These Are Fiction
The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman. 5 Stars. In his second novel, Klosterman barely describes the two main characters, but somehow they're more memorable than many people I know. The story is told through transcriptions of therapy sessions, with occasional one-sided correspondence from the therapist to her publisher, as well as a few notes she wrote about occurrences outside of therapy. Without spoiling too much, the main character, Y___, has developed a suit that allows him to not be seen. He uses this to observe people when they think they are alone - the ultimate reality show. Things happen as a result of his "invisibility" which he does not feel responsible for, but still senses some sort of guilt. Though the book is obviously fiction, you'll probably feel differently about seemingly empty space for awhile after you finish.
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. 5 Stars. When the book began, I wasn't sure I would be able to keep the three sisters and their stories straight. Instead, I was swallowed up by their world. Each sister's predicament was unique, as was her personality and the way she chose to cope with things. My favorite aspect of the novel was what I thought was the most unique - the story is told in a strange first person/third person hybrid that I have never read before. Each sister is referred to by name: Rose, Bean, and Cordy. Yet they are "our" sisters, "we" live with "our" mother and father, etc. It was very interesting to be part of the story, yet always on the outskirts. You were never a specific sister, but you were in the family somehow.
The Average American Male by Chad Kultgen. 4 Stars. Kultgen's writing style is straight-forward and plain, but it worked perfectly with the plot line and really stood out as unique. The book is exactly what the title presents - an average man, his thoughts and daily actions. Funny parts made me actually laugh out loud, and the ending was realistic rather than happy, which is always a plus in my opinion. The whole book was so honest that any other resolution would have been a cop-out.
11/22/63 by Stephen King. 4 Stars. The book seems daunting, topping out at 849 pages, but it's worth the heft. Usually there are parts of books that I think can be taken out to make the story more concise, but despite the length of this book, I wouldn't take anything out. King does any excellent job of including side stories that don't seem crucial to the plot but are interesting, and they are all relevant in the end. If anything was left out, it would seem like he's glossing over time (the book spans over four years of history). The aspect of time travel was handled very well, and is guaranteed to get you thinking "what if?"
Richard by Ben Myers. 4 Stars. An excellent book about the disappearance of the Manic Street Preachers' Richey Edwards, told from the point of view of the man himself. Though it is fiction, the basis is in facts and that makes it all the more fascinating. The narrative is told in alternating passages of the present and the past, with the past leading up to where the book begins - delightfully circular. Myers has many beautiful, powerful sentences worth an immediate re-read before going on to the next. Highly recommended.
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. 5 Stars. After a Sedaris binge in December, this stands out as my favorite Sedaris book read so far. All have been well-written, but this is the first I'd actually classify as funny - many essays had me laughing out loud. Worth checking out at LEAST for the copy written on the inside flap, which is the best I've ever read.
Nothing Happens Until It Happens to You by T.M. Shine. 4 Stars. I picked this book up at the perfect moment - right after I lost my job (due to no fault of my own), just like Jeffrey, the main character. Jeffrey has a hilarious way of looking at the world, seeing humor even when he feels like his life is falling apart, and even if he doesn't realize he's seeing things humorously. The book kept me laughing, but also had some incredibly moving moments.
Drinking With Strangers by Butch Walker. 5 Stars. Walker's songs are witty and thought-provoking, and it's no surprise that his book is written in the same style as his lyrics. Drinking with Strangers is a refreshingly honest tale centering on the music industry, but told from Walker's personal point of view. He shares a lot about his life, at times glossing over any substance abuse and marital issues but I didn't have much of a problem with that because it's not some gritty, gossip-y tell-all. He admitted to bad choices he made, like working with certain people he should have turned down while passing on projects he could have made a fortune from and becoming materialistic when he let fame go to his head. If you love Walker's music, you will love reading his story, which almost feels like having a conversation with him. For a man with such talent and fame, he is extremely down to earth and doesn't stroke his ego, even though he's certainly earned it.
Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. 5 Stars. The Rolling Stone music critic goes over some of his mix tapes and how they relate to his love life. We listen along as he meets a woman, dates her, marries her and spends married life in her shadow. We witness his wife's sudden death and Sheffield's attempts at getting on with his life. Sheffield sprinkles music criticism and stories of being a rock journalist into the mix. I can't think of another book that has made me laugh incredibly hard in one paragraph then have me tearing up in the next.
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. 5 Stars. This book is apparently very controversial since it's a young adult book, though it's recommended for ages 16 and up. "Alice" is a fifteen-year-old girl who has been living with her kidnapper for five years. I could tell more of what it's about without giving it away, but I won't. What was most compelling about this book for me was how those five years can make or break someone, how crucial that period is for development. The way it's written really pulls you in, and by the end you're thinking about every man with a little girl you've ever seen, wondering if she was really his daughter, wondering if you should have done something. Amazing book, highly recommended, one I'll definitely re-read.
So B. It by Sarah Weeks. 5 Stars. A young teen, Heidi, lives with her mentally disabled mother, who only knows a select amount of words, and who thinks her own name is "So Be It." Their caring neighbor, Bernie, took them under her wing when Heidi was just a week old. Bernie provides for them the best she can, however, what she can provide is limited, because she is agoraphobic. When Mama adds a new word to her limited vocabulary, Heidi is determined to find the truth behind it. Every sentence was so beautiful, so powerful, yet so stripped down - no extra words, no flowery language weighing it down.
Nothing by Janne Teller. Four Stars. I had seen this book described as "disturbing" and knew I had to check it out. It's about a group of seventh graders who are trying to find meaning in life after being taunted by a classmate. They pick important things for each other to give up and add to the heap of meaning, which over time becomes more and more bizarre. It is poetically written (especially for being translated out of its native language) and is very sparse, both in prose as well as formatting (there is a lot of white space, and it's very short). I wouldn't call it "disturbing" myself; I guessed a major part of what would happen at the end and therefore wasn't shocked by that, and perhaps I read more disturbing things in general.
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta // The Other Life by Ellen Meister // It's So Easy (and other lies) by Duff McKagan // All of Bill Bryson's works. Every. Last. One.