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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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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Randi Wall September 18, 2012 at 11:43 am

Our book club read 11/22/63 by Stephen King and The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach this summer. I believe most everyone enjoyed both books. I also read lots of YA (young adult) books including two very good graphic novels, The Arrival by Shaun Tan (amazing!) and Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol.

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Jana September 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Randi,
What did you think about The Art of Fielding? I liked the beginning, but wanted him to get a little more in-depth about characters as the novel developed. At a certain point, I became frustrated by the switching around from character to character. But I will be very interested in what he publishes next.

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kelly (@kelly_bakes) September 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I’m in the middle of Quiet! I’d love to be a part of book club since I’m finally over that whole post-grad-school-can’t-finish-a-book-without-my-brain-exploding mentality. Looking forward to seeing what you pick! :)

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Jana September 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I really loved Quiet, and so many people I know enjoyed it too. Susan Cain is practically a rock star now!

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Dianna September 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I didn’t realize I had read so much this summer until I began to look back through my Kindle. I’ve read some fiction and non-fiction. Here are a few I particularly enjoyed and one not so much:

“Gold” by Chris Cleave. I read it right around the time of the London Olympics, which was just as it should be since it was set with that in the backdrop. Enjoyed it!

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. A true story of a World War II POW, Louis Zamperini, and what a story it was – from his growing up years as a juvenile delinquent, his prowess as an athlete and his being held in a Japanese POW camp. You may have seen him on some of the morning news shows being interviewed. Even my adult son read and learned from the stroy.

“A Thousand Year of Darkness” by Charles Sasser. A pretty frightening piece of fiction, if you believe a portion of it. Recommended to me by a friend, it wasn’t fact-checked very well, but if you overlook that it was entertaining.

“In The Shadow of a Badge” by Lillie Leonardi. The story of an FBI agent’s experiences as the site of the Flight 93 crash and the aftermath. It may be someone else’s, but this was not my cup of tea. She was really long on her belief in angels and how they guided her through the post-traumatic stress following her work in PA. It was just too flowery for me.

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Jana September 19, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Dianna,
The only one I heard of on this list was Unbroken; it sounds like that one is getting a ton of attention. I want to look into A Thousand Years of Darkness, but maybe I’ll save it for the dark winter.

Thanks for sharing!

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Nina September 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm

First of all, HUGE congrats on the story.

#6 here made me giggle.

Loved WILD. Have not read the others on this list. Here’s my worry when I announce anything about a book on my blog: THAT I WON’T LIKE IT! Sometimes I say what I’m reading on Twitter. Then I got follow up questions like “How did you like XYZ” and I feel stuck if I didn’t like the book. I don’t like to say so on Twitter, but I also don’t like to endorse a book I didn’t love.

Sort of off topic, but figured you could relate!

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Brett Daniels September 26, 2012 at 11:43 am

Thanks for the great recommendations. I’ve been looking for a new book to get my wife, she really likes thriller/love stories, and “Wild” reminds me of the book I bought her and that she’s reading now called “Tell Me When It Hurts” by Christine M. Whitehead. You can get check her out and get the book right off of her website, http://www.christinewhitehead.com. Thanks again for the post and suggestions, I may have to get her “Wild” next.

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