After I finish reading a book that I have completely fallen in love with, I go through a bit of denial and withdrawal because, obviously, I just don’t want it to end. I have a tendency to live within the pages of the book long after I have finished reading, revisiting specific chapters, and growing increasingly more obsessive (and decidedly weird/nerdy/awesome) the more I digest what I have just read. I take this to be a good thing because this doesn’t happen with every book I read, and I know I’m not the only person who experiences this. “Did that really happen?” “Are you sure there isn’t an epilogue?” “Why aren’t there 500 more pages?” “What will I do now?” “How will I ever occupy my free time if I don’t have this masterpiece of a book to read oh-my–gosh-I -don’t–think-I-can–handle- this.” Among the books I’ve read this year, there are two that I can describe as such.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Certain authors have the ability to make you grow very comfortable (or I suppose in this case, very uncomfortable) with the world they have created. The Age Of Miracles has been the talk of the town among the Vroman’s staff in the past few months, so, trusting their recommendations, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
I began reading with no idea of what the book was about, other than some vague anecdotes that sounded like something I would like. I knew the story centered around a young girl named Julia who happens to be growing up at the same time the world was quite literally slowing down. Seriously- the rotation of the Earth was gradually slowing (referred to in the book as “The Slowing”), making days and nights longer, and affecting the planet in unpredictable ways. Now, don’t go thinking this is just some crazy Twilight Zone-esque story (I mean, there’s a hint of Twilight Zone in there, definitely, and who doesn’t love that?), because there is so much more. So much more.
Yes, this is a coming-of-age story about Julia. She is 12 years old and dealing with body image, a changing family dynamic, first kisses, self-esteem, and what it means to fit in. But, this is also a story about the world changing in an unfathomable way. There is an intriguing dichotomy between the problems Julia faces, which is what makes for such a compelling story. I mean, the rotation of the Earth was slowing with no certain end, and she was really just concerned about buying her first bra. Julia wasn’t even being selfish really- as a character, she handled everything pretty well, and she just proved that life goes on, sometimes under even the most extreme circumstances. There were times in the book when she was just as worried about the state of the planet as she was about the boy next door. The Age of Miracles is a refreshing look at this type of scenario; Julia was growing up and realizing that there were many things she couldn’t change, but there were a lot of things she did still have control over, so she chose to embrace those instead. Karen Thompson Walker introduces us to a character we can relate to, even under extraordinary circumstances.
Also, fun fact: The Age of Miracles was chosen as the 2013 One City, One Story selection for Pasadena. There will be a lot to talk about with this one. Find more information about One City, One Story here.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I’m not sure I would have chosen to read this book if it weren’t for the fact that nearly everyone I work with was falling over each other to get a copy. However, I have learned to trust my colleagues and their various book recommendations. When interest in a book catches like wildfire, I know it’s a pretty good indication of what I should be reading next. So, I picked up Gone Girl.
Initially, I was skeptical- the book description reads like the synopsis of a Lifetime Original Movie (a really awesome one that sucks you in and prevents you from doing anything else for the rest of the day, but a Lifetime movie just the same); happy couple on their 5th wedding anniversary, beautiful wife goes missing, husband becomes the primary suspect, etc. I’m not one to turn down a good Lifetime movie, what with its formulaic storyline, realistic script, and exceptional acting, but I wasn’t sure I could commit to reading one.
Well, FALSE. I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried. On the surface, the storyline appears to be very simple. The couple in question, Amy and Nick Dunne, appear to be happy. Then Amy goes missing and Nick is implicated in the crime. But Gillian Flynn is not in the business of predictability, and she creates a twisting, enthralling story that is impossible to stop reading. Told in alternating voices, the reader learns Amy’s and Nick’s side of the story independently. That is, until their stories eventually collide.
I would suggest reading this with a friend so that you have someone to talk to about what happens. A lot of your conversations will probably begin with “Can you even believe that?” “Seriously?!?!” and “What the what!?” This is an awesome feeling while reading, so being able to share it with someone makes it 80 times more fun. I read it on a flight to Ohio, so I didn’t have anyone with whom I could share my experience. I didn’t think the stranger next to me would appreciate my extreme excitement, so I just exclaimed a lot in my head and, never moving from my seat, read the entire book in 4 hours. Exactly. It’s that good.
So, like I said, I need my can’t-put-the-book-down fix. And my resolution is to read more frequently so I can find those books more often. I’ll make some lofty book-related resolutions for which you all can hold me accountable, but I think I’ll do that on Wednesday (already off to a great start, right?). Until then, here’s a short list of the books I have my eyes on for 2013.
Eight Girls Taking Pictures by Whitney Otto
Dear Life by Alice Munro
The Dawn of the Deed by John A. Long
A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins
Astray by Emma Donoghue
Speculating Daguerre: Art and Enterprise in the Work of L.J.M Daguerre
by Stephen C. Pinson
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
What’s on your list?
Here’s to a year of amazing books and a year filled with new ones to discover!
Happy New Year!
I am hosting the Lisa O’Donnell event for her debut novel The Death of Bees. It has come to my attention that I very desperately need to read this book, so I’m moving it to the top of my To Read list for this year. Take a look:
The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell