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The Maladjusted Book Club Recommends

September 18, 2012

There’s about a week left in summer as I’m writing this, so that means I wasn’t a complete liar when I said to stay tuned for the Maladjusted Book Club summer pick.

But I don’t have a summer book club selection for you. I’ve been thinking about it on and off, considering whether I should do a book I already read or something new, and  not really wanting to do either. Because here’s what happens when I announce a new book:

1. I think, this is easy; all I need to do is write a post announcing the book and then another one on the day of our discussion.

2. Then I remember that I need to set up reminders for people, which makes me feel like a teacher.

3. Then I fret that I won’t have enough participants, and when someone stumbles upon my blog, they’ll think What book club? This is two people talking.

4. I forget when I’m supposed to write the book club post until mid-morning on the day of the discussion. It’s usually a day that I have an enormous amount to do, and I curse myself for putting another task on top of the pile (even if it’s a task I like).

5. I take three hours to write the post, because every time I write about a book, I end up discovering more about the book, and I want to share it all. It’s also really hard to find an angle and a way to talk about the book that is both inviting to readers of the blog, but pithy enough for those who actually read the book.

6. After I write the post, I worry that it will only be two people talking, not the ten who agreed to read the book. I consider making up a bunch of names and comment-lying.

Usually, it turns out fine, but the mental stress of the thing was more than I could handle this summer. With my whole family in transition, it was hard enough to find time to write a post about spreading cream cheese on a bagel, let alone keep up with the Maladjusted Book Club posts. Not to mention, I’m doing this online book club thing at my new job, and I have an in-real-life book club, and two in-real-life writing clubs, too. Aah! (If you want to check out my book club posts for the magazine where I work—and remember that my Attitude persona is a little different from my professional persona—go here.)

So what I can give you are a few good recommendations I read over the summer, and you can feel free to share your own summer reads in the comments section. If we’ve happened to read the same book? That’s awesome! Let’s talk.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain 

Susan Cain delves into what it really means to be an introvert—a person who gets energy from quiet, calm situations, who prefers smaller groups to larger groups, who becomes tired by too much outside stimulation, who relaxes by being alone—and helps us understand that while extroversion has become a cultural ideal, it is not, in fact, always ideal.

The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen 

This book, among other things, is about one man’s journey toward figuring out how problematic the role of money is in our society. Since Daniel Suelo has given up using money entirely, his story helped me consider my own attachment to money, and the spiritual component of exchanging money really fascinates me.  My own hang-ups about money have always had a lot to do with guilt, the feeling that I shouldn’t be spending it, that I should be saving more, that I can’t be generous because then I won’t have any left. What Daniel’s story helped me discover is to see money as just a belief system, to not let it be my personal guide. Instead, it is important to create your own path, to trust your own instincts when it comes to objects or practices that you feel are weighing you down. In addition to reminding me to appreciate simplicity (which often makes me more happy), Daniel’s story is a call to stop worrying about the future and live in the present moment.

(For other good memoirs about money, read Geneen Roth’s Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money and Liz Perle’s Money: A Memoir. I loved them both.)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I actually had the chance to see Cheryl Strayed at the LA Times Festival of Books before her book hit it big. She was eloquent and smart and definitely stole the show, but when I saw her book under one of the tents, I thought, Nah. I’m not into hiking. Luckily, enough people convinced me to read it anyway. It was one of the best books I’ve read about love, grief, and forgiving yourself. I don’t know why people shudder at Oprah’s book club picks: here, as usual, Oprah does a bang-up job.

I also read a few fiction books that I liked, but didn’t love for various reasons: Lauren Groff’s Arcadia (beautiful writing), Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding (great beginning, slower end), and Ian McEwan’s Atonement (McEw. I’m not a fan of his writing).

And may I put a little personal plug in here for my short story, “Igloo,” in the fall issue of Philadelphia Stories? Okay, thanks.

 

What books did you read this summer? 

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