How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti was a very good read. When Miranda July says "A book that risks everything,"I pay attention. It's a bold "novel from life," but honestly, to really slip all the way in, I had to tell myself to stop thinking about the "from life" part, because otherwise I found myself caught up in trying to figure fact from fiction. The book is peppered throughout with emails to the protagonist, and they are all in the same format: as a numbered list of things the character means to say. For instance (quoting from the third chapter);
3. i wish i could buy a house for a friend like i can buy a cake.
4. if you're curious about what i think you look like as a house, you should see it.
It made me want to send much more interesting emails.
Love Bomb, by Lisa Zeidner is super fantastically fun read. I mentioned this book in my previous post: I got to attend this author event as part of Litquake, so I got to hear her read the opening scene of a bridal gown-bedecked woman wearing a bomb and carrying a shotgun who crashes a wedding full of psychiatrists. It's a very funny, very entertaining book that happens to be well written and in a few moments deeply sweet, even as it handles the topic of stalkers and hostage situations in completely unexpected ways.
Happier at Home, by Gretchen Rubin. I read this on vacation, just as I had read her original book, The Happiness Project, on a vacation two years ago. It's my favorite kind of vacation read: it makes me think a little, and inspires me to start a project. It follows her school-year's worth of projects designed to make the most of home and all that means. She try things like making intentional use of smell, and even devotes a shelf to scents solely for the purpose of enjoying them (I was completely sold on the fragrances listed and impulse-bought several samples like "fireplace" that are on their way to me right now. I'll let you know if I like them). She makes weekly adventure plans with her oldest daughter. She begins work supporting organ donor issues by way of engaging with her neighborhood. There's a lot on the list of things she does. On the way back from my trip, I couldn't wait to create a list of things I wanted to work on, though for me they ended up being almost all writing related (apply for this, send short story to that, finish revising this, begin writing that). If you like thinking about projects (even if you don't end up doing them; sometimes I just like thinking about them), this is chock full of some that might get you thinking of your own.
Elizabeth I, by Margaret George. I don't usually list books that I don't like. It seems mean-spirited, and I'd rather not find my future book out there on someone's blog with unkind things said about it. That said, I'm not really recommending this book. But I am listing it because it helped me think about something in storytelling. This fictionalized portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is hefty (671 pages), and 90% of it is told from the Queen's perspective. The problem is that the Queen is very good. She is good almost all the time, and even when she's not good, she's not that bad. Which makes for interesting enough non-fiction, but for a novel, having someone be good for that many pages is boring. The other 10% of the story is told through the Queen's frenemy, Lettice (I read this for my "we don't read book club books" book club, and when it came time to discuss it, the lettuce jokes were abundant), who is delightfully bad and complicated and who changes over the course of the book, and is therefore really interesting. If you can't get enough of the Tudors and their current popularity in T.V. and books, you may enjoy the rich details about all the pageantry and costuming.
Enough deconstructing my thoughts on what I'm reading lately. I've also been recently inspired to deconstruct books for art (thank you current issue of Poets & Writers magazine!). I was practicing on a copy of something that's been so disfigured by kitten chewing, there's no hope for a used bookstore in its future: