Ever since I figured out last year that no screen time for an hour before bed made it waaaay easier for me to fall asleep, I have been on a reading BINGE. Mostly fiction, mostly fun, and mostly AWESOME. This summer in particular I’ve been on a roll with some really great books, and figured I’d circle up with y’all to compare notes.
Oddly, three of the four books I’ve read recently have had “America” in the title, so evidently I’m on a patriotic theme. Come with me?
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
This was a book selected by my book club, and I was stoked for another opportunity to try a Neil Gaiman novel. (I perhaps ill-advisedly started with Good Omens which just was NOT for me, despite loving Terry Pratchett.)
American Gods totally made me understand why so many people love Gaiman so much. He captured the American voice so perfectly that one of my book club compatriots complained that the book was “waaay too dude-bro.” I was like, “But the author is British! If it reads as too ‘dude-bro,’ it’s because he so perfectly captured American dude-bro-ness.”
I also loved having Wikipedia at the ready to look up each mythological figure that got mentioned. Best part? My husband baked pasties for our book club meeting, and I have been eating them ever since.
- My Goodreads rating: 5 stars
American Savage by Dan Savage
I’ve been a Dan Savage fan since his column was still called HEY, FAGGOT, well before his first book came out. (Aww, remember when he looked like this? Adorbz!)
Anyway, Dan’s voice has had a significant influence on my writing over the last 15+ years, and it’s been inspiring to watch his media star rise and It Gets Better saves lives and his projects have gained such visibility and bla bla bla — Ok, look, fine: I’ll be honest here: I’m mostly in it for the combination of Dan’s personal stories and his relationship advice.
Dan is my very favorite bossy asshole, but his sweet stories of his marriage and child-rearing just slay me. His politics are totally inline with most of mine, so that’s great… but it’s his perspectives on long-term relationships and parenthood that keep me coming back to the Savage Pavlovian rat lever, reading year after year (and oh my god at this point, decade after decade).
In American Savage, he mentions that some LGBT activists hate him for being too conservative and heteronormative… which just adds to the joy. The HEY, FAGGOT guy is now nearing 50, happily married for ages, and the father of a teenager?! It DOES get better! It’s just been such a treat over these last 15+ to follow his work, his activism, and especially his family.
Oh and speaking of family, did anyone else catch the mysterious intrigue hidden in the Afterward? Dan thanks his sister-in-law/copyeditor, saying he’ll be nicer to her in the future. Jesus, Dan. What did you do to this poor woman?!
Ok fine, fine: I’m a ridiculous Dan Savage fangirl. For those of you who are like me, I encourage you to follow his husband on Instagram, because Dan does not lie: Terry DOES look great in leather.
- My Goodreads rating: 4 stars
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie’s book about a Nigerian woman who immigrated to the US, becomes a successful blogger, and then moves back to Lagos is BITING. Holy fuck, no one is exempt from getting skewered in this book, whether it’s bougie Nigerians, American blacks, academics of all kinds, upper-middle class white liberals (GUILTY AS CHARGED), publishing industry peeps (books AND magazines get slammed), and pretty much everyone else.
Of course the sections on blogging were especially relevant for me as a blogger (“The more she wrote, the less sure she became. Each post scraped off yet one more scale of self until she felt naked and false.”), but the book holds super provocative observations on race, immigration, American culture, hair, money, identity, etc etc etc.
Unfortunately, the protagonist doesn’t seem especially self-aware, nor does she treat the people around her well, so she’s not always that likable. (She claims to be a strong woman, but then basically spends the book relying on men for green cards, attention, and self-worth.) The plot feels thin in places, like Adichie has strung together some contrivances that give her the opportunity to hit her talking points. Characters definitely felt at times secondary to social commentary… but with a book this thought-provoking, I’m willing to overlook the threadbare components.
- My Goodreads rating: 4 stars.
Love Minus 80 by Will McIntosh
This is the standard that fluffy summer reads will now be compared to. I inhaled this book in a couple days, and loved almost everything about it. Some of the writing felt a bit odd — the set-up at the start is blazingly fast, with so many major plot-points happening in the first 2 chapters that it was almost hard to keep up.
Once I got settled in to what was happening, the book was the perfect gobble-it-up sci-fi. I loved the explorations of technology, media, and communications… the way people subvocalized to have several conversations simultaneously via voice and text, all felt very plausible.
And the bridesicle concept? *shiver* It’s the perfect combination of intriguing and just fucking creepy. Dead women rasping dirty talk at prospective husbands who might fund them being brought back to life? FUCKING CREEPY. I did have a little trouble picturing some of the things described — the book makes heavy use of the word “creche,” which I had to look up and still wasn’t totally clear how to picture.
I loved the themes later in the book about the different kinds of partnerships that have value… both the “lightning and thunder OMG I LOVE YOU” passionate kind, and the equally valuable “monogamous nonplatonic partnership” comfortable kind. I loved the way different characters found their ways to the different relationship outcomes…
This one only took a few hours to read and I’d HIGHLY recommend it for those looking for an quick, not-stupid, and slightly creepy summer sci-fi. LOVED!
- My Goodreads rating: 4 stars
Ok, Homies. What books are you gobbling up this summer? Oh, and if you use Goodreads, share your profile link! Here’s mine.