Monday, May 8, 2017

April Book List

April was full.  Let's jump right in!
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz 

This book is a collection of stories that center around Yunior, a Dominican American male who wants to be loved but isn't so good at the rules of the game.  The faithfulness rule is particularly a problem for  him.  However, readers will still want to find out how Yunior came to be who he is, and Diaz offers glimpses of his life, never making excuses but somehow still garnering sympathy for Yunior at times.  This is the first book I've read by Diaz, but the writing was extraordinary, and I'm sure I'll be back for more.

The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller

When journalist Thomas Benton and soldier Arwood Hobbes meet near the Kuwait border during war in the early 1990s, an event occurs that will change both of their lives.  Twenty years later with another war raging, they will head back to the Middle East to try to rectify a horror that still haunts them both.

This book was so good I couldn't put it down.  Revealing truths most of us choose to ignore about engagement in wars overseas and the "victories" that are anything but for many people, Miller creates memorable characters trapped in impossible situations.  I count this one as a must read.


How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen

Johansen shares more secrets behind the concept of hygge, moving from just the study of Danish culture to encompass all Nordic countries.  The book is a beautiful achievement with simple photography, and about half of the book is composed of recipes since food is a big part of hygge.

Johansen talks about the importance of nature, food, and relationships, and she shares personal stories from growing up in Oslo.  I recommend this one for anyone on their journey to find hygge.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

I'm nothing if not thorough when interested, which is evidenced by the fact that I read two more books on the idea of hygge and Danish living this month.  This memoir written by journalist Helen Russell covers the year she spent in Denmark when her husband received a job with Lego.  Burnt out on the fast-paced London life, Russell and her husband decided to try something new, and Russell documented their time there to find out if she could be happier in the country that regularly ranks the highest in happiness surveys.

I laughed out loud while reading this book, and it was a perfect culmination of what I've learned so far about Denmark's ideas about hygge.  As an outsider, Russell was able to view Danish habits, as well as their traditions and love for rules, through clear eyes.  She doesn't just focus on all the good but lifts the veil on the lesser known facts, like how much Danes like to fight and drink and how the Danish divorce rate hovers near the 50 percent mark.  She searched to find out how despite all the downfalls, including the weather and darkness that lasts the majority of winter, Danes stayed so happy.  This was a great read, though I'm still not moving to Denmark.  The cold and darkness are my biggest road blocks.

I Was Told There'd Be Cake  by Sloane Crosley

I discovered Crosley's essays by accident, but I was hooked quickly.  From a story about being a bridesmaid for a bridezilla to a tale of her Jewish parents sending her to a Christian youth camp almost every summer of her childhood, Crosley's essays embrace the awkwardness and honesty of being a human.

These essays almost always went a direction I didn't expect, and Crosley is skilled at pulling her readers in and allowing them to look at bigger issues in hilarious, relatable ways.  I grabbed her next book as soon as I finished with this one. 

How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley 

In her slightly more serious follow up essays, Sloane is a tad older, though still young by my standards.  Though there were lessons and meanings to be taken from I Was Told There'd Be Cake, the hilarity that was intertwined made the essays somehow more poignant.   That humor can be found here, but it's not prominent.

Sloane covers traveling alone, failed relationships, and being a bridesmaid again, this time in Alaska.  The essays were definitely worth the read even if I preferred I Was Told There'd Be Cake.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I read this one at Dennis' urging since he listened to it on audiobook and was very affected.  Star Wars has been a part of his life since he was a child, so I wondered if I would enjoy this book as much since I haven't even seen one full Star Wars movie all the way through.

Despite not being a typical Star Wars geek, this book was beautifully written and offered a glimpse into Fisher's strange upbringing with celebrity parents, her affair with married and much older co-star Harrison Ford, and what fame is like up close. Fisher is witty, funny, and relevant, and that makes her recent death feel like an even bigger loss.

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith 

I have been slowly  making my way through this one for months because it's a book about home design.  If you have seen my house ever you are laughing right now, and that's okay.  Smith encourages us to embrace our own style, and she gives tips about how to do that regardless of what she calls "lovely limitations."

I liked this book, not because I would ever want to emulate Smith's style.  What is great about it is how practical the tips are and how Smith turns designing a home into holy work meant to serve those around us, which is never a way I've looked at it before.  A great read, and it wouldn't look bad on a coffee table as decoration either.