Tag Archives: book riot

Two More Read Harder Tasks Down, with a Shared Theme of Adulthood: Tasks 8 and 9

2 Jun

In my last post I wrote about how vacation and illness gave me time to read four books for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. These are the two latest books, All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg and An Age of License by Lucy Knisley, which are about two characters wondering if they’re acting their ages.

These two books are different but share the theme of adulthood, and the theoretical questions that come with it. Am I an adult yet? Am I doing things “right”? Am I where I want to be in this point in my life? I realized the books had similar themes as I was writing this post, a pleasant coincidence.

To read past posts about my experience with the Read Harder challenge, click here.

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All Grown Up, by Jami Attenberg

Task 8 was Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location, for which I chose All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg.

My hold request in Cloud Library for this title came through while I was on vacation, and I downloaded the book to the Cloud Library app on my iPhone. (Click here to learn more about what devices support Cloud Library.) The app has a nice, user-friendly interface. In particular, I like the subtle page-turning animation when reading the eBook. I also used the Cloud Library app to listen to How to Murder Your Life, which I wrote about last month. That foresight proved helpful as I finished another book (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, which doesn’t fulfill any of the Read Harder Challenge Tasks, but is still a terrific nonfiction read) on the flight home and was able to read All Grown Up on my phone.

All Grown Up follows Andrea, a woman in her early 40s living in Brooklyn (geographically 3 miles from Hoboken) who fumbles her way through men, a job she’s terribly bored at but won’t leave because it pays well, and her evolving friendships–feelings many adults around the world have. Her Brooklyn neighborhood is undergoing gentrification, and she is sad to lose the Empire State Building view she once had from her apartment that is now obscured by a new building. I can relate to that, as two giant cranes now blight the view from my window.

Andrea is a complicated character, and sometimes her behavior can be appalling. For example, she is upset when her mother moves from Manhattan to Vermont to help her brother and sister-in-law care for their severely handicapped child.

Through flashbacks we learn more about Andrea’s experiences, which have shaped who she is in the present and allows the reader to sympathize with her. She aspired to be an artist but abandoned that dream and regrets. This a spare, beautiful novel that features a character with whom you may identify but dislike.

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An Age of License, by Lucy Knisley

For Task 9, Read a Travel Memoir, I chose to read An Age of License by Lucy Knisley. After being invited to participate in a comic con in Norway, Lucy decided to travel through Europe to meet up with friends and pursue a love interest based in Sweden, and her experiences are documented in this graphic memoir.

Lucy features many drawings of food she ate on her travels, which appealed to me as I love trying new food when I travel. (Remember how I wrote about in my last post that reading Crazy Rich Asians has inspired me to travel to Singapore and eat at the food stalls in street markets?) Her drawings of cheese and wine and baguettes she ate while in France made me recall my trip to Paris, which was the best food destination I’ve visited so far. (Maybe until I get to Singapore…)

The title An Age of License comes from what Lucy believed was a French saying about youth being a time when you’re free to do whatever you want. Although the phrase turned out to be folly, it’s an interesting idea to ponder.

I liked this book and following Lucy’s travels through Europe, and plan to read more of her work soon. The author was in her late twenties when she wrote it, and she had a lot of Deep Thoughts about her age and life etc. I will celebrate my 35th birthday later this year and have little patience for the navel-gazing that afflicts many twenty-somethings, so my eyes involuntarily rolled while reading some of these sections. Was I as insufferable at that age? When I’m in my forties will I roll my eyes at thirty-somethings? Time will tell.

Stay tuned for my next post on another completed task.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

A Librarian Takes on the Read Harder Challenge: Crazy Rich Asians for Task 6, and Drama for Task 7

12 May

A week’s vacation and a seasonal-allergies-induced sinus infection have given me a lot of recent downtime to read. As a result I’ve made more progress on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge! I have completed FOUR tasks since my last post. I will write about two tasks here, and the next two in another post.

(Click here to read more about my Read Harder journey.)

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Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan

For my sixth task (Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color) I chose to read Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, which was long on my to-read list. This novel starts with Nick Young inviting his girlfriend Rachel Chu to accompany him to Singapore for a wedding and to meet his family. What Nick fails to tell Rachel is that the wedding is the hottest social event in Asia, and that his family is crazy-super-mega-wealthy, making him the most eligible bachelor among Singapore’s elite. Poor Rachel is the lamb brought to the slaughter on what she thinks will be a fun vacation with her boyfriend.

Each chapter alternates between the points of view of Nick and Rachel, Nick’s cousin Astrid Leong (one of the few relatives in Rachel’s corner but experiencing her own struggle in the b-plot), and Nick’s tenacious mother Eleanor. Be prepared to armchair-travel when the novel moves between London, Paris, Singapore, Shanghai, Macau, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Sydney, and other exotic locations.

The story was super dishy–the characters like to gossip. The descriptions of the palatial homes and the luxe places the rich live and gather will make your jaw drop. What spoke to me was the food talk that may make you hungry. Singapore is known for its markets with street food stalls that I want to explore. In particular, I want to try goreng pisang (deep-fried banana fritters). I am by no means wealthy enough to hang with real crazy rich Asians, so the street markets are most likely within my budget.

Crazy Rich Asians will shock you, make you laugh, and make you hungry. If you don’t read the book, definitely see the film adaptation (shooting now) when it hits theaters. I look forward to reading China Rich Girlfriend and the upcoming Rich People Problems, all part of the Crazy Rich Asian series.

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Drama by Raina Telgemeier

In the seventh task I completed (A book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country) I read Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Drama follows Callie, who is part of her middle school’s drama club stage crew, as she and the cast and crew prepare for an upcoming musical production. She has a couple romances, including one with a boy who realizes he is gay. The inclusion of gay characters resulted in challenges (which are formal, written complaints submitted to a library about a book’s content) and bans (removal of a challenged book from a library’s shelf) of this book. For more on the case of Drama, click here to read an analysis by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. At this link is a roundtable discussion including librarians about challenges against Drama.

I was familiar with Telgemeier’s work, having read her graphic novel adaptations of The Baby-Sitters Club (my favorite books to read as a kid!) and Ghosts, which is set during a Dia de los Muertos festival (a celebration I am fond of) and is an emotionally devastating story.

As a musical theater geek, I enjoyed how the book was set up with an overture and acts like an actual musical. I love the diverse characters Telgemeier incorporates into her stories and the sensitive way she addresses tough topics in her work. Also, I got a kick out of Callie’s annoying little brother Richard, as an annoying little sister myself. I plan to read Smile and Sisters, also by Telgemeier.

Stay tuned for my next post, about Tasks 7 and 8!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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