This is a month where I both read a lot and also gave up on finishing some books – one I’ll review here today and one I’ll skip. Anyway the books this month bring something for everyone I think. We have a memoir, a high drama fiction and a nonfiction nature study. Let’s begin!
“There are many ways to drown, only the most obvious wave their arms as they’re going under.” – Nick Flynn
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn
Last month I reviewed Flynn’s The Ticking is the Bomb, which is actually his most recent memoir and a bit of a continuation of “Bullshit Night.” This book is Flynn’s first memoir and his most famous, which deals with an extremely unique situation. Flynn’s Father left when he was young and was not part of his life growing up, but later shows up at the homeless shelter Flynn works at in Boston. Told in fragments and scenes, Flynn unpacks the implications of his mother’s suicide, father’s homelessness and his own addiction over a non-linear timeline.
While I enjoyed Ticking is the Bomb, I loved Another Bullshit Night. Flynn keeps the narrative closer to his personal story, without bringing in as many outside themes as he did in Bomb. For some this might make the book seem like it ties less to the grand human experience, but to me Flynn explores suffering on a personal level. Even though the situation is specific to him, there is so much that everyone can relate to on some level.
Nutshell Version – Beautifully written book that takes a situation that could be exploited for shock value and instead cradles it with love and care. Must read for fans of literary memoir as well as those who are interested in the plight of the homeless.
“Even when you act like nothing is happening, something happens—I don’t know how to put it any more clearly. – Herman Koch
The Dinner by Herman Koch
I picked this book up in the airport, which meant it followed the same selection criteria of all of my airport books. Which made-into-a-movie book is interesting me the most at the moment? I had seen the trailer for the upcoming movie version of The Dinner and been interested, so was happy to pickup this relatively short paperback to finish on my redeye flight.
For me, airport books need to be suspenseful and extremely plot driven and The Dinner did not disappoint. It starts pretty slow, and if detailed descriptions of fancy dining is going to bother you… press on. I promise, things pick up and before you know it you’ll be absolutely hooked by the plot which surprised me right at the start. Koch does a great job unwrapping his characters and the ones that a reader might cheer for in the beginning soon shift. I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ll say that I’ve read a ton of fiction and one of the reasons fiction isn’t my favorite is that I find it really predictable. I did not predict the ending in this one.
Nutshell version – If you like suspense, read this book. If you like psychological thrillers, read this book. If you like reading about fancy appetizers, read this book. If you like bitching about how Hollywood ruins books when they turn them into movies, read this one before you see it in theaters.
Hope is a Thing with Feathers by Christopher Cokinos
Full disclosure – I didn’t finish this book. It wasn’t for lack of effort, but the thing is dense and it was written by a professor who didn’t accept me into his school so that took a little bit of ‘wind out of my wings’ so to speak when it came to finishing. Still, I think it’s worth discussing on the blog since I read most of it and really do love the concept.
Cokinos’ book is an exploration into the native North American bird species that have gone extinct. He covers one species in each section, and I learned a ton about birds like the Passenger Pigeon, Heath Hen and more. As a nature lover, this book was really interesting to me by its sheer detail into each bird. Cokinos covers a huge range of information about the birds’ history, cohabitation with man and eventual extinction. I particularly found the last minute conservation efforts interesting, even if they couldn’t save the species. There are times when this deep reportage reads very slowly though. In one section, he spent a large amount of time trying to find the field where the last Passenger Pigeon died and to be frank I did not give a damn about that field 15 pages later.
Nutshell version – Nature buffs, bird enthusiasts and true nonfiction lovers should enjoy this book. It is fact, not plot based. By far more interesting than a text book, but can get slow at times and not a super easy read.
Next month I should have a lot of fun reads and airplane books for you, because I’m picking out an entertaining list for my Japan trip!