My original plan to add more content to my blog was to do a book reports when I finished reading a book. But, I’m not good at book reports and I’ve never been good at finding subtle nuances of gently placed commas and comparing the main character’s flaws with Freudian psychology. So, I decided to do things a little different; instead of reading a book and reviewing it, I’m going to do a monthly book report summarizing the books I read (and picked up but never finished). It’s much more interesting than long book reviews and I’m all about bite-sized chunks.
So, the first book I read in 2014 is a re-read and it’s Steve Martin’s book An Object of Beauty: A Novel. Yes, that Steve Martin. Steve Martin’s works of fiction like Shop Girl and An Object of Beauty are very approachable much like his on-screen work but have subtle, erudite themes that make you feel like you’re being included in something truly wonderful. This book is the story of a young, ambitious New Yorker named Lacey Yeager who lands a job at Sotheby’s Auction House. Narrated by Lacey’s friend Daniel who finds her strangely fascinating and infuriating. Lacy is one of those aloof and smart people we say we want to emulate but can never truly be. While this may seem like any other “ambitious young person” book, Steve Martin throws in an Art History 101 course (complete with visual aids and pictures of the work he references) and a behind the scenes glimpse into the New York art world. I’ve always admired Steve Martin and this book made me admire him even more. It made me want to peer into his brain and watch the gears turn as they work their magic.
Next up is Membrane Fiction + Art Anthologie. I have read many books of short stories by reputable authors and usually they have a couple of stories that stand out but the rest are fillers. Not so with this book. Membrane is a release from The Dreadful Café, an author collective and publishing imprint that gives their proceeds to charity. Membrane is packed with engaging short stories on everything from zombie grandmothers, clown plagues, cannibals and more. Sprinkled in between stories are original, thought provoking pieces of art with short back stories. It’s very rare when I don’t want a book to end but I was surprised when I got to the end because I wanted more. This book is available for download only but Dreadful Café promises it will be out in print soon.
Turning now to biography, the next book is one I started but didn’t finish but not because it was a bad book, but because the “characters” in the book were repulsive, abusive jerks. I’m talking about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. I first heard an interview with Jane Ridley the author of The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince and was intrigued by the topic. Besides walking by Royal Albert Hall in London and seeing the movie Mrs. Brown I knew absolutely nothing about Vicky and Albert. This thoroughly researched book shines a light on the life and times of “Bertie” or Edward VII. It gives you an inside look into the papers and writings of the family and explains why Bertie went from a gambler, glutton and womanize to a respected head of state. I loved the writing in this book and appreciate the research, but I just couldn’t finish it. Vicky and Albert needed a healthy dose of anti-depressants and why Bertie didn’t haul off and kill them is beyond me.
The last book on my “read” list is The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts by Hanne Blank. It doesn’t matter if you weight 120 or 220 pounds, this book is for anyone who has had body issues or just can’t find any joy in exercising. When I started my running program this year, my main goal was not to run a marathon or a half marathon (that will come later) but to learn to enjoy exercise. Before I started the program, exercise was work. It was something I did to train for an event and it wasn’t fun. It was something I did because I needed to lose weight. It hurt and I beat myself up too much when I didn’t “perform” to the standards in my brain. This book helped me get beyond those feelings and learn to enjoy exercise again. The basic message of the book is we shouldn’t exercise to conform our bodies to society’s standards or implied health issues, but we should do it to feel better in our own skin and make our bodies more functional. Hanne gives sound advice on choosing workout plans, choosing workout gear and how to feel comfortable in a gym when you’re surrounded by the Beautiful People. I can’t emphasize how important this book is for anyone who hates exercise or has felt less than comfortable in their skin. It’s a down-to-earth approach to exercise with no shame and by the end you’ll feel empowered enough to move more.