Ant Farm by Simon Rich. A re-read. I read this when I was taking a comedy class in DC in hopes it would inspire me. It did then, and did this time around too. Just a bunch of short, funny essays and clips of dialogue or random ideas.
Free-Range Chickens by Simon Rich. Another re-read, same story (and linkback) as above. This book was just as funny reading it a second time. It's a lot like Ant Farm, style-wise. Both made me laugh out loud and were read in a matter of hours.
The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy. Reviewed here, along with a Q&A from the author.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Reviewed here.
Lovesick by Spencer Seidel. Reviewed here, along with an excerpt from the first chapter and Q&A with the author.
Code for Failure by Ryan W. Bradley. As Ryan says in his acknowledgments, this book is "a story about a screw-up gas station attendant written by a former screw-up gas station attendant." The book is a quick read, broken into short sections that will keep you saying "Just one more chapter, just one more" before you can attempt to put it down. It's a novel, but most pieces could stand alone as short stories; I felt like I was reading a collection that just happened to come together into a story arc at the end. Parts are crass, parts are funny, parts are punch-you-in-the-gut honest. It's a book about a college drop-out assessing the state of his life and what could possibly come next, but it's too easy to forget the narrator's age and apply his questions to your own situation. It's an entertaining book, yes, but it's also much deeper than that.
March 20th to celebrate the release of Ryan's book, so stay tuned!
There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff. The premise of the book is that God is a hormonal teenage boy - sounds interesting, right? There were a few funny lines, and a handful that made you stop and think about why things are the way they are, but overall this book fell short. There were a lot of extraneous characters that could have brought about a major climax at the end, but instead everything just came unraveled.
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner. Reviewed here.
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar. Hayat is a boy who falls in love with his mother's best friend, Mina, through pictures he sees and stories he hears. When Mina comes to live with his family, she teaches Hayat about the Quran. As time passes, Hayat becomes more involved with Mina and her life, often overstepping his bounds. The book had a lot of verses from the Quran, as well as background information regarding the Muslims' way of life. It provided a good backdrop to the story for those who don't know much about the religion, but it is also not crucial - the story is still incredibly powerful even skimming those sections.
Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick. A very informative book about the central figures in the most famous photo of the Little Rock Nine. Beginning with the two fifteen-year-old girls getting ready for school on September 4, 1957, the book follows them through that day and the rocky years of integration that followed. Their stories are told individually, regardless of how intertwined their lives actually were, which sets a good tone for the book.
When Hazel publicly apologized to Elizabeth in 1997, the press jumped all over it, both praising and criticizing the move, without realizing Hazel had actually privately apologized to Elizabeth back in 1963. The two women had forged a friendship, but the press succeeded in planting doubts in the mind of each. Though the book doesn't have a happy ending, it effectively tells the story behind the story of the photograph. There was a lot of potential for emotion here, which I was looking forward to (How do you live knowing you're immortalized in a famous photo, yelling racist slurs at another person? How do you grow past that and apologize and move on?), the book is very straight-forward and factual.
The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halverson. READ THIS BOOK. My mom recommended it to me after she finished. When I asked if it was good, she cited the sentence: "And Annie and Zach would zoom out the door each morning on their ever-growing limbs, each taking giant leaps along the ever-shortening path of their childhood." This book is full of such lines - unique ways the author thought to describe ordinary occurrences and ideas. The story itself was interesting and well-done, but the words made this book a joy (no pun intended) to read. It is Seré Prince Halverson's first novel, and I'm eagerly awaiting more from her.