A to Z: What I Read in 2017

30896668A is for ALEX + ADA. Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s near-future sci-fi drama about a man who falls in love with an android might seem like well-trodden, eye-roll inducing territory, but it’s a genuinely interesting exploration of what love could mean in the 21st century. A spiritual companion to Spike Jonze’s HerAlex + Ada can challenge you if you want it to. Vaughn’s art is simple, yet beautiful. This book was an absolute pleasure. Although, off the top of my head, I’m not sure it passes the Bechdel Test (however, every page of this book is about relationships so I think it can be forgiven).

B is for BLEAKER HOUSENell Stevens’ memoir about attempting to write her first novel on one of the most secluded places on Earth–half way around the world, to boot–is, surprisingly, a page-turner. It was so good that Pan Macmillan is publishing her next book, about Elizabeth Gaskell, in June 2018.

C is for CONVERSATIONS WITH KAFKAGustav Janouch’s memoir about his quasi-apprenticeship with Fraz Kafka was interesting, even though I’ve never read anything from Kafka. Don’t ask about what prompted me to read this because I don’t remember. I’m glad I did, though. I earmarked so many pages (don’t judge me) it was ridiculous. This is a quote fan’s wet dream.

D is for DAVE EGGERS. The Circle was, easily, the worst book I read this year. Eggers feels at least a generation too old to be writing about a cutting edge social media company. This was startlingly free of insight, unintentionally comical, and inhabited by one of the most vapid protagonists you’ll even find in Mae Holland. Avoid at all costs.

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5 Authors Who Changed My Life

These aren’t necessarily my favorite authors (although several are) or the authors I read the most (although several are), but they’re authors who have had a profound impact on my life.

The Author I Have to Defend

Christopher Moore. Moore is an author many refuse to take seriously, which I get, to some extent. There’s no denying that he wrote the line “Blessed are the dumbfucks” in a book about Jesus. Yet, at the same time, he’s a soulful writer with an alarming humanity: “There’s a fine edge to new grief, it severs nerves, disconnects reality–there’s mercy in a sharp blade. Only with time, as the edge wears, does the real ache begin.” Don’t let titles like “Island of the Sequined Love Nun” or “Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” scare you away. He’s been compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, for crying out loud. There are writers who make you laugh, and there are writers who make you think. Moore is one of the rare few who does both.

The Author Who Matured Me as a Reader

John Milton. In my first year at Saint Mary’s University I took a fantastic Literary Traditions course from the wonderful, inspiring David Heckerl. (It’s amazing what a good professor can do for you.) In our first semester we tackled Paradise Lost and it, quite literally, changed my life. I was set to be a kinesiology student when I enrolled at St. Mary’s, but at the last moment I switched my major to English (to the confusion of many). I never once regretted that decision, in large part to Paradise Lost. Once I read Milton there was no turning back. Most professors will tell you who to read. Heckerl, through Milton, taught me how to read.

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