Things to Read - On the Bookshelf (August 2015)

Painted in Waterlogue

Lots of travel books from June and July, an attempt to prepare for our European vacation. As always, my favorites are starred.

***1. Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World - Before traveling to Rome, I wanted to read a book that would excite me for our trip. Thrilled by the possibilities. This is that book. It's also a really great rumination on life with young children. Random trivia - throughout the memoir, Doer tries to work on a novel about Nazi occupied Paris, but finds it hard to make much progress given the distractions of Rome. I assume this is the novel that became, All the Light We Cannot See, considered one of the best books of 2014 (I haven't read it yet).

2. Honeydew: Stories - I didn't love the first few stories in this collection and almost quit, but then, slowly, gradually they became better. The story about the random houseplant that thrives in neglect is probably my favorite.

3. Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo - This memoir discusses the hassles and nuisances of traveling on Italy's railways. The writing is solid and the stories are (often) funny, in a frustrating after-the-fact way. But after I reached the book's half-way point, I realized that reading about Tim Parks' misfortunes and adventures had me in a constant state of anxiety regarding our upcoming vacation. So I stopped reading and became a happier person.

4. Paris to the Moon - In 1995, the New Yorker sent Adam Gopnik to Paris to report on city life. This collection of essays resulted. Some are funny, for example when Parisians tried to open a "NYC style" health club and nobody wanted to sweat. Some are boring (really boring), I could care less whether Gopnik likes European football (i.e. soccer). But almost all of them are snarky and, since summer reading = happy reading, after awhile reading this book felt like a chore.

***5.Girl in a Band: A Memoir - In high school I read Sassy magazine and listened to Sonic Youth, which is probably the closest I've ever come to rebelling in any form. I thought Kim Gordon radiated cool, but I found her music complicated and unnecessarily loud. The lyrics went over my head, but I listened anyways, trying to figure out the identity of Mildred Pierce(so goes life before the internet).

Anyways, when Gordon's autobiography came out a few months ago, I was eager to read it, but didn't expect to "get her" anymore than I did as a teenager. So I'm a little in shock about how much I liked this book. Gordon's life obviously moves in a direction way different than my own and a lot of the book reminded me of Patty Smith's Just Kids in that both memoirs are also love stories of New York city. But Gordon herself comes across as honest and real; she discuss hard topics, like child rearing and divorce, without resorting to cheesy cliches and easy answers. Anyways, I still find Gordon the epitome of cool, but no longer do I find her unreachable. Really a great read.

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