What I’ve Been Reading Lately: Memoirs and Recent Releases

WhatIveBeenReading

You know when you hear or read something and you have that “AHA!” moment? The light bulb goes off in your brain and you know you just got a tidbit of info that you’ve needed. I had that experience last week when I was listening to the What Should I Read Next podcast and the discussion turned to the five possible reactions someone can have when reading a book. In my own words, they are:

  1. This is good and I like it
  2. This is good but I don’t like it
  3. This is good. Although I’m not liking it now, but I hope to like it in the future.
  4. This is trash but I like it.
  5. This is trash and I don’t like it.

Genius! I’m so thankful to have this guideline to express my thoughts and feelings about books. It was a description I was missing and I plan on using these terms often. The guidelines come from The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacob, and you can read the full post from Anne for more info.

Having said that, let’s dive into the books I’ve been reading lately. Bet you can’t guess what genre I’ve been reading? Did you guess memoirs?! If so, I see you’ve been here before. I also had a complicated reading relationship with a recent release.

 

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

Delancey tells the story of how the author and her husband opened a restaurant, somewhat reluctantly (well, on her part), and the struggles and lessons learned along the way. I worked restaurant jobs in high school and college, so I could relate to the restaurant drama stories. But, somewhat surprisingly, I could also relate to the struggle of taking on something that felt too big and asked too much, since that’s how I feel about our military life. I felt tears welling up in my eyes as she related her denial, anger and finally her acceptance that they were in fact going to do this, because that’s exactly how I felt about my husband staying in the military. It was a surprisingly sweet and heartfelt memoir. If you like foodie memoirs, you’ll love it. If you’ve ever had to face up to a Goliath-sized challenge, you’ll appreciate her perspective. There were two “downsides” to reading this story: 1. I kept craving pizza and 2. Now I want to travel to Seattle and eat at this restaurant.

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee

Although this book was only recently released, I was already hearing positive “buzz” about it. Between the positive reviews and the unique setting of the book, I was intrigued. It takes place in Hong Kong among a community of Americans living there because of work. Although I know very little about Hong Kong, as someone that has lived in sort of a similar situation (military life and base living), I could relate to the drama of living in a small, interlinking community and the resulting gossip mills. The characters were not unlikeable, but they also weren’t loveable – they were simply people of varying personalities and going through their own dilemmas. One of the story lines delved into a topic that I try to avoid in my reading, but overall I think it was handled well and it added to the story. It could have easily veered into a dark place that I’m not willing to go, but I’m thankful it didn’t. The writing was solid. In fact, I loved the prologue to the story. The story felt believable. Things didn’t wrap up nicely at the end, but in a way they did. Not in the predictable, boring kind of way. Nothing felt forced. It was all the things I look for in a story. I can’t say that I adored it, but it was good.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The author, a neurosurgeon finishing up his residency, finds out he has lung cancer. Immediately, I assumed this would be a heart-wrenching story about his pain and death. I figured it’d be a powerful story but probably one that my heart couldn’t handle. I’m happy to report (and hopefully encourage other readers) that this book was so much more a celebration of his life than a tragic telling of his death. His stories were interesting and insightful. And his continual determination and hope was utterly inspiring. I found there was an interesting tension between him and his doctor. He kept pressing her to answer this question: “How much time do I have?” (Which, of course, she couldn’t and wouldn’t answer) and instead she kept flipping it and asking him: “What do you value? Pursue that.” I will be tucking that nugget away in my brain and plan on asking myself that question often because really that’s what it all comes down to: what do you value? It was a heavy book, with lots of food for thought, but it didn’t leave me feeling depressed. I felt thankful for his story.

As usual, I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for the monthly Quick Lit. (Although I’m posting a couple days early because of our family stay-cation later this week!) I also highly recommend her new-ish podcast, which I mentioned above, What Should I Read Next. It’s a ton of fun and a bright spot in my week.

Now it’s your turn: What have you been reading lately?

 

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. Thanks for supporting my book buying habit.

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