One that I worried was ruined for me by being over-hyped, one that isn’t out until August, and one that was short, quick, and clever. So, in that order, book #17 was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; book #18 was The Hating Game by Sally Thorne; and book #19 was Read Bottom Up co-written by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham.
In defense of my worrying about AtLWCS being overhyped, I tend to recoil a little bit from books that have gotten so much attention. I also tend to not read the huge, Pulitzer-winning books as they’re coming out, instead waiting at least a few years before reading (see Henrietta Lacks). I do this because I know that the experience of reading a book while everyone is talking nonstop about said book makes me read it differently and usually less immersively… if that makes sense/if immersively was a real word.
So embarking on the Pulitzer winner of only one year ago is pretty huge for me. And the payoff was very worth it. This book was incredible. I cried, I accidentally stayed up too late reading it, and I was sad when it ended. It’s such a well-woven story full of conflicted characters and subtle twists and revelations. It was beautiful, deserving of all the recognition it received in my opinion.
At this point, everyone and their mother has at least seen this book around, and probably knows a bit about the premise, so instead of talking about that I’d like to ramble about my thoughts on why WWII books so often work.
I probably shouldn’t say “so often,” because probably for every one that works, there are 5,000 left unpublished for the better, but a lot of books that I love revolve around World War II, which is interesting to me. I think it may be because that is one of the most traumatic and almost stranger-than-fiction time periods to have happened in the history of our world. Not that I’m discounting the war or the millions of tragedies that occurred as a result, but it’s just kind of surreal to think about how relatively recently something like that happened.
And resilience in the face of that type of event is always incredibly inspiring and hard to believe. I guess the WWII stories I love are often historical fiction centering on characters overcoming desperate and unbelievably bad circumstances to find what’s truly important in life, and to function day-to-day as all humans ultimately have to. I don’t know.
Long story short, if you’re one of the 17 people left who have not yet read All the Light We Cannot See, you’re missing out on a really capital-G Great book.
Next, I read The Hating Game, which was much, much lighter by comparison. It also doesn’t come out until August, so my apologies. BUT in August I would highly recommend it. This book was like a Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Devil Wears Prada sprinkled with a hint of love from Sophie Kinsella.
It’s the story of Josh and Lucy, two executive assistants forced against their will to work together as a result of their respective publishing house’s merger. (Does this make me narcissistic, reading about publishing and reveling in it?) The story comes primarily from Lucy’s perspective as she works out her vehement feelings of hate for her (conveniently attractive) new coworker.
It’s definitely not an epic tale of characters surviving World War II, but it’s clever and fizzy and felt like a small slice of cake with a cold champagne. I was rooting for Lucy and Josh from the start and their tension was palpable from the first to the last page.
And finally: Read Bottom Up. This was a fun, equally light and easy read that felt a little bit more like a slice of pie and a stronger, alcoholic beverage… because it was heavier but still sweet. (I’m killing it with food/drink pairing metaphors right now.) It was written by two people, a boy and a girl, and the actual process of writing it seems really intriguing.
The story is about the developing relationship from its beginning and (spoiler) eventual demise of a young man and woman. It’s pretty cool because the story is told entirely through email and text conversations which definitely made it very modern and realistic. There were only four main characters, and all interactions took place either between the main love interests, Madeline and Elliot, or one love interest with their respective best friend – so Madeline with her friend, Emily, or Elliot with his friend, David. I made that sound more complicated than it is.
Anyway, it was very interesting to read about these two characters’ interactions, and watch their respective reactions to their friends. I also loved the filling-in-the-blank that happened between emails and texts. It was endearing and a pretty clever look at the way we twist ourselves in knots over relationships, in part because of technology.
So those were my most recent books. I’m realizing my pattern tends to be heavy story-light story, so it looks like I’m overdue for something heavy. Wish me luck. ◊