Happy July everybody! June has been a pretty good month when it comes to reading books. I had a client relatively far for most of June for work meaning I had more commuting/travel time. Commuting is where I read most often. Nothing is better than having a book in your hand and flipping the pages and escaping the reality you’re in (to the best of your ability haha). I’m going to practise reading more at home this July. Given that Sydney and a lot of Australia have been in varying degrees of lockdown these past few weeks, reading is a great productive activity to do whilst indoors.
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Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven
Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.
I have always had a guilty pleasure with YA novels but I haven’t really read the YA genre in years. So accidentally picking up this book and realising it was a YA was exciting. I really wanted to like Libby – we hear her past of meaning an obese teen and wanting to start life all over again at school and fit in. We meet Jack who is your typical popular boy at school but suffers from prosopagnosia, commonly called face blindness. I was really interested in how Niven would incorporate a neurological disorder into her novel and I thought it was addressed okay. It explains Jack’s ‘jerk’ behaviour as he tries to hide the difficulty he faces in recognising people’s faces.
My main critique is that novel lacks much substance for me and is very predictable. I was disappointed because I sometimes don’t mind the cliche coming of age romance novel. However, I really did really enjoy the unique POV type of storytelling.
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton
I’ve not got much to say about this one. I was curious to read this based on the title but the title is misleading. I wish this showed a bit of insight in the purpose of work. This book is essentially a collection of essays on the theme of work with each chapter focussing on a different occupation. The essays are enhanced by accompanying black and white photographs. I wish I put the book down halfway through when I wanted to because I really did not enjoy it that much. His tone can come across condescending and lacking empathy. There is no insight in the feelings of the workers but rather de Botton just observing.
If you want to reinforce the notion that work is depressing, then this might be for you.
How to be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky
This book is an advice column-style book that is covers a range of important themes such as relationships, friendships, career and insecurities. I do love a good advice piece. I love understanding people and the world around me. Havrilesky has a very ‘no-frills’ and tough love approach to her advice. She’s direct to the point but her advice can lean on being shallow. As with most self-help, sometimes it needs to be left with a therapist or someone professional.
The situations these readers are in make for an interesting read. From a bride wanting to be selfish and not wanting her sister’s boyfriend to her wedding to being tired of being nice and all the cheating, betrayals inbetween, How to be a Person in the World is an insightful guide to navigating your twenties.
Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes
Barbara the Slut and Other People makes me want to read more short story collections. I thought many of these stories were really fresh and even funny. ‘Desert Hearts’ stands out to me the most as the protagonist decides to take on a job at a sex shop instead of embarking on a law career pursued only because of her father. I also liked ‘Pearl and the Swiss Guy Falls In Love’ which revolves around the girl allowing this random person to extend his stay due to a range of exceptional circumstances. I didn’t realise this is actually something that happens in the real world (I saw a TikTok of this once when a girl let an Australian in Germany stay at hers due to Covid lockdown restrictions and they fell in love – awww).
As with short story collections, some stories can be hit and miss but I really enjoyed the freshness and and female protagonists and it was one my favourites I read this month.
The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber
I borrowed this book mainly for its aesthetically pleasing pink cover and my love for economics. There were some really good insights about bureaucracy and the progress of technological advancements (or lack of). I think this book needs some time to get acquainted to. I found it really hard to continue reading it but it gets better mainly because I became more interested in the topics Graeber was writing about (heavy pop culture and sci fi references will do it). Some of the essays were written humorously which is a rare find. I’m interested in reading more of Graeber’s work and enjoy being challenged in economic thinking.
All Adults Here by Emma Straub
I picked up All Adults Here because of its multi-generational story and what it’s like for a mother when her kids have grown up. She witnesses a fatal accident that makes her re-think much of her parenting to her children and how to live life. This book is an interesting exploration of love, parental responsibility, infidelity, death, friendship and sexuality and gender. I felt there were so many characters and issues that it did not always have the depth to flesh out.
It’s a relatively easy read with each chapter being only a few pages long – usually looking at the perspective of a different character. I thought the book was charming and a really good LGBTQIA+ read during pride month and I would love to diversify my reading in the future.