Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Books I've read this fall

One of my fall 2014 goals has been to read five books between the first day of fall and the first day of winter. I achieved this goal (!) and I am really proud of myself. It's actually kind of sad, because when I was a kid I was a voracious reader. I was always reading a book. I got so lost inside of books, and it was wonderful. After I graduated from high school I didn't read quite as much, but it really was my years at Berkeley that stripped me of my desire to read. When I graduated from college, lets put it this way -- burnout is a kind way to describe how I felt about the previous two years. I couldn't imagine reading something for pleasure. What was reading for pleasure? What? I'd forgotten. Entirely. And the child inside me is so sad about that.

So that was really sad. I did read a bunch of books after college, but over time, and I never made it a priority. I also focused almost entirely on nonfiction, because I really love it, and it's easier for me to read. That said, this year I'd read absolutely nothing, and that shouldn't be a surprise, considering I haven't been at my best. That's why I craved goals back in September, and why reading in particular appealed to me. I knew it would require prioritizing, but maybe I'd be on my phone less, right?

Yes. I definitely was on my phone less.

I found that I definitely had less time for other hobbies, though. Like playing the clarinet, or watching TV, or blogging (seriously) or playing games on my phone. I was very often lost in whichever book I was reading, and that felt really great. People felt like I was ignoring them, but hey, sorry, I was just reading and reading is for cool kids!

At the same time, I'm enjoying a little break right now, so I can practice clarinet, blog, other stuff.

Anyway!

Here are the books I read between September - December:


1. The Thinking Fan's Guide to the College Football Playoff —This fall, I found myself ridiculously uninformed about the new college football playoff. My life had been falling apart all year, and I'd been working to right the ship again. There wasn't really room in my brain to deal with the huge changes going on in college football. Once the season started, though, I had to catch up. Thankfully, my favorite college football writer, Stewart Mandel, wrote a book for people like me. It was concise, humorous and contained many layers of context/history about college football in general, along with the history of the discussion of a playoff. I'm really glad I read this book, because otherwise I'd still be overwhelmed with the complicated nature of the playoff. I feel informed enough now to ignore it this year, since I don't like any of the teams who made it. Success?

2. The Magicians — I had bought this triology of books before my trip to Germany in August; you know, the trip that didn't end up happening. I didn't feel very into reading them through August, but I'm sure this was part of why I wanted to read more in the fall. These books came highly recommended to me as "adult Harry Potter meets Narnia" and I think this is a really good descriptor. I loved the first book the most. It was really magical. Also, this is the only part that really feels like Harry Potter in any real way. My favorite part of Grossman's writing style is how he manages to create a fantastical universe with normal, present-day people in it. People who make jokes about Harry Potter, and reality television, and live in our world, use our swear words, etc. This was something that Harry Potter was missing, and it's what I think really divides the two series between "young adult" and "adult" fiction. Well, that and all the sex.

3. The Magician King —A solid second book. This, of course, is where I began to meet characters I really didn't like, and during those sections I felt like I wasn't having fun reading anymore. This happens in most epic sagas, so I wasn't too upset. It happened a lot in Game of Thrones as the books progressed, particularly in the last two books, and this wasn't nearly as big of a problem. For the most part, the twists and turns continued, and the story didn't feel tired. I enjoyed it a lot.

4. The Magician's Land — Unlike the third book in many triologies, I didn't think The Magician's Land was a disappointment, and that's quite a success. Seriously, how difficult must it be to bring a truly epic story to a satisfying conclusion? Almost zero authors navigate this successfully. Lev Grossman did a good enough job to satisfy me, anyway. Basically, if I'm not pissed off about the ending of a book (His Dark Materials? Hello!), then I'm all good. Grossman did a great job throughout the book of tying little things together from the previous books, and making sure your mind got blown a few more times. I was really happy with this series.

5. How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain — I got this book as part of a $1.99 Amazon Kindle deal, on a whim. I've been really interested in dogs lately, and how the relationship between humans and dogs differs from the relationship between humans and cats, or humans and other humans. I know it's an extremely special relationship, but not from personal experience. This book also appealed to me because I have a Psychology degree, and science isn't hyperbole, it's highly controlled and designed to reveal facts. After reading this book, I can't say I learned anything I hadn't felt before, but most pet owners would say the same thing. What I did learn is a lot of methodology and really, the book is about a single experiment. It goes through, in great detail, how the experiment came about, the complete protocol, and the findings. It's really great, and a quick read, so if you're looking to verify what you already feel -- that your dog loves you -- or if you're into psychology/neuroscience, then definitely check this out.

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In conclusion: reading is for cool kids, even if you have an e-reader and your friends say you've sold out and you're not legit anymore. If you have book recommendations for me, please leave a comment. I love fantasy/science fiction, nonfiction books about food, history, art, etc.



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