Hi, sweet readers. This is it–we are officially in autumn. I’m really thrilled to be getting into October because, truly, September was not a good month for reading. I neither enjoyed much of what I read, nor did I really feel like reading at all. Everyone goes through a reading slump, right? No worries; I’m still keeping up with my reading challenge.
Here’s what I read in September:
A book a friend recommended: The Martian by Andy Weir
So, this book is having a moment. As of right now, the Ridley Scott film adaptation is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, the book itself is also receiving high marks among readers, having been chosen for the Goodreads Choice Winner of 2014. If you’ve missed any discussion of The Martian thus far, it’s about an astronaut named Mark Watney who becomes stranded on Mars after the mission is aborted and his crew members unintentionally evacuate without him.
My good friend recommended this book to me, raving about the technical-yet-digestable writing style. In all honesty, I had a love-hate relationship with the writing style. At first, it seems like the book will rely on a log book-style account of Watney’s struggle to survive, including every minute detail a person would need to stay alive on a remote planet with scant supplies or resources. Then, the point of view shifts to the crew and team at NASA (so the story goes back and forth from first-person to third-person) struggling to contact and rescue Watney. I found myself losing interest in the third-person sections of the book, because I wanted to stick with Watney and follow along with what he was doing. His narrative voice was far more interesting, and surprisingly hilarious. I was cracking up right and left while reading his sections. Also, although I was told this book is perfect for those who are not science-oriented (read: me), I was a little bewildered at some of the jargon in this book. In his logs, Watney discusses and explains several scientific processes that he needs to use in order to stay alive, and they’re sometimes hard to follow. I’d say engineers would really dig this book, more than non-engineers. I’m glad I picked it up, but I’m looking more forward to the film, which is being released in a few days. I think the dual perspective would lend itself better to film. Three stars.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Eughhhhh. This is a book I would never have picked up on my own, but I got the bright idea to enroll in a Southern literature course. Y’all, this is not my first Faulkner. I’ve read his short story “Barn Burning.” I know he’s supposed to be one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, and perhaps of all time. I don’t care. I hated this book. I hated the writing, I hated the characters, I hated everything. And no, it’s not because I didn’t “get it.” The reason why I don’t like it is because there’s nothing in it to “get.” Get it?
This is the story of a poor Southern family who must make a days-long journey into town to bury their recently-deceased matriarch. It is told from several different perspectives (different members of the family, people outside the family), yet there is little to no differentiation between each character’s section. Oh my God, the writing. Y’all. It’s one thing to intersperse stream-of-consciousness throughout a story. It’s quite another when that’s the method you rely on for the majority of the story. Half the time I couldn’t comprehend what was happening, because the writing was too introspective and confused. . It’s hard to connect to a character or a situation when it’s described so ambiguously. Also, the tone of the book put me to sleep. It’s catatonic; no sense of dread or excitement anywhere in the story. I kept picturing a flat line on a heart rate monitor. This book may get its own blog post, because I cannot limit my thoughts on it to one short summary. I will not be picking up Faulkner again; there are far too many other classics I’d rather spend time with. One star.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
How about another Southern read to wash Faulkner out of my eyes? This is a political novel, not the typical genre I reach for. Warren based the story on the real-life politician Huey Long in the Depression-era South. It takes on a Gatsby-esque narrative quality; the focus of the story is politician Willie Stark, but the narrator is his press agent, Jack Burden. It’s a lengthy tale of a man’s rise to power in Louisiana, first as a man of the people, and then a transition into something much more sinister.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t get all the way through this book, but not because I didn’t like it. It’s probably one of the slower-moving books I’ve read, which I actually think benefits the story, because it’s a hefty one and it spans several years. But it’s slow, very slow. I think I’d like to pick up this book again sometime and continue where I left off, because the writing is quite good. I can definitely see how this won a Pulitzer. For now, though, there are other books I’d like to get to. Three stars.
What did you read in September? I’d really like to hear.