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July Booklist

1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo

I'll ... just copy my Goodreads review, shall I? I HAD A LOT TO SAY.

Don't be fooled: no book in the world is going to magically make your house/life/brain more organized. If you diligently apply the KonMari method, sure, you'll own drastically fewer possessions and find them easier to keep neat. But it's hard work, not magic.

The thing is, minimalism isn't for everyone. Minimalism makes ME anxious, fretful, and out of sorts. (Advocating for minimalism also smacks of privilege: some may be forced into a minimal lifestyle, but the choice to live with minimal possessions is, I believe, always a choice made out of privilege.) Hooray for those who are made happy by it, but be careful about telling anyone else they "should" be living that way. Enjoy your lifestyle, by all means, but resist the urge look down smugly on those who choose other paths. This isn't life or death, folks. It's just stuff, and I like more stuff than you do. I own fifteen cardigans and 42 dessert plates; they make me happy and I have room to store them neatly, so who cares?
I am not a minimal kind of person.

I live alone in a 1,400 sq foot 3-bedroom house, and it's just the right amount of space. I will never be a tiny-house person or a throw-anything-you-haven't-used-in-six-months-away person.

The author's attitude towards papers of all sorts is "just throw it away," although she grudgingly admits the necessity of keeping contracts and deeds. She thinks filing is unnecessary: just throw like items in a box. (Since you're barely keeping any paperwork, who cares?) She thinks words/text clutter a house.

I surround myself with words. I've considered papering my walls in newsprint. I like layers, textures, overlapping objects. See? Not a minimalist.

... and that's okay. Because there's a lot in this book that DOES work and DOES apply to anyone:

- seriously, the clothes-folding method is genius.

- I've long held that you shouldn't keep anything that "you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful," which is similar to her directions to only keep that which makes you feel joy when you see/touch it. Sorry, you still need to keep that bottle of advil even if it doesn't "spark joy" when you hold it; but the ugly-sweater gift someone gave you that you've been hesitating about throwing out? She's right. It's fulfilled its purpose. Thank it and let it go.

- Everything needs a place. Clutter happens when you're 1) too lazy to put stuff away and/or 2) stuff has no home. If you give everything a home, half the battle's won.

2. Surprised by Meaning, Alister McGrath

3. So, Anyway ..., John Cleese

I found out about this book in London - reading a newspaper on the Tube, in fact, where I found a little blurb about this book that painted Cleese as a rather whiny, ill-tempered prat. I've seen other reviewers who felt this book showed a mean-spirited side to Cleese; I didn't see that at all. Now yes, I wish it went further (I'd love to read about how Fawlty Towers was created, for instance), but it was engaging from start to finish, and made Cleese seem like a guy I'd like to hang out with.

4. Make Me, Lee Child

(Thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy!)

Reacher doesn't go looking for trouble ... but once it finds him, if you want him to stop, you'll have to make him.

Make Me is a solid 20th installment in this series, featuring my favorite fictional boyfriend. It has a gripping plot that takes several detours and ends up in places I wasn't expecting - dark places, possibly darker than anything we've seen Reacher get mixed up in before.

Reacher remains a likable and fairly realistic action hero; well-trained but not invincible. And while fans are likely to be no doubt as to the ultimate outcome, there are plenty of stumbles along the way to leave the reader in suspense.

5. House of Outrageous Fortune, Michael Gross

Kind of a biography of a very expensive apartment building in Manhatten.
Mainly it taught me that I would be happy if I never saw the word "starchitect" again. seriously, just don't do that.

6. The Winter Sea, Susanna Kearsley

I probably shouldn't have started with this one - it seems widely agreed that it's not one of Kearsley's best - and yeah, there are certainly some problems. What's with the stilted dialog in the historical portions? The wonky DNA memory thing? The fact that our main characters fall in love for no apparent reason ... and randomly keep it a secret from everyone, also for no apparent reason?

But you know what? I still couldn't put this book down. And I'll definitely be back to try another Kearsley soon.

7. Luna Park, Kevin Baker

This book kind of broke my brain, but not for the twist ending (I'm so proud of myself: I picked up on the first subtle clue). Parts of it were staggeringly beautiful, and more of it was staggeringly heartbreaking.
I wish the art had a little more definition, but that's just personal preference. It's strong and evocative and suits the story well.
The story itself isn't what it seems at first and ultimately asks the question: is humanity doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again?

8. Blackout, Connie Willis

... I couldn't help it. Also, I guess this counts as comfort reading now. Let's be real: I had to read it again just because I missed Mike and Sir Godfrey (<3) and Eileen and Merope.

9. Is That A Fish in Your Ear, David Bellos

The art of translation - comprehensive if slightly repetitious; accessible to the non-linguist; though-provoking.

10. How to Read Churches, Denis R. McNamara

Absolutely stunning and quite comprehensive for such a diminutive book - it assumes the reader has basic architectural knowledge already and then builds on that perfectly. As always, I was thrilled to see churches I've studied/been to.

11. Blacksad: A Silent Hell, Juan Díaz Canales

This is a book I admire but cannot bring myself to love, unlike earlier volumes. And it's not the book, it's me; for I am hypocritical and will argue all day long that tragedy was the only right and just way to end the Godfather trilogy, but A Silent Hell needed a happier ending. (And for the record, Rhett and Scarlet totally get together after GWtW ends. My headcanon says so.)

The artwork is particularly stunning, however, and John Blacksad remains the sexiest feline detective in town.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Aug. 10th, 2015 06:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your KonMari thoughts! I still haven't read it, but I've had similar thoughts about how purposeful minimalism really does come from privilege.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )