Book Club | July & August

Book Club J+A

Great news! I’m now officially only 6 books behind schedule for my 2014 reading goal, 2 better than I was at my last check-in. I’m catching up slowly but surely, and lately I’ve been loving reading more than ever. I’m really trying to prioritize it this year, because it really is an activity that enriches me – in a hundred different ways – more than anything else does.

In July and August I was loving lighter, summery books mainly, fun stuff I could read on the beach. I made it a goal to read “braver” in 2014 (ie. read slightly more intellectual novels that challenge me), and I think I have been overall, but in summer I want to read light-hearted things! That being said, there were a few very poignant, wonderful books from the last few months. You can see my favourites from the rest of this year right here.

The Vacationers / Earlier this year, I read and loved a novel by Maria Semple, and in the last couple months I read and loved two books that had praise from her on their front covers. I don’t know if that’s just smart marketing, or if there’s really something to it, but all I know is that I think I like this genre a lot: well-written novels about strong, interesting, wonderful, imperfect women who for the most part lead very ordinary lives. They’re modern books, keenly observant, smart, and relatable. This one was a light, easy read about a family vacation in Mallorca with an interesting band of characters. It wasn’t particularly ground-breaking, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Of Mice and Men / Wow. This was my first time reading Steinbeck, and I was really, genuinely impressed. I remarked afterward to a friend that a lesser writer would have made this story into a full length novel, but I think it says something that he was able to keep it short (it’s less than 200 pages) and yet so evocative that it practically sears itself into your memory. Some of the scenes are so vivid in my brain that it’s like I watched a movie of the book instead of reading it. It’s a simple story but it manages to be a tense thriller. It’s also so well crafted and perfectly set up, in that there were things I completely didn’t see coming but that made so much sense in retrospect. I think there’s a reason it’s a classic.

The Blue Bistro / This was my first time reading Elin Hilderbrand, who I only discovered from this list of the 29 Best Books of Summer 2014. Guess what, I’m a huge fan! Her novels are all set on Nantucket island, which just sounds like the ideal summer destination, and this novel made me desperately want to “summer” there and eat and/or work at this fictional restaurant every night of the week. As a foodie, I highly appreciated all the detailed descriptions of delicious food – the book’s first page is the menu, which practically makes your mouth water and totally sets the scene for the book. It’s a love story, and occasionally the main character seemed a bit naive to me, but I loved the whole world of the book. It reminded me of my waitressing days!

Astonish Me / This was the other novel praised by Maria Semple, and I absolutely loved it. I’m fascinated by the world of ballet, and this book was about that world while also being about ordinary life after being a professional ballet dancer. I thought it was interesting and observant.

168 Hours / The subtitle of the book is “you have more time than you think” and by the time I was finished reading the first two chapters, I believed it. The premise of the book is that we all have 168 hours a week, more than enough time to accomplish anything we want to. She writes about people who get an absurd amount of things done in a week – sleeping 8 hours a night, reading, exercising, spending time with their families, working, volunteering, pursuing hobbies – and I found those case studies so inspiring. The book talks about tracking where you actually spend time, figuring out how you would ideally want to spend your time, and then being strategic about fitting things in, including automating some things and minimizing or ignoring others. I came away with lots of inspiration and practical ideas.

Eleanor & Park / I flew through this book in only a day or two, because it was so wonderful. It’s a beautiful novel about two teenagers falling in love, but I wouldn’t really call it a young adult novel just because of the characters’ ages. It was smart and funny, poignant and compelling. It’s just a great love story that really swept me up without being fluffy. The characters have real problems and insecurities, but they fumble through and it’s pretty beautiful to watch them. I can’t wait to read Rainbow Rowell’s other books.

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I’ve been reading some really awesome books lately and I’m excited for the rest of my 2014 in reading!

As always, you can see all the books I’ve read and plan to read on GoodReads. Also, if you have any great book recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them! Let me know in the comments below.

You can see my favourite books so far this year here, and my favourite books of 2013 here.

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