Despite my lack of updates, I actually read a lot in July. I was on a roll. I devoured The Bet (Rachel van Dyken), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) and Bossy Pants (Tina Fey) all within a few weeks. Suddenly I found myself with my nose in my Kindle all the time; in the morning when I wake up; on my way to work, over lunch; during a lull at work; waiting for the bus on my way home; after dinner; before bed. The problem, I soon realized (and to to some extent recalled from my high school days), is that reality almost always pales in comparison to a good book. When a book is finished, you suddenly feel empty and bored; and quickly scramble to find the next story to immerse yourself into. It is almost like an addiction.
After Mr. Penumbra, I figured I’d try a chick lit, like the Bet. A love triangle between two very hot and rich (of course) brothers, and a girl they grew up with. That was a huge disappointment. I was in the process of writing a whole rant about how on earth it even made it for one week on the NYTimes list (I know, it’s not a reliable source, still!), but then I got bored and tired of wasting another minute of my time on this book. But to sum it up, the immature and cliche behavior of the characters (probably because they are only 20) completely undermined the credibility of the story. I was imagining something slightly more sophisticated from the blurb, perhaps a la Janet Evanovich, but this book should be more correctly classified as a “teen flick”.
After that drain on my brain, I needed something more compelling, and the Kite Runner did not disappoint. It transported me into pre-war Afghanistan, and into a beautifully woven (yet tragic) tale of two boys who grew up together. I read some reviews afterwards, and some people didn’t like the protagonist, Amir, because he was selfish, cowardly and completely unlikeable. But I think a flawed protagonist made the story more powerful, because it made Amir more human and relatable. It also served to highlight the tragedy of Hassan’s life in comparison. The whole story was so engaging and tragic that I was tearing up during lunch, at Starbucks, in the restaurant… it was starting to get embarrassing.
Beyond the story itself, the book also opened my eyes to Afghanistan. Before I was never that interested in the country, and had the stereotypical image in my mind of a desert, with remote Aladdin-like villages sprinkled throughout, and happens to have a lot of oil. But through the eyes of Amir, Afghanistan came to life for me, and I had a much better understanding of the country, its people, the culture, and the impact war has had on the civilization and its people (Charlie Wilson’s War also started to make more sense). It was fascinating. Hosseini’s other books are definitely on my list of books to read.
But before I embark on another tearjerker, I thought I’d go back to real life a little bit and try Tina Fey’s memoir. It was slow at first, because at the beginning it references a lot of back in the days American pop culture, which I have never heard of. But it picked up a bit once she hit college (I guess that was when it started to make more sense and become more chronological). As expected, her writing style is self deprecating and extremely witty. I especially enjoyed her story about climbing up a mountain in the dark with the boy she had a crush on (and another guy). The one line that really stuck to me after finishing the book, was this:
“When I was in my eighth season at Saturday Night Live, it was time to figure out what the next phase of my life would be. SNL is like high school, but at least in high school they tell you when to graduate. It’s hard to push yourself out of the nest.”
I totally get it.
I figured that I was on a roll, so in late July/early August, I decided to try Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg) again. Yes, I tried reading it before, but stopped after Chapter 1. It was way too hard core, offensive and statistical for my liking. But when I expressed this to girl friends who have read it, most were surprised that I didn’t like it and urged me to listen to Sheryl’s Tedtalk and try again. So I did. And apparently the writing does indeed flow better after the first chapter. It even started to make sense. So far, the most inspiring chapter has been the one about the career jungle. Having been born and bred to think of life as one big progression line (do well in school, get into a good university, get a good job and go up from there), this was revolutionary, and definitely gave me something to think about. I really wished she expanded more on that one. Instead she started talking about how to “have it all”, and manage a “career and kids,” and I’m kind of stuck again. These are all very important topics, but right now it is so far off for me that I’m finding it difficult to relate. I’m slowly plowing through it though, and hope to be over my reading hump soon (I’m 54% of my way through!).
But at least I can safely say that I’m out of my fictional cloud for now. So far, reality is not too bad.