Ah here we are. The end of summer. I mean, not really, summer still has like three weeks in it. But the part that people love, the long relaxed days spent at the beach are pretty well done. It’s great news for people like me who don’t like summer but this year it means that by the time you read this, I will be back at my desk in the office and my tiny girl will be settling into daycare.
But we’re hear to talk books. Specifically to do a wrap up on the abysmal failure that was my attempt at participating in the #15BooksofSummer challenge hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books!
I made a list of 15 books and as of my last update, I had finished eight. Annnnd that’s still the case.
But hey, I did read eight books from my shelves that I probably wouldn’t have looked at twice without the challenge. AND I still have a couple of them to review so it’s not a complete waste.
So here are the last three books I read for this challenge:
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. This was a book about Gilbert’s writing process and how if she let her fear of failure stop her, she never would have had anything published. She talks to other writers and creative people about how they make their creativity work for them. The book makes it seem so manageable to have a creative life alongside the one that maybe pays your bills – it’s OK if your writing/painting/embroidery/whatever is just for you. But if you don’t make space for your creative life (if you want one), you will just be sad.
I really got a lot more out of this book than I thought I would. I appreciated her approach to this book, the people she spoke with, how she makes it sound so easy. I ended up giving this book back to my sister because I think it’s one that she will get a lot of out of as well. So not only did I read a book on my metaphorical shelf, I got rid of a book on my physical shelf as well!
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I think I’m probably one of the very last people to read this but just in case: In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest at his current residence, the Hotel Metropole in Moscow. For the next few decades, he lives in a small room in the attic, surrounded by those who work at the hotel and become his friends. His time there is made more bearable by the books he reads and the friendship he forms with the daughter of a diplomat, also staying in the hotel.
I’d been told to read this book for a long time and I kept putting it off because a) I don’t like being told what I should read and b) it took ages for this book to come out in paperback (it’s like I’ve never heard of libraries).
I really loved it though. I loved how philosophical the Count was about life and love and politics. How, by limiting himself to one location, Towles gives himself room to create a layered story with a cast of finely drawn characters. It is an intensely atmospheric novel, elegant and surprisingly emotional. It took me some time to get through it (it is DENSE) but I don’t regret the time I spent with it.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I tried to read this novel about a young woman recently arrived in New York City and working at one of the city’s premier restaurants before. Being old before my time and having never worked in a restaurant, it seemed like maybe I made a mistake in buying this book that everyone was losing their minds over.
I’m still not convinced that I am the target audience but I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. The descriptions of food alone were worth it. It made me think of the late great Anthony Bourdain more than once and that’s never a bad thing. But for me, it veered dangerously into girl-obsessed-with-boy-who-will-never-love-her-back territory. There was just enough soul searching on her part to save it but only just. There’s a weird love triangle thing that feels sinister but never amounts to anything and I was left wondering why it was even a part of the story.
Still, I read it and I didn’t hate it which I’m counting as a win.
So there you have it. My 15 Books of Summer project can’t quite be called a success but it wasn’t a complete failure either. Did you participate? How did you do?