Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Reading and Watching Lately

While on all those flights to and from Maui (with a quick layover in Dallas each way) for my recent vacation, I read several books in a row, all of which I greatly enjoyed. It had been a while since I had such an excellent success rate with picking things to read. Plus, in the weeks since my trip, my streak of good luck with book selection has continued, and I'm really quite pleased! I desperately hope that this trend continues, as it's a bit dispiriting when one ends up with several dud books in a row. Here are my favorites from my recent weeks of reading:

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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: I'm super, super late to the party when it comes to this book, and, like everyone else, I thought it was wonderful. Every good thing you've heard about it is true, and though I don't think my description could do it justice, I'll try to describe it anyway. Trevor Noah has an incredible way of describing moments of both terrible near-tragedy and extraordinary hilarity (he'd be the first to say that he was a very naughty child, and also a rather cheeky young adult). He also approaches some extremely heavy subject  matter (including apartheid, poverty, racism, and domestic violence) with a remarkably sage perspective. Whether or not you enjoy Trevor Noah's comedy, or his work on The Daily Show, his is an extraordinary story and perspective, and one that's worthy of all the acclaim this book has received. If the book had been double, or triple the length it is, or even longer, I'd have been thrilled to continue reading. 

The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams: I first learned about this book, and about the author's blog, which the book was partially adapted from, from Kathy. It is really good, really powerful and sad, Julie Yip-Williams writes with such unflinching honesty. I cried when I got to her letter to her young daughters towards the end of the book. She has an incredible life story, one that was cut off much too soon.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon: This is maybe the least universally loved of the books I picked up recently. There isn't much of a resolution to the story, and maybe not all that much of a plot either, and it may be written in a style that is frustratingly cryptic. But I found it beautifully written, and I enjoyed the experience of sinking into it and just letting the words wash over me. I'd describe R.O. Kwon's writing style as mysterious, surreal, and fragmented. It's rather obvious from the text that the narrators are highly unreliable, and certain important information is being withheld. I can see why a lot of readers find this book frustrating (and even with the generally positive critical reviews, I also find some of them mystifying, as they describe the book very differently from my perception of it as a reader). Kwon is an excellent writer, and I'm eager to see what she'll do next.

And now I'm working through and enjoying Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere (though I enjoy it a bit less than her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, as I find the characters in this one a lot more difficult to connect with) and Ottessa Moshfegh's My Year of Rest and Relaxation, both of which are quite good. I'm not sure what I'll move onto next after that, but I hope my good luck streak with picking books holds up!

Oh, and I also wanted to chatter briefly about TV shows. I've been watching the new What We Do in the Shadows on FX, and it's fabulous, definitely highly recommended for anyone who enjoyed the movie a few years back (which I also highly recommend). The deadpan sense of humor is really great, and I think they do a really fantastic job of ramping up the hilarious absurdity of the jokes as the season goes on. The show really hits its stride a few episodes in, after a somewhat slow start in the series premiere. Episode 7 is particularly good, and it picks up on some of the jokes made in the movie.

What books and shows have you been enjoying recently? There was, alas, also one recent TV series that I haven't been enjoying much, but oh well. I must say, though, Emilia Clarke was really wonderful this season, and from reading about the health challenges she was dealing with while filming much of the show and also seeing and reading some of her interviews to promote the most recent Game of Thrones season, I've really become a huge fan of her. (I really liked her in the Star Wars: Solo movie too, though sadly, it seems as if the studio may have decided not to continue with that series.) 

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