Disgraceful! Disgraceful! I was going to post regularly about all the books my book group was reading, and what I was reading on the side. And I see it has been months since I fulfilled this plan. Okay, I have been a bit busy, what with ending one job and starting a new one, but still - this is ridiculous.
Here is a quick encapsulation of what I can remember that I've read.
Speaking of memory, our book group is currently reading "Still Alice," a novel by Lisa Genova, which is about a Harvard psychologist and linguistics specialist who has early onset Alzheimer's disease. The slow unraveling of her mind is as believable as it is relentless. I found the book fascinating, frightening and incredibly sad.
Since I thought I deserved a little present after that, I picked up a copy of "Bad Girls Go Everywhere," which is a biography of former Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown. The author, Jennifer Scanlon, argues that Brown - with her early support of single girls, sexual freedom and self-reliance - was actually a pre-first wave feminist, who has been vastly misconstrued. Her early life - she was poor, hardworking, supported her family - was not easy, and reading about her moving through her career with pure grit is kind of inspiring.
The rest of the books I'm going to list, with a minimum of comment, in the interests of space and as a reflection of my own limited memory.
John Adams by David McCullough - I'll admit it. Couldn't get through it. Simply didn't have 700 pages of interest in the subject.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga - Loved it. A novel set in modern day India, with the quintessential unreliable narrator. He's been a servant, entrepreneur and a murderer, and in the course of seven nights, tells the story of his life to that date. I really enjoyed this book and it opened a window into a world I knew nothing about.
Oliver Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. The book is a series of linked short stories, all featuring a Maine woman in her sixties. She's cranky, she's judgmental, and terribly hard on the people she loves. She is also unflinchingly honest (at least to the extent she can be with her limited self-knowledge) and you end up feeling for her as she crashes through her life and family. Strout won the Pultizer Prize for it.
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Juno Diaz - Engrossing. The hero is a nerdy, science-fiction addicted overweight Dominican-American young man, suffering from a family curse, trying to find his place in the world. This ambitious novel manages to be both gritty and lyrical, hopping back and forth between generations, politics, the D.R. and New Jersey. Forget my weak plot summary - the book also won the Pulitzer, and rightly so.