Saturday, November 19, 2011

On Her Nightstand - Annie of Turning Pages

I've been a fan of Annie and her blog Turning Pages for a long time, so when she signed on for  November Sponsor For a Cause and agreed to a do a guest post, I was tickled pink.  Annie is a beautifully gifted writer, and I've told her many times before that she is wise beyond her years.  I love Annie's heart for giving and the way she strives to live a better, fuller life.  I truly admire her so much and put her on my list of "bloggers I'd like to meet".  And lucky for me she loves to read and has really, really good taste in books, so she's here today to share some of her recent reads...

Turns out that writing a guest post for a blogger you admire and respect is more difficult than I first thought. And despite the wide variety of topics that meandered around my head this week, none felt as comfortable or as familiar or as appropriate for Andrea's internet home than the topic I love addressing the most: books. Each month, on my own blog, I recap what I've read and whether I've liked it (and why or why not). Today, you get a preview of what's been on my nightstand so far this season. Happy reading!
Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Finished: Early November
I'd been reading hype all over the blog world about this one, and a few months ago, when Borders closed (insert obligatory moment of silence here), I grabbed up my own copy. It took me until our recent vacation to pick it up, though, since I was a little daunted by the book's description. It sounded heavy, and it was, but in the best possible ways. As Jordan and I traveled from our home in Tallahassee to a tiny beach town down south, I became completely absorbed in the world Foer created, a world in which a little boy tries to survive post-9/11, post the death of his beloved father. The book is mesmerizing, and I didn't put it down during the entirety of our seven-hour drive. Foer is a talented storyteller -- you'll fall in love with the heartbreaking main character -- and I was happy to be his eager listener. I could not possibly recommend this one enough. (Another bonus? It's honestly unlike any book I've read. I don't know what I could possibly compare it to, and I think that may be part of Foer's magic.)

Book: Committed
Finished: Early November
I know a lot of women have mixed thoughts about Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love (both the book and the film version; you can read my thoughts here), but I found her to be an honest narrator, so I was more than happy to pick up a paperback copy of her recent release, Committed. Don't go into the book thinking it's another travel memoir; instead, inspired by her own plans to wed, Gilbert tackles the topic of marriage, interviewing and researching the institution from top to bottom. Although this isn't the page turner that Eat Pray Love was, I think that has more to do with the subject matter than the writer herself. I appreciate Gilbert's writing style and the effort she appears to put into her books; I found Committed to be historically fascinating and often would look up from its pages, detailing facts and stories to Jordan out loud. I like a book that challenges me, that makes me question what I've always thought. Committed did that. It made me ask myself tough questions and prompted a couple of really great discussions. In fact, I'd recommend reading this with a group of other women, maybe in a book club-type format. I think the discussion would be valuable.
Book: Backseat Saints
Finished: Early November
I think Joshilyn Jackson can do no wrong. I love Southern fiction when it's done well, and Jackson always seems to do it justice. I think Backseat Saints is my final Jackson book to read (until her new release comes out in January), and while I'm not sure it's my favorite, it certainly didn't fail to please. Her characters are vibrant and real; you just keep turning page after page because you care that much. I don't like when reviewers give away too many details, so I can't tell you what I found disappointing about the novel. The good news is that the disappointment was, of course, minimal, because Jackson is just an excellent fiction writer. I highly recommend gods in Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming as well.

Book: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Finished: Early November
Another book the blog world has been buzzing about, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is reminiscent of Tina Fey's earlier-released Bossypants, but it'd be a shame to compare the two too much. Kaling and Fey are both funny women, but they're also very different storytellers. Fey has had more life experience, so her essays, in my opinion, were more reflective, more well-rounded, more thought-provoking, maybe even just better written. Still, Kaling is likable and a more than competent writer; the book reads like a collection of blog posts or conversations with a friend. I was most impressed, though, with Kaling's thoughts on marriage. Like Fey's reflections about her father, Kaling's chapter on what makes her parents' marriage great -- they're "pals" -- had me in stitches and tears. It made me want my marriage to be great, and since there are so many people out there -- particularly in Hollywood -- who don't seem concerned with that kind of standard, Kaling's take was particularly refreshing. This was my book club's choice for the month, and while I think some were disappointed (some girls thought the book was "too random"), most of us -- all, admittedly, in our mid-20s -- thought it was highly entertaining. I finished my copy in a few hours.


Finished: Mid-November
My brother recommended this book with the quick disclaimer: "It's not what you think." Sure enough, I got some weird looks from passersby who saw the book in my hand -- I guess they thought I planned on renouncing my faith? -- but Leaving Church was really about just the opposite: It was about finding your place in faith and coming to terms with fellow believers. Taylor, a former Episcopal priest, expounds on why she left the priesthood, on how years of service to God had left her exhausted, burnt-out, and perhaps far too reliant on church, and not reliant enough on the Father. I love fellow believers who are honest and genuine about their journey of faith; Taylor joins a long line of narrators who I have come to love for their willingness to unflinchingly tell their stories. Like so many, I have been hurt and burnt-out by church. In fact, I have a feeling my brother made this recommendation based on some recent experiences of my own. Taylor, though, beautifully reminds us of what there is to love about church and the Creator. I have a feeling this is a book I'll be turning back to time and time again. I read it with pen in hand, knowing that I'll need those words imprinted on my soul more than just once.

I hope these little reviews have inspired some holiday reading. Thanks, Andrea, for such a fun opportunity! Have a happy weekend, everyone!

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