Autobiography · Humor · In the Library · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Quick Read! · SCC Book Club · Women

Shrill | by Lindy West

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
(Hachette Books, 2016, 260 pages)

This is the second title up for discussion by the SCC Between the Covers book club. Prior to picking this up I was familiar with Lindy West thanks to her Op-Ed pieces in the New York Times as well as the work she did prior to that on Jezebel. I initially approached this book as a collection of essays but had to recalibrate when I came to the realization it was a memoir. That helped explain why it seemed like the book progressively got darker. Granted, I laughed throughout as I was reading, but there were some sections that were significantly more humorous than others.

West covers a lot of ground in this book. It’s more than just a memoir; it talks about body image, rape culture, relationships, loss, the world of comedy, online trolling… and she does it all in a way that makes the heaviness of the subject matter seem almost “bearable.” While I was reading I found myself comparing her work to some of Roxane Gay’s essays that touch on similar issues and it was interesting to think of how their tones come across differently.

I’m glad this was our March selection for book club and I’m glad it got me to read more of Lindy West’s work (specifically her writing in The Guardian). If you want to hear more I guess you should come to the book club discussion on 3/28! 😉

3.5/5 stars

Essays · History · In the Library · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Quick Read! · Women

Women and Power | by Mary Beard

Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
(Liveright Publishing, 2017, 115 pages)

Despite the amazing reviews this book was getting, I found Mary Beard intimidating as an author. I was scared her work would be too academic and “high-minded” for me given how little I know about the Greco-Roman world (Beard is a well-known Classicist). When I saw my library’s copy of Women & Power I couldn’t resist checking it out and seeing if I could handle it… To my pleasant surprise, I could! This was much more readable than I’d thought it would be. I psyched myself out based on the author’s biography. Sure, you have to pay attention to what you’re reading – she packs a lot of punch in this slim volume – but this is accessible to the non-academic. Plus, there are pictures throughout 🙂

Hailed as a “feminist classic” already, Beard looks back at the history of misogyny and how women have been “put in their place” for ages. Her first essay addresses the silencing of women and her second looks at the relationship between women and power. We’ve been conditioned throughout history to determine who “deserves” a voice and who should have power based on a male lens. We’ve been guided by a history that prized men and devalued women. It’s time to acknowledge that and redefine how we interpret what power looks like.

I was surprised at what a pleasurable reading experience I had with this title; especially given the subject matter. Beard’s writing style was accessible and has me eager to see some of her earlier work.

If you’re intimidated by this book but keep hearing about it, pick it up! If you enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists this should also find a place on your to-read pile.

4/5 stars

Fiction · Julia P · Quick Read!

Eight Hundred Grapes | by Laura Dave

Eight Hundred Grapes

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
(Simon & Schuster, 2015, 260 pages)

Georgia grew up on a vineyard in Sonoma but she reached a point as a teenager where that life was just too quiet for her. She pursued her law degree and moved to L.A. Now she’s engaged, preparing to move to London, and ready to start on a new adventure. Until she discovers that her fiancé has been keeping a pretty big secret from her. A big enough secret that she has to head home to try and regroup.

The home Georgia returns to, however, isn’t the one she remembers leaving. There’s something going on with her twin brothers, her parents are keeping secrets, nothing seems to be the way it should be… and in the midst of this Georgia still isn’t sure what she’s going to do about her wedding.

Eight Hundred Grapes is about remembering who you are and not losing sight of that. While I didn’t find myself as immersed in the book as I was with the first Laura Dave book I read (Hello, Sunshine) I can see why it got so many good reviews.

3/5 stars

Biography · Julia P · Literature · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Page-Turner · Writing

The Trip to Echo Spring | by Olivia Laing

The Trip to Echo Spring

The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink by Olivia Laing
(Canongate Books, 2013, 340 pages)

After reading The Lonely City in December I fell under the spell of Olivia Laing. In The Trip to Echo Spring she decides to try and figure out the connection between the work of a few noted authors and their alcoholism. I was initially surprised because Laing chose to focus exclusively on men, but she acknowledges this within the text and has her reasons for limiting herself to one gender. The authors she focused on are: John Berryman, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Tennessee Williams.

