February Book Review

domino - ditte isager

A little late here on last month’s book review but I’m a little behind on everything right now so just bear with me.

Finishing books has been off to a slow start this year. I think I’m reading/listening to somewhere around 8 different books right now. I know, it’s ridiculous, but that’s just how I am.

I’ve been unusually busy for the first quarter of the year so I haven’t had as much reading time as normal. Which is totally fine with me — I’m much more productive when I’m busy, but I just need to get into a groove and have been a little out of a routine since I was moving out of my Georgetown Studio.

All of that is to say that I only finished two books in February.

FEBRUARY BOOK REVIEW

today will be different - maria semple

Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple

What I love about Maria Semple’s writing is that it’s so relatable. The character in this book, Eleanor, makes you feel normal. I won’t tip you off to anything in the book but it’s an easy, funny read.

A few of my favorite excerpts from the book:

As everybody knows, being raised Catholic with half a brain means becoming an atheist.

Living too long in New York does that to a girl, gives her the false sense that the world is full of interesting people. Or at least people who are crazy in an interesting way.

I don’t mean to ruin the ending for you, sweet child, but life is one long headwind. To make any kind of impact requires self-will bordering on madness. The world will be hostile, it will be suspicious of your intent, it will misinterpret you, it will inject you with doubt, it will flatter you into self-sabotage. My God, I’m making it sound so glamorous and personal! What the world is, more than anything? It’s indifferent.

But you have a vision. You put a frame around it. You sign your name anyway. That’s the risk. That’s the leap. That’s the madness: thinking anyone’s going to care.

In that moment I loved our new life in dumpy Washington State and especially Joe for dragging me here and saving me from my Manhattan-centric worst self.

hunger by roxane gay

Hunger, by Roxanne Gay

This book is so honest. It is a memoir, so I guess that’s the point, but what I found really interesting is that Gay shows her own contradictions in her head — how sometimes she wonders why, but then she’s like no, I know why. I feel like that is something we all do — deep down we know why we do or feel something, but maybe we don’t want to admit it. We don’t want it to be true.

This memoir focuses on her body, overeating, a terrible thing that happened to her, and while we can’t all relate to her exact experience or the extremes that she’s been through — I think we all have negative feelings about our bodies at some point (and if you never have, you’re lucky!), no matter what size they are. So while maybe we can’t relate to her specific experiences or extremes, we all have our issues. Something about reading someone else’s story and honest feelings seems like it makes it easier for others to accept their own. It does for me anyway.

While I choose to keep certain things private, I respect anyone who will reveal their stories and feelings, especially painful ones like the ones in this memoir. As a reader, I eat these stories up!

A lot of the things she feels because she’s overweight is honestly just so heartbreaking. Feelings you would never want anyone to feel. I honestly think it made me even more sensitive to people of all shapes and sizes. Now I know what might be going on in their head.

But honestly, I think we all just need to be more kind to everyone, always. We have no idea what is going on with people, why not just be nice?

A few excerpts I highlighted in the book:

Cooking reminds me that I am capable of taking care of myself and worthy of taking care of and nourishing myself.

I couldn’t admit this to myself, but there was a pattern of intense emotional masochism, of throwing myself into the most dramatic relationships possible, of needing to be a victim of some kind over, and over, and over. That was something familiar, something I understood.

For me, it is difficult to believe I matter and I deserve nice things and I deserve to be around nice people.

Even when I am in a good relationship it is hard to stand up for myself. It is hard to express dissatisfaction or have the arguments I want to have because I feel like I’m already on thin ice by virtue of being fat. It is hard to ask for what I want and need and deserve and so I don’t. I act like everything is always fine, and it’s not fair to me or anyone else.

There are things I will no longer tolerate. Being alone sucks, but I would rather be alone than be with someone who makes me feel that terrible. I am realizing I am not worthless.

Part of the reason relationships and friendships can be so difficult for me is because there is a part of me that thinks I have to get things just right. I have to say the right things and do the right things or I won’t be liked or loved anymore.

…the early days, before there were a lot of pictures of me available online, I would show up to an event and organizers would often look right through me. At one event, a gathering of librarians, a man asked if he could help me and I said, “Well, I am the keynote speaker.” His eyes widened and his face reddened and he stammered, “Oh, okay, I’m the man you’re looking for.” He was neither the first person nor will he be the last to have such a reaction. People don’t expect the writer who will be speaking at their event to look like me. They don’t know how to hide their shock when they realize that a reasonably successful writer is this overweight. These reactions hurt, for so many reasons. They illustrate how little people think of fat people, how they assume we are neither smart nor capable if we have such unruly bodies.

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What have you read any of these books? What have you read recently? Please tell me in the comments below!

Don’t miss all of my posts about books, see all of my book club posts, and shop my bookshelf.

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Photo by Ditte Isager via Domino