Random Beach Reads

So, I went on vacation. For a week, I lay on the beach and only got up to eat and swim. But in that time, I also travelled in one of my favorite ways: through the pages of books. And so I thought I’d share my reading list and what I thought of what I read. 

I didn’t plan much of it and went where my fancy took me – thanks to a very problematic habit of buying e-books in bulk every time the monthly specials are updated, my kindle is very well stocked. I do read a lot of mismatched stuff and switch around genres for no good reason, so be prepared for a rollercoaster and don’t expect this list to make any kind of sense. 

High Achiever – Tiffany Jenkins. I started off my vacation on the plane ride by finishing this book that I’d already started. It’s her life’s story of how she overcame addiction. It’s well written and I’m not going to judge the story – because it’s an actual life we’re talking about – and it did really give a fascinating glimpse into the reasonings and justifications an addiction makes you believe. I would’ve loved to hear more about her earlier life though as the book only covers a slice of her life when the addiction is already formed. 

Gathering Blue – Lois Lowry. This is an accompanying book to The Giver, which is now a major motion picture and which I have discussed at length here. It is probably meant for the same audience of early teens and it has some fantastical elements but I don’t think man children would be happy with it, since it alludes to a lot of super interesting concepts and ideas but never does anything with them. It’s also somehow very similar and very different to the world of The Giver so I’m not even sure how they are supposed to be connected. It’s also not the longest book and I think some more insight, more exploring by the main characters would’ve been interesting.

If I Never Met You – Mhairi McFarlane. A classic romcom by one of the bigger names in the game. Listen, I like romcoms. Of course they are predictable and improbable but we all know it’s easiest falling in love with a man written by a woman. Except, I didn’t. Fall in love, that is. It’s nicely written and everything but there was just no chemistry. None. And that between in intelligent and witty girl and a gorgeous, successful (and obviously now reformed) playboy. None. Also, they hinted at two different cats that were never brought up again which is not something I can forgive. 

Last One At The Party – Bethany Clift. I am a sucker for a good dystopian tale. Normal people surviving a barren wasteland is somehow deeply comforting to me. And that’s what this book is. It did hit a bit close to home, being grounded in a worldwide pandemic AND being so new that it actually referenced the actual, current pandemic, but it was a very fun read. Some things seemed a bit on the nose and extra convenient but what the hell, it’s fun to imagine all aspects of the apocalypse – there will be power outings, trapped animals and human remains. My only real complaint is a very open and unsatisfying ending but maybe it’s enough closure for some – humanity is pretty much dead already anyways. Also, a reminder to anyone who needs it: Learn how to drive, you never know when you’ll need it. 

Not Tonight, Josephine – George Mahood. This guy knows how to drive, which is great because Josephine is a car. I had previously read Life’s a Beach and Every is a Holiday by the author and I enjoy his writing style a lot. His acocunts of real-life experiments and periods in his life are all together very witty and easy going. I also enjoy travel logs, the US and especially the idea of drifting through the back country of America without rhyme or reason. Again, it’s a true account so there’s nothing to be done about the more mellow parts of the story but I felt like the signature humor and attention to detail got a bit lost as the book (and drive) continued. At some point, the random destinations and small daily struggles just blended together a bit but it did make me want to hit the road – though preferably in a slightly better car than Josephine. No offense! 

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green. I think this might be the first fiction book by the author, who is the brother and YouTube-channel-co-owner of John Green. This was a nice read if somewhat frustrating because of the egotistical main character. But it’s an interesting way of framing an even more interesting premise: A twentysomething girl becomes world famous when she is the first to upload a video of a giant statue that turns up in New York – and turns out to be one of many around the globe – which all in turn turn out to be of extraterrestrial origin. The book covers all the media and government “what ifs” of the scenario and also a young adult reaction to fame and responsibility – two concepts that blend surprisingly well together. I just wish the whole alien thing was a little more fleshed out.

Save The Cat – Blake Snyder. I don’t read non-fiction guides like this all at once. I’m not a psychopath. Kidding! But I do try and break it up so I can absorb the matter better. This one has been sitting on my actual shelf for a couple of years, so I brought it on vacation in hopes of diminishing my to-be-read pile and it worked. It’s one of the staple for screenwriters and even though I had no current ambitions to be one, this one did make me dream a bit. I liked the readability of it – not dry at all – and the practical advice. I also loved when I realized how apparent some of the points mentioned are to me already – just because I watch way too many movies. 

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara. I previously read The People in The Trees which I thought was too intense and poorly titled. Well, this one has both problems times ten and has been nominated for a Pulitzer presumably because of it. I had to stop reading after half of it because I didn’t feel like crying on a beach for days. I have finished it since and cried in the privacy of my home instead. I don’t think a book has ever made me feel so much sadness. It’s a monumental tale of unimaginable human suffering, love and the unfairness of life. And lot’s of atrocious people and some really good ones. It also has this line in it, which in any other book I would love but made me really laugh out loud in disbelief for its irony in this one: “What he knew, he knew from books, and books lied, they made things prettier.” If this one made things prettier, I’m not equipped to handle any kind of reality. 

Nomadland – Jessica Bruder. I also started this book which I specifically bought for the trip and to read before watching the Oscar winning movie but I lost interest after two chapters. I just didn’t expect a journalistic account of some older folks real life – which is obviously on me – and frankly wanted something more exciting than that. I’m still really interested to see how they brought this journalistic piece on the big screen though!

Box Man – Kobo Abe. Another book which I only started and in which is an exciting concept of men choosing to life live homeless inside a cardboard box which they wear and live in like a turtle in its shell, never exiting their tiny shelter and moving with it around them. Anyhow, I got stuck at some really dry descriptions of some thing or another and also didn’t find it terribly exciting – might try again later though. 

Acid For The Children – Flea. The biography of one of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I’m not actually a fan or anything but I do like biographies of people with extraordinary lives. But it started very esoteric and poetic right off the bat and I was neither prepared nor in the mood for that, so I quit. Might try again later but less likely than Box Man. 

So, there you have it. Everything I read – and didn’t read – on vacation. I would probably most recommend Save The Cat and I would absolutely not recommend A Little Life to anyone who doesn’t want to torture themselves with its intense sadness but I do concede that its an amazing book because of it. 

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