Birthday book review

For my birthday last year my dad got impressively high tech while giving the best old fashioned gift of reading. While they were at our house for dinner he kept asking if I’d checked my emails lately, and I finally asked why he cared. When I did check them, there were three emails from Amazon saying I had three new books gifted to my Kindle. Not only that, they were three books I actually wanted to read! “But how?” I spluttered, before realising that Dad and I are friends on Goodreads and he’d been perusing my wish list. Genius! He was so pleased with himself.

The first one I read was Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. In her mid-twenties Cheryl finds herself divorced and grieving her mother and decides the best way to deal with these things is to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. By herself. Without any kind of walking experience. In the days before internet research and forums existed, when you could actually find out what was what. As you do. This was one of those great books that was easy to read without being dumbed down. I looked forward to picking it up at the end of the day. The protagonist wasn’t too good to be true, but was perfectly likable and relateable. One of the best bits was the end, which I thought it was completely realistic and exactly how life often turns out after something life-changing – and that was refreshing. In my googling tonight I’ve also discovered Cheryl Strayed is Dear Sugar. Who knew?

The second one I read was Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides, because my wish list is about a decade out of date. This seems to be a polarising kind of book. I didn’t hate it, I’d come close to saying I loved it, but I found it very difficult to read. It was dense, and long-winded. I was mostly interested in the protagonist’s childhood and coming of age, rather than the incestual origins of a chromosomal disorder, which actually took a good half of the book. I could see the genius, and appreciate the genius, I just didn’t look forward to picking it up in the same way I did with Wild, although I always enjoyed it once I did. I am still looking forward to read Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot though, which is in my 2013 reading pile.

The third one was The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. I loved it. I don’t know anything about baseball, and while I probably would have gotten more out of the baseball scenes if I did, I got plenty from the book generally. It was written like it was from the 1950s, but it wasn’t – for some reason I found this really interesting and I kept being surprised when Facebook or mobile phones were mentioned. It was set on a university campus, and there is something about spending time in quadrangles, in pubs, with cerebral types, that appeals to me somehow. The characters were interesting. The musings on sport and greatness were interesting. Highly recommended.

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