So I'm reading this book that I never thought I'd enjoy called Drop Dead Healthy by A. J. Jacobs. At first glance, it looks like a lame fitness/diet book. However, I am LOVING IT and don't want it to end! A. J. has made it his goal to become his healthiest self over the course of a year. Trying out every health or diet tip he stumbles across to weigh its true benefits, from fad diets to constant exercise to medical treatments, this is a both hilarious and very informative book. Jacobs mixes his own humorous experiences with little interesting pieces of history and medical facts from real life - apparently, it is not an UNcommon practice in larger cities for people to get plastic surgery in order to alter the sound of their...farts. Yeah, I said it. I am amazed at the lengths this author is going to in order to get healthy, write this book, and learn more about which health tips work and which don't: so far he has had acupuncture, a colonic, taken barefoot jogs, and attended crazy exercise classes like "laughter yoga." Just to name a few. I am loving this book and you will too!
The fact that I almost didn't pick up this book at all made me think about all the books I've read in the recent past that I thought I would hate...but ended up loving! There are tons! It just goes to show you that you can't pass by a book just because you think you don't like a certain genre - you might end up missing something fantastic.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and Delirium by Lauren Oliver are two very similar books: they are both young adult novels, and they're both what you would consider a "dystopian," science-fiction-esque story. And I loved both of them. But you should know that I stopped reading young adult novels when I was around 13, and I was hesitant to start reading them again only about a month or two ago. I'm not sure why; it just seemed like the entire genre had become full of vampires and werewolves, and yes, science fiction. Which is somewhat true. But if you look hard enough, you can find some good ones. First of all, "Uglies" is the first in a 3-part series of books by Westerfeld. The series is set in a future society where everyone has an operation at the age of 16 to make them stereotypically beautiful. Being "pretty" is the main focus, rather than being smart or successful. When the main character and her best friend rebel and go outside of the closed society, things become pretty chaotic. I loved this book and all its true-to-life themes.
Secondly, "Delirium" is also set in a future society where teenagers are medically "cured" at a certain age. But in this case, they are being cured of love. Love is considered a disease in this novel, and at age 18, everyone is cured, making them immune to it. All of society's ills are blamed on love. Before she turns 18 though, our main character, you guessed it, falls in love, and tries to escape the tight hold society has on her. So good! And people, I am FAR from being a science-fiction reader, trust me. I am not one to stray outside of my comfort zone, so if I liked these books, chances are, you might too.
Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay was a really thick, intimidating historical novel, but I zoomed right through it and didn't want to put it down! Nina was a famous Russian ballerina, but is now old and confined to a wheelchair. She decides to sell all of her jewelry at auction, and we get to see the story behind each piece. The story jumps from past to present, slowly revealing Nina's many secrets. I loved this book and was drawn in from the very start. The writing was absolutely beautiful, and surprisingly, I very much enjoyed the setting in Russia.
Stitches by David Small was a compelling memoir written for adults - in the form of a graphic novel. My God. Graphic novel! I tell you what, I felt so dorky checking this one out at the library. I felt like I may as well have scooped up some manga too. But ohhhhhh I was impressed! This is the first graphic novel I have ever read, and I kind of want to buy it for myself. David Small had a VERY dark childhood; a scarring incident/surgery leaves the relationship between him and his parents in ruins when he was young. His was a depressing and very moving story, and I'll be honest, it touched me - as much as a...comic book...can touch one, I suppose. I had some preconceived notions about graphic novels, I'll admit, but my goodness, this one blew all of 'em out of the water!
Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman: of course the French do it better. Okay, I don't have kids. Nor do I plan on doing so. But dammit, I still loved this book! The author, living in Paris, noticed that French children seemed generally much more well-behaved and healthy than American kids. But why? Answer: French parenting. Laid-back but not permissive, free of parental guilt, and freedom to make plans without the kids? Sounds good to me! Soooo unexpectedly fascinating! Check this one out even if you're NOT a mom!
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald was honestly one of the best books I've read so far this year. Inspired by the old (real life!) practice of using a "practice baby" in home ec classes, Henry House was one such (fictional) baby. The effects that this had on him, though, were nearly disastrous. Both a coming of age story and a look back to the 40s through the 70s, this was a GREAT read. Henry becomes terrified of making decisions and forming attachments of any sort, even as an adult. I had never heard of this practice before reading this book, and I find the premise to be extremely fascinating. I loved this novel.
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka was another historical novel, this time about Japanese women. This coming from someone who thought she hated historical fiction. This beautiful, tiny little novel was very lyrical and literary. With little to no dialogue, it was about young Japanese brides meeting/being with their American husbands for the very first time. Each have different reactions to their new husbands who are basically strangers to them, and it is written from the perspective of the Japanese community as a whole. WWII shatters everyone's world, of course. Beautiful, I would read this again and again.
OH EM GEE. If I could only read one book again for the rest of my life, I think it would be this one (sorry Harry Potter and Elizabeth Berg). The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern definitely wins my favorite book of the year vote. This novel was like nothing I have ever read before in my entire life. It is focused on two young "magicians" that are set up to be rivals and "duel" at this circus, which is unlike any traditional circus you've ever seen before. Every character is fascinating; every scene is magical and breathtaking. It was written SO WELL - I could almost smell the cotton freakin' candy. It was awesome. That's all I can even say. And I don't even like magical realism in novels AT ALL. But this book? Blew me away.
And okay, I won't lie.
I jumped on the bandwagon. Don't read this if you're looking for good writing or plot points, however. It's purely written for the...erotic value? Sigh.
In other news, Jared and I have engagement pictures tomorrow, and I am at a loss for what to wear. I don't understand how one can have a closet full of clothes and still have nothing to wear. I'm about ready to pull out a pair of Jared's UnderArmour shorts, a high school sweatshirt, and a ratty pair of fake Uggs and call it a night. Those would be some Klassy engagement photos.