinking, “There’s no way this is true,” while the other half argued with, “There’s no way someone could make this up.”

It was a lot like picking a mildly painful scab. I continued reading, knowing that it wasn’t really going to get better, but not being able to stop. And to be honest, I didn’t hate it. It is a memoir, and I didn’t hate the author/main character. In fact, as easy as it should have been to hate some of the characters, I liked all of them.

It is difficult to recommend this book, however, because it goes down some dark roads and some takes some seriously sexually explicit turns. To recommend this book is a risk in offending someone or opening myself up to a series of judgmental questions. So whatever. Read it if you want to. Just don’t make a personal character judgement on me after you read it if you hate it.

Personally, I liked it.

Book #3: Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Oh man. This one is hard to review. I want to say I liked it. The beginning definitely sucked me in and most of it held my captive interest. It was certainly a new idea (very much in the same vein as The Hunger Games, obviously) and one that was different enough to make me think.

But I just didn’t love the characters. And when I don’t love the narrator, it is hard to say I love the story. And parts of it were tedious and bothersome, though because I’ve been away from a classroom for going on four years, I can’t state specifically how. I think the climax resulting from a conflict not even introduced until the final third of the book might be one place to start. And then, just a ton of rabbit holes for characters who ultimately end up not even making it until the end of the book. Why suck me in to a potential story line only to kill it a few chapters later?

Again. “Entertaining.” Not life changing. I’m a little annoyed that it is an entire trilogy because I certainly don’t have high hopes for the next two getting better as time goes on. This author gives me the sense that the bang! idea she started with was pretty much all she had in her. But I do desperately want to see the movie (and actually think it might be better than the book).

Book #4: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Yes. Let’s.

Oh Lord. I got through about twenty pages of this book and I just had to be done. I had forgotten why/when I put it on my list. It is written by a blogger who calls herself “The Bloggess” and though I don’t actually follow her regularly, I’m guessing there must have been a time when I was finding one or two of her posts relatively entertaining and funny.

To me, this book was like having a person in the room at a gathering who will. not. shut. up. That person who is generally making very little sense, except to assert the obvious desire that everyone be listening to her all the time, no matter what drivel is coming out of her mouth, and no one has the ability nor the courage to cut her off so everyone just sort of shudders every time she interrupts the conversation again. (I actually consciously try to make sure I’m not this girl anymore. I fear there was probably a time when I was.) The book even reads like she was aware she’d be losing her audience and so, mid-sentence or mid-paragraph, she actually types the kind of conversational insecurity that is so common to teenagers and older women who I try to avoid.

Just. Too high on the word count, and way too low on the intelligence/entertainment scale. I rarely put books down that I know I will never pick up again. This is one of those books. Sorry Jenny. I really did want to support you and promote you, but I just can’t. (Oh, and fire your editor.)

Book #5: The Shack, by William P. Young

This is the current choice for my church women’s group summer reading. We very often do book studies. I very often reluctantly plug through them, and try very hard to have something positive to say during the discussion that I admittedly only attended for the fellowship and the food.

I’m not actually finished reading this book and I’m wondering if I will make it through. It isn’t a terrible book. It really isn’t. It is just terrible for me.

First, I hate allegories. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a non-Christian allegory (I’ve never read one), but I especially hate Christian allegories. I mean, the very purpose of an allegory from what I recall of 9th grade English (as a student not a teacher – I’d never teach an allegory) is to put a complex or an abstract subject into a tangible and visible form so that it is easier to understand. I guess maybe my problem is that I don’t, and never really have, struggled with the ambiguities of the Christian faith, the unanswered questions about God, or the ability to just accept something for what it is without molding it into a play-doh shape that I can display on my window sill.

I’m okay with going through life asking the difficult questions and never fully answering them.

Apparently, from the looks of the best-seller list, I’m a minority in this thinking. C’est la vie. I’ll chug through it and I’ll keep an open-mind during discussions. After all, I do so enjoy the company and the dessert.

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