I have been an erratic reader these past few months. While some books took mere days to finish, others were consumed at a painfully slow pace. However, I have decided to embrace the fact that I am a slow reader (more time to smell the imaginary roses, right?).
I am way behind on my reading challenge to read 30 books this year, but the books I have finished have been excellent and I’m not too stressed about my pace.
Here are some of my latest literary adventures:
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
Katherine Boo’s diligent research, keen observation skills and journalistic integrity pay off big time in this unusual account of life in a Mumbai slum, witnessed and endured through several subjects. Though Boo takes some creative license to connect the isolated and entangled experiences of this undercity’s inhabitants through a narrative arc, this book is an example of immersive journalism done right. Boo’s commitment to telling this story the way it should be told is obvious as is her respect for this often misrepresented microcosm in Mumbai.
The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart
I thoroughly enjoyed this book the first time I read it a few years ago, but I found it to be even more entertaining and impressive the second time around. The quirky characters and their outlandish entanglements are great fun to read about, but the overarching tale of a couple grieving a shared, unspeakable loss in remarkably different ways creates the pure and emotional heart of this book. I would gladly pick this story up once again in a few years’ time when in need of some cheering up.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
As a long-time runner and writer myself, I found this book to be relatable and true to the love/hate relationship runners have with the sport. However, Murakami is no hobbyist or recreational jogger. He applies the same highly disciplined approach he uses when writing to running and puts most of us average runners to utter shame. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have absolute respect for the marathon-obsessed, tireless and determined Murakami.
The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield
There were parts of this book that certainly gave me the kick-in-the-ass most creatives need from time to time. But the author’s way of writing, though humorous, is sometimes overly dramatic. Plus, the frequent mentions of God in the latter half of the book seemed out of place and random. However, I appreciated Pressfield’s descriptions of and prescriptions against Resistance, and I whole-heartedly agree that the hardest part about writing is sitting down at one’s desk and making an effort to begin.
I Am a Brave Bridge: An American Girl’s Hilarious and Heartbreaking Year in the Fledgling Republic of Slovakia by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson
When American Sarah Hinlicky Wilson and her family moved in 1993 from upstate New York to Svätý Jur, a small town near Bratislava, she quickly learned that the boys in her new neighbourhood were more than a little curious about the ‘Američanka’ next door. I had the pleasure of interviewing Hinlicky Wilson for The Slovak Spectator about her eventful year as a 17-year-old American in Slovakia. This memoir is indeed hilarious and heartbreaking, detailing all of her near romances with some of the Slovak boys in her neighborhood. Her introduction to the more quirky parts of Slovak culture (for example, did you know slivovica, a popular fruit spirit in Slovakia, can be used as a substitute for antifreeze?) made me giggle while her assertion that people who spend most of their lives moving countries are in fact bridges, finding home in their connection to multiple cultures and places, is deeply relatable. Even if you have never lived in nor visited Slovakia, I highly recommend this read. Much like myself, I am sure you will soon become deeply invested in the cross-cultural teen romances the author describes. But without a doubt, the most compelling love story in this memoir is the love Hinlicky Wilson has for the country of Slovakia.
I have started Barack Obama’s recently-published biography A Promised Land. Spanning 700 pages filled with personal evocations, presidential politics and an in-depth look at some of the 44th U.S. president’s policy decisions, it will likely take me a while. But I’m okay with that. There are much worse things than falling short in a reading challenge.