When people know you are a writer who also reads voraciously (is there another kind?), you gets lots of requests for recommendations. This can be challenging when you don't know the person or their tastes or can't remember which books you've read lately that might be a good fit. Enter the reading diary:
It's mostly just a list of books, authors, and start/finish dates (though there are occasional notes on especially good favorites), but it's something that never occurred to me to do until the beginning of 2014 (year of the #readwomen2014 movement). I found that I loved keeping a list of what/who I read, and because I read acquisitionally (yes, that is a made-up word -- I read a book to absorb its powers and move on to the next), it's a great way to track the number of titles read in a year/month. So here are a few of my recent reads:
How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran
This is not a book I would recommend to everyone. I really enjoyed it. I mean, really couldn't put it down. The voice of the main character is funny and smart and a complete idiot, all the things we are as adolescents and young adults. The subject matter is not a good fit for more conservative readers, however. There is sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, but mostly sex and drugs. Great feminist read.
Raised Right, Alisa Harris
This memoir is written by a woman who is -- as she freely admits -- awfully young to be writing a memoir. Her exploration of finding her way through her transition from conservative to progressive politics is heartfelt and true, if not particularly broad or innovative. It was still worth reading, especially if you're a young person still sorting out your own personal beliefs.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon
I am a HUGE fan of Chabon. I liked Wonder Boys and Telegraph Avenue, and I LOVED The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (one of my all time favorites.) And this was another of his titles that had been recommended to me in the past. The concept behind this story is so so interesting. I love the alternate world where the book is set. The main characters are wonderfully flawed and intriguing. My only real problem with this book is that parts of it seemed really slow. Still I finished it, and it had a satisfying ending.
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
This is the most beautiful book I ever didn't enjoy. I feel really bad that I didn't love this more. The writing and story are so lovely, and I think part of the problem for me was that I just wasn't in the mood for this kind of book at the time. So chalk this one up as something I was able to appreciate but wouldn't recommend unless you're in the mood for a meandering meditation on God, religion, and rural life.
Area X (The Southern Reach Trilogy), Jeff Vandermeer
This is actually three books: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance re-released in one volume. I am presently about halfway through the second section (Authority). So far, I am absolutely loving this book. It's sci-fi. It's dystopian (a particular weakness of mine). It's written as well as any literary fiction you find on the New Releases shelf at your local bookstore. So much creepiness and mystery and character study. I find myself not wanting to put this book down, but also trying to pace myself so it doesn't end too quickly. A must read for nerdy types who like good writing.