Goal #47: Read 52 books in a year. (Progress)

My Most Excellent Year, Steve Kluger

This was a really adorable YA book, centered around the “family” created by three Boston high-schoolers: strong-willed diplomat’s daughter Alejandra, Red Sox devotee (and Alejandra-adoring) T.C., and his brother-from-another-mother Augie, who loves old musicals and is on the verge of his first serious crush on the athletic Andy Wexler.  (As T.C. notes early on in the book, Augie is the last person in the world to realize he’s gay.) A realistic book, it was definitely not, and the common complaint that all of the protagonists’ voices sound the same is legit, but if you’re tired of the tortured gay characters in much of YA fiction, and want something more along the lines of a happy Boy Meets Boy-esque fantasy, you’ll love this. I was surprised to find out that the author hasn’t written young adult before–instead, he seems to be cycling through various genres but writing about his pet topics (baseball, old movies and Boston). It’s unfortunate that we probably won’t see another YA book from him, although I hope we do.

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs also wrote The Year of Living Biblically (where he attempted to follow every rule and teaching in the Bible for a year) and The Know-It-All (where he attempted to read every book of the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover), so needless to say, he’s pretty much cornered the market on doing things all the way and then writing books about it. This one’s about him trying to follow every single example of health advice ever been given in order to get as healthy as possible. I’m not entirely sure why I keep reading his books–they’re blandly enjoyable, and while the idea of his experiments always appeals to me, the reality is never as interesting as I imagine it. If you don’t know much about health, this might be a good introduction, but for those who already have the basics down, this won’t offer you much of anything new.

The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham

Maugham wrote this short novel based on the life of Paul Gauguin, the Post-Impressionist painter most well-known for ditching his life as a stockbroker and jetting off to Tahiti to paint the natives while suffering from syphilis and alcohol abuse. I had no strong feelings on Gauguin before this book–he’s one of my dad’s favorite painters, so I spent my childhood getting dragged to the Gauguin section of various art museums, all of which inspired in me profound feelings of apathy–but this book made me realize how much I hated him. What kind of asshole just ditches his wife and kids, leaving them to financial ruin, because he couldn’t just paint on the weekends like the rest of us, he had to “paint full-time” i.e. go live some romanticized vie boheme in Paris sleeping in a freezing garret somewhere and spending what little money he had left on prostitutes? And then manages to escape to Tahiti where he sleeps with prepubescent island girls, beats his wife, and plays up Tahiti’s image as an untouched libertarian Garden of Eden in order to, I don’t know, convince more men to leave behind their wives and children?

I can’t even tell you whether or not I liked the book because I was so distracted by how much rage Charles Strickland (Maugham’s Gauguin stand-in) was inducing in me. When I was done with the book, I thought, hey, maybe Gauguin didn’t do all of that; maybe Maugham took some dramatic liberties and made him worse than he actually was. So I looked it up. Nope–it turns out that the real Gauguin was even worse than Charles Strickland.

Progress:

  1. A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin
  2. Past Perfect, Leila Sales
  3. Bunheads, Sophie Flack
  4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick
  5. The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
  6. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
  7. Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum, Michael O. Reilly
  8. Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, Dorothy Wickenden
  9. The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis
  10. Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa, Dambisa Moyo
  11. The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm, Juliet Nicholson
  12. The Summer without Men, Siri Hustvedt
  13. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith
  14. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredibly Voyage, Alfred Lansing
  15. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg
  16. A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin
  17. The Comeback Season, Jennifer E. Smith
  18. Sisters, Schoolgirls and Sleuths: Girls’ Series Books in America, Carolyn Carpan
  19. A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
  20. In the Woods, Tana French
  21. Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave 1959-1969, Thomas Lisanti
  22. Darkroom, Jazzy Danziger
  23. Divergent, Veronica Roth
  24. The Tempest, William Shakespeare
  25. The Curse of the Pharoahs, Elizabeth Peters
  26. The Likeness, Tana French
  27. Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver
  28. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Film, Donald Bogle
  29. Elvis Cinema and Popular Culture, Douglas Brode
  30. The Challenge for Africa, Wangari Maathai
  31. Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
  32. A Boy’s Will, Robert Frost
  33. The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, Edmund White
  34. Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner
  35. My Most Excellent Year, Steve Kluger
  36. Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, A.J. Jacobs
  37. The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham
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