Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book report #5

My wanderlust kicked in pretty bad this summer, but I managed to keep it at bay with a full stack of novels set in exotic places. I also threw in two non-fiction choices because I'm still plugging away at that New Year's Res to read more non-fic (all the other resolutions have gone to pot, so I can at least try to keep up with that one). What's been on your reading list this summer?

*The Almost Nearly Perfect People (Michael Booth) - an insightful and in-depth anthropological look at the people that make up the five Nordic countries (Norway/Sweden/Finland/Denmark/Iceland). It was a tad (but really, just a tad) bit dry for my liking, but nevertheless a worthwhile dive into cultures and countries I'd never given much thought to beyond my Malm dresser.
*The Sunlight Night (Rebeca Dinerstein) - this beautiful narrative reads like a lyrical prototype to a Wes Anderson screenplay. Captivating, cinematic, and with the slightest twinge of fantasy, this tale of two lost and unsuspecting lives intertwining in the Arctic Circle had me nearly getting on the next flight to northern Norway - and is on track to becoming my favorite book of the year.
*All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr) - a hefty novel set in Europe during WWII, I thought the initial plot and concept were interesting (a reluctant German soldier! a blind French refugee! and where is that music coming from??) but the end both fizzled out quickly and wrapped up too nicely. It's an easy read despite it's length, so if you're into historical fiction this is a decent choice, but if WWII isn't your favorite era, then this one probably isn't worth it.
*The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty (Vendela Vida) - I read three of Vida's "women in crisis" novels right in a row (when I find an author I like, I tend to read as much of him/her as I can) and this was by far my favorite. It's short (I read it in a day) but intensely compelling, probably aided by the fact that it's written in the 2nd person which was odd at first but then I grew to absolutely love it. Days after I put the book down I found myself still thinking of the protagonist - what I would have done in her situation, what she is "doing" now, and my own personal relationship and reactions to theft and pickpocketing.
*The Lovers (Vendela Vida) - this story was a bit vague and meandering, but it was nonetheless evocative with the slightest touch of psychological thriller thrown in (and not to mention another quick read). The protagonist travels across much of Turkey for the duration of the story, and even the negatively portrayed locations solidified Turkey as one of my must-see destinations.
*Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name (Vendela Vida) - another story set in the Arctic circle (still not sure why I've been so drawn to that area recently!) this was my least favorite Vida novel, mainly due to the fact that I couldn't easily identify with the protagonist and really couldn't stand the mother character. Vida did however create an interesting cocktail of abandonment issues, the treatment of indigenous peoples, and a stark and barren landscape, which makes this succinct story worth it if you're even a bit interested in any or all of those topics.
*Essentialism (Greg McKeown) - this is a straight-up guidebook to removing the mental clutter from your business so you can focus on the essential (hence the title). Easily digestible yet highly informative, I found myself taking notes and pausing to ponder many of McKeown's points and comments. Even though I don't have my own business per se, there are still dozens of areas in my personal life that would do quite well to go through the selective ringer suggested in this book.

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