The Book List — Holiday Reads

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I’ve always wanted to join a book club but strangely enough felt too scared in Australia. Scared of what, I’m not sure — meeting people? Finding something I enjoyed? Or more realisticially, admitting that I actually love the sometimes nerdy act of discussing (ok, debating) the finer points of a character’s development or obscure themes in book?

Ever since I took the plunge back in March 2012, Book Club has been one of the highlights of my Vancouver experience. Every month a group of locals meet at someone’s house/apartment to discuss a book that we’ve just read over wine and nibbles. I’ve seen inside some gorgeous places and snacked on some delicious eats while talking about fabulous — and terrible — authors. We’ve seen the group grow and relationships develop; babies born, engagements announced, and more recently, people moving to far-away cities as they reach new career milestones. Unfortunately, this means numbers have dwindled somewhat, so if you love reading and are free one Monday night a month, please feel free to come along!

With Christmas looming — and summer holidays on the horizon for those in the Southern Hemisphere — I thought I’d list some of my favourite reads from the past year:
1. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen — I think we actually read this in 2012, now that I think about it, but I’m going to recommend it anyway. It’s dramatic, funny, and at times, brutally sad. An epic journey of one family’s life in middle-class America. In three words? Family, lust, overpopulation.
2. NW by Zadie Smith — I loved Zadie Smith’s first book, White Teeth, and this new book is in a similar vein. Multiculturalism, addiction, love, feminism, friendship … all this and more wrapped up in this modernist tale. Sometimes the writing style can be jarring but overall I found it fairly easy to read. I just wish the stories linked more, the ending wasn’t so neat, and the trails from the beginning developed more — one of the more intriguing stories that we start at the beginning of the book simply disappears! Winding, daydreaming, fragmented.
3. World War Z by Max Brooks — No, I haven’t seen the film. No, I don’t want to. Not because I don’t love Brad Pitt (who doesn’t?), but the trailer looks nothing like the book and honestly, I don’t want to ruin what was such an enjoyable, thought-provoking read. Yes, the zombie book is thought provoking. But this is a zombie book that isn’t really a zombie book. It’s a surprisingly political (and scathing) critique of our ability as humans to be resourceful and compassionate in the face of disaster. Surprising, scary, apocalyptic.
4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls — I loved this book and am slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realise it was an autobiography until I was about halfway through. A tale of a nomadic family that raised some heated discussions about the line between alternative lifestyles and child abuse at our book club, this book proves that sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Excellent, sad, and adventurous.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald — We read this just before the movie came out and I think I was the only person that loved both the book and the film. Really, if you’ve seen Baz Luhrmann’s depiction, it’s all there — one man’s attempt to create an over-the-top, new identity fails spectacularly. Class distinction, snobbery, and absurdity of materialism are alive and well in this 1920s tale and feel just as relevant today. Identity, wealth, failure.
I’m off to Colorado for Christmas this year and need some good books for the journey. Any recommendations for my trip?

6 thoughts on “The Book List — Holiday Reads

    1. The book is amazing! But very different from how the film trailer looks. It’s set 10 years after the end of the war and told from the perspective of survivors… they each reflect on the best and worst of humanity. The movie just looked too “movie star saves the world by blowing up zombies!” for me!

  1. I knew nothing of Zadie Smith when I picked up NW. It was engaging in a way that I can only compare to Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian.” Not that they are at all similar, just two experiences that transcended simply “reading.”

    Great Gatsby is the best novel ever written, also.

    1. I loved Cormac McCarthy’s The Road but have to admit I haven’t read much else of his! Love your comparison of the reading experience for each book though.

      I think The Road was so heavy I needed a break, but All the Pretty Horses is on my “must read” list. I also can’t believe I was completely new to The Great Gatsby — it’s definitely up there with my favourites now!

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