Reading Roundup: May 2011

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

This was a relatively quick read, and although it is a memoir about the author's cancer diagnosis as well as her father's, it was actually kind of fun. She has so much enthusiasm for her life and love for her father that really come through in her writing; after reading this I really wanted to meet her dad and just hang out with her family.

Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River
by George Handley

This was another memoir, but I have a harder time describing it. Like me, Handley is a transplant to Utah, but also someone with ancestors who originally settled here. He spends a year exploring the Provo river and writes about the different seasons on the river, the layers of history (both social and environmental) in Utah Valley, and his own life experience. I'm having a hard time conveying how amazing this book is. It's memoir, environmental treatise, philosophy, and religion all together. I think everyone should read it, particularly if you live or have lived in Utah.

Sarah's Quilt by Nancy Turner

I mostly read this because I wanted to get the continuing story from These is My Words. It was a nice, fun read and I loved being back with familiar characters. I didn't feel like it was quite as good as the first one since the focus is more on outer conflict than inner growth.

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

This was a book I didn't expect to like as much as I did. I like books like this that are 'literary' or 'historic' mysteries more than mysteries based on figuring out murder or other crimes. I didn't like the main character that much, and sometimes plots based heavily on people's inability to confront hard things can be irritating, but otherwise it was a really good book and I stayed up late to finish it.

The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White
by Daniel Sharfstein

I was worried that this book would be dry and slow to read, due to the fact that the author is a law professor. However, I found it quite engaging and had a hard time putting it down. It covers a lot of material, but it manages to make it understandable and interesting. The author particularly focuses on how race before the Civil War was more of a legal or social construct, rather than a biological one. I felt like I learned quite a lot from this book and came away with a more nuanced vision of American history.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

This is the third book by Picoult that I have read and I always feel like I have the same reaction. I'm intrigued by the plot but disappointed by the writing. There were many sections that felt too much like the author was trying to teach us about the condition of autism, rather than working things naturally into the story. The main character also felt too much like someone concocted from a clinical description than a real person. The premise is interesting but the book was not so great.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot

This also could have been a great book with some better editing. The premise was fascinating and I could tell that the author really was invested in her subject. She obviously spent a lot of time with Lacks' family and exploring her story, but the way she wrote about it started to turn me off after a while. I think part of the problem is that the book is presented in the beginning as more of a history/ biography and ends as a memoir of a reporter, and the two parts don't feel like they work together.

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

I checked out this book after listening to an interview with the author on NPR. She was a fascinating person to listen to and her books sounded really intriguing to me. At first I had a hard time empathizing with the protagonist at first, partly because she comes from a very different world from me. That initial dislike actually worked out well because I really enjoyed watching her change as she struggles to adapt to a new life after an accident leaves her with brain damage.


Good Hair

This was a pretty fun documentary about black hair, hosted by Chris Rock. I particularly liked it because it introduced me to a whole world that I have no experience with and didn't even know about before watching this.

Inside Job

This movie not only explained the financial crisis in a way that I could understand, it made me really mad about it (I think that was part of the point of the movie--getting people mad). My favorite part was watching the squirming of some of the people they interviewed who didn't want to acknowledge any wrongdoing.

The Parking Lot Movie

This is a hard movie to describe in a way that will make you want to watch it. It is basically a documentary about a bunch of eccentric people that all work as parking lot attendants. They have a lot of interesting things to say about their job, life in general, and the class system in America.

Rabbit Hole

I was hesitant to watch this movie because it is the story of a couple who had their four-year-old child die in an accident. However, it is based on a play and focuses much more on their emotional pain than on the accident itself. I thought it was generally a good movie, but I hard time feeling really drawn into the characters themselves. It felt a little too removed and distant from the audience.


This movie is like one of those contemporary short stories that has really beautiful writing and not much plot. I kept waiting for something big to happen and it never did. That doesn't mean it's not a great movie; I've actually been thinking about it a lot ever since we watched it. From an artistic standpoint it's an excellent movie but that doesn't mean that it is quite as entertaining as some of the other stuff out there.

The Switch

This was a fun little break from some of the heavier stuff we like to watch. I generally enjoyed it, but felt like it shifted in tone halfway through the movie and that was a little disorienting.

The King's Speech

It can be hard to enjoy a movie after hearing so much positive press about it for so long. I think the greatest strength in this movie is the acting by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, as well as the relationship between their characters. I was expecting more of a period drama, but this is really a character-driven movie and I think that in that sense it really works.


Jenny said…
I keep reading books and thinking 'should I be disappointed in the editor or the author? This book could have been really good if...' What is the deal with that?

I thought the parking lot movie was weird. Thanks for the recommendations on books!
Katya said…
Home Waters sounds really interesting. I wouldn't have expected a book like that to be written about the Provo River (especially now that I live in an area where we'd call something that size a "creek").

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