Monday, February 9, 2009

Endless Summer Reading List

Sorry kids, I keep thinking it's summer. I do most of my reading at the beach so it feels like vacation reading. And fortunately I've had a few opportunities lately to park myself on lounge chair and read so I've got a couple of books to review for you.

Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald.*

Plot: A journalist quits her day job to join her SO in India, religious exploration ensues.

Motto: Pick a god, any god.

Opinion: I've been toying with the idea of trying to write a book about my experience here in Thailand. I'd been disappointed in the travel-memoirs I'd read and hoped I could give my own spin on what it's like to be abroad. There is no need. MacDonald strikes just the right note of shock, wonder, amusement and annoyance. As an Australian, she has a very western bias / point of view as she explores the different faiths and cultures of India. But I think she does a good job of relaying her observations without too much judgement. Which is not to say she is only an observer, or that she keeps her opinions to herself... it's just that she makes it easy for the reader to follow along and form their own opinions.

One of my biggest complaints about Eat Pray Love was that the author was so self absorbed, I couldn't get out of her head and into what the places she visited were actually like. Holy Cow is not at all like that. I mean, it's a memoir and as such it delves into her thoughts and feelings and spiritual journey, but I didn't feel like I was being dragged into her own personal drama.

Ugh... I'm embarrassed now. I've read two books since finishing Holy Cow and I can't remember enough relevant details to share them with you. She visits a LOT of different gurus and ceremonies, I honestly couldn't keep all the religions straight. One of the festivals she visited was Christian and I really enjoyed seeing the Indian spin on a faith I am already so well acquainted with. Christianity in America isn't nearly sparkly enough IMHO.

Overall, it was an extremely enjoyable read for me, although I didn't warm up to the author until a chapter or two in. She's having the expat experience that I wish I were having, including the loving husband, household staff, expendable cash and the time to enjoy it. I would recommend this book to someone heading abroad, or to someone who needed an arm-chair vacation. Not too heavy, not too fluffy.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams

Plot - The crew from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy continue traveling through space and time, and observe a key moment in the evolution of humankind.

Motto - Intergalactic absurdity at not quite it's finest.

Opinion - I desperately wanted to reread The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but this was the only Adams book available. It's a poor substitute for the original. It's just more improbability, more insanity, more (but not quite as witty) observations about the human condition etc. In High School I read all four (?) books in sequence so it was just one long silly story... and suited my sense of humor perfectly. But now... and on it's own, this book falls so far short of the original that it's barely worth reading. Recommended - only if you're trying to woo a die-hard Douglas Adams fan or you're stuck in a foreign country with minimal reading material available.

Emma - Jane Austen

Plot: The charming Miss Woodhouse dabbles in matchmaking, formal balls and long winded letters ensue.

Motto: Matchmaker matchmaker make me a match...

Opinion: I love all the Jane Austen movies I've seen. I love the period costumes and the fancy balls. I love the small-scale intrigue and neighborhood drama. But this is only the second Austen book I've actually read. I really enjoyed Sense and Sensibility, but Emma was a bit wordy for my taste. Especially after having seen the movie countless times, it's a bit brutal to have a conversation drag on for page after page when a paragraph or two would have covered it.

The characters are awesome though. Austen has a gift for creating unique and at times ridiculous characters. I love Mr. Elton's sycophantic attempts at wooing Emma, and Miss Bate's endless prattle. And of course, there's always a happy ending. Like every other fan, I wish good ol' Jane was in charge of writing my love life. My hero would have been hiding there under my nose the whole time, silly me, just too blind to see him. Alas....

Overall, I liked it. It's nice to escape to the fantasy world of the English gentry once in a while. I recommend this one to romantic girls who want to ruin any chance at marital bliss by setting up completely unrealistic standards for relationships. Or boys who wish to woo such women. Or, you know anyone stuck in a foreign country with limited access to reading materials.

*This was somewhat serendipitous, I'd almost picked this book up in Portland but was turned off by the cover & the summary on the back (seriously bad marketing!) but I saw it on the book-share table at our hostel in Cambodia (no not the brothel) so I picked it up. I'm glad I gave it a second chance.

TAG - Code Sticky Rice. Everything's fine, I'm still a bit moody, but I'm starting to think about making some changes.

1 comment:

Sarah Nopp said...

If you can find it, grab Kockroach by Tyler Knox. It is really funny. An immigrant's tale of sorts... kind of Mickey Spillane meets Kafka meets Red Green