Laing draws connections between the authors, their work and their drinking by following a route through the United States that has her stopping in locations that had significant impacts on all of the authors. This book is a combination of biography, history, literary criticism, and personal memoir. I was taking notes as I read because I felt like she just gave me a taste of all the men she profiled and I wanted to learn more. I wanted to dive into their biographies and read more of their work.

I’d definitely recommend the book, especially if you’re someone who appreciates reading about literary figures and their “processes.”

4/5 stars

Comics · Fiction · Graphic Novel · Humor · In the Library · Julia P · Name in Title · Pop Culture/Entertainment · Quick Read!

The Flintstones, Vol. 1 | by Mark Russell

The Flintstones, Vol. 1

The Flintstones, Vol. 1 by Mark Russell; illustrated by Steve Pugh
(DC Comics, 2017, 168 pages)

One of my favorite co-workers, Kelly M, convinced me to pick up this graphic novel. I’d been hearing about it off and on but I wouldn’t necessarily have gone out of my way to pick it up for myself. Then Kelly pitched it and I figured I’d give it a shot.

This satirical interpretation of The Flintstones was entertaining and hit on a lot of issues you wouldn’t anticipate finding in a graphic novel about this classic t.v. show. You can check out a more in-depth review on Slate. Just know that I plan on seeing where they take the rest of the series 🙂 This was a quick read with surprising depth.

4/5 stars

Fiction · Julia P · Name in Title · Quick Read!

Hello, Sunshine | by Laura Dave

Hello, Sunshine

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 256 pages)

Hello, Sunshine is all about online culinary celebrity Sunshine Mackenzie. She has grown from a YouTube star to someone who is about to have her own show on the Food Network. Until someone makes it their mission to take her down in the most public way possible. Her social media accounts are hacked, secrets are revealed, and Sunshine winds up losing everything she’d worked for: her Brooklyn apartment, her career, and her husband.

Sunshine has no other choice but to head home, relying on the “kindness” of her sister to try and help her stay afloat. Sunshine attempts to find a way back to the life she’d built, but while she’s at it she discovers there were a lot of things in her life she’d been missing out on.

This was a quick read that I enjoyed picking up. The way the author touched on how social media influences the image we present to the world and the persona that we curate was well done without coming across as heavy-handed.

4/5 stars

Art · Comics · Fiction · Graphic Novel · Kelly M

The Drawing Lesson | by Mark Crilley

The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw

The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw
by Mark Crilley
(Watson-Guptill, 2016, 144 pages)

Young David spies 20-something Becky sketching a tree in a park. He strikes up a conversation and soon convinces her to give him a drawing lesson. Due to David’s persistence, one lesson leads to another and then another. Becky teaches him about shading, understanding light and shadow, using negative space, checking proportions, and creating a composition. In the end they go to the art museum where David combines all of his skills to draw Bertel Thorvaldsen’s sculpture Hebe, the goddess of youth. The Drawing Lesson is a fun and effective way through a visual story to help people develop the skills to see things as an artist does and draw what they see.

5/5 stars

Comics · Graphic Novel · Kelly M · Non-Fiction · Quick Read! · Travel

Going into Town | by Roz Chast

Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast
(Bloomsbury USA, 2017, 169 pages)

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York started as a small booklet written by author Chast as a guide to Manhattan for her daughter who was moving there for college. On the first page though, she states, “it’s not really a guide book” because, for example, there’s nothing in it about the Statue of Liberty. She covers the basics, including the layout of Manhattan, from which I learned that avenues run north and south, while streets run east and west, and the distance between avenues is greater than the distance between streets. I also learned that Manhattan is 2.3 miles across, so you could plug in a toaster on one side of the island, run the cord along 14th Street, and have toast on the other side. Chast’s dry wit made me chuckle aloud several times. In addition to the layout of Manhattan, she covers the Subway system, the Met and other museums, parks, food, and apartments. I’m planning to go to New York over the summer and will probably check out this book again before I leave. Even if you’re not going there, it’s a fun, informative read.

5/5 stars