Friday, February 5, 2016

Books Read in January

1. The Last Boleyn by Karen Harper

This was an uneven book that ultimately triumphed because of the sensitive and nuanced portrayal of its protagonist. While the story differs significantly in detail from Philippa Gregory's better known The Other Boleyn Girl, in this novel, Mary Boleyn is also both sympathetic and a fascinating character in her own right.

2. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (audiobook)

I've finally managed to read the famous Rainbow Rowell. However, I had never heard of Attachments before I found it in the audiobook section of the library. It's not a book I'd normally read, but it sounded like a light and fun audiobook for my commute, and it was.

The gimmick of Lincoln discovering Beth through e-mail proved interesting, and all the characters were lovably quirky. A scene where the characters play Dungeons & Dragons didn't smell right to me when the author mentioned that the characters switch off playing the Dungeon Master every week (every game I've played in or heard of has had a consistent DM), but apparently this is a thing. The fact that the majority of the book takes place in 1999 also let me have a good nostalgic laugh about Y2K fears. I wasn't really impressed or surprised by the ending, and ultimately I thought this book was pretty cute but forgettable.

3. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I've been meaning to read this series for a while, and was not disappointed. Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza is a compelling heroine, and Carson's fantasy world hinges on some of my particular interests--namely, the culture and language are based on Spanish,  most of the novel is set in the desert, and religion plays a significant role both in the world and the protagonist's life. Carson is not afraid to pull hard punches, so get ready for an intense ride. The writing, while excellent, does have that slick YA quality to it, and I wish the author could write a little deeper in some places because she's obviously capable. But all in all, a fun yet gut-punching read, and I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

4. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

A friend gave me this book, and I was further galvanized to read after The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, posits that the goal of life is not to seek happiness or avoid pain, but to find meaning. Even suffering is worth the pain, he explains, if people are able to discover meaning. For example, a man who was devastated at his wife's loss was able to find meaning in his life when he realized that because he outlived her, she was spared the pain of widowhood. It's a compelling philosophy and one that I think works, although it doesn't have as clear of a biological basis as, for example, Freud's theories about fear and sexual drives. Frankl believes in the triumph of the superego over the id, and while it's an inspiring idea, I think there is so much more we need to learn about how this really works.

5. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I started following Gretchen Rubin on LinkedIn. I don't even remember why, but I became intrigued with her theories and ideas about happiness and habits, so I decided to read her book. I found The Happiness Project an interesting read, and while I don't agree with all of Rubin's assertions, I found plenty to relate to. I've also experienced the joy of clearing clutter and I like the idea of placing emphasis on improving one's happiness for the purpose of improving the happiness of those around you. I don't think I would get as upset about not being perfect as Rubin does, but I appreciate her honesty, and also her honesty with herself about what she doesn't enjoy or isn't interested in. Ironically, as Rubin rejects meditation or connecting with nature, I reflected that I wanted to try both! Very interesting read for anyone interested in living a happier life. I would definitely consider reading Rubin's other books.

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