Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Books Read in January

January was such a goddamned good month for books.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

      August 30, 1975: the day fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan is glimpsed fleeing through the woods, never to be heard from again; the day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence.
      Thirty-three years later, Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist, visits Somerset to see his mentor, Harry Quebert, one of the country’s most respected writers, and to find a cure for his writer’s block as his publisher’s deadline looms. But Marcus’s plans are violently upended when Harry is suddenly and sensationally implicated in the cold-case murder of Nola Kellergan—whom, he admits, he had an affair with. As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues through his mentor’s books, the backwoods and isolated beaches of New Hampshire, and the hidden history of Somerset’s citizens and the man they hold most dear. To save Harry, his own writing career, and eventually even himself, Marcus must answer three questions, all of which are mysteriously connected: Who killed Nola Kellergan? What happened one misty morning in Somerset in the summer of 1975? And how do you write a book to save someone’s life?
( BN | GR )

This was a wonderful, calm-yet-thrilling book that I absolutely cherished. The writers out there will appreciate the flashbacks opening each chapter, where rules for writing are likened to rules for living. If you loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you will also love this better-written younger sister. (And did you know that a sequel to the Millenium Trilogy is coming out this August? What Doesn't Kill Us by David Lagercrantz. Can't wait!) I am happy I spent the extra money to get a paperback copy; it's now working its way between coworkers and friends, and I'm sure I'm going to want to read it again.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

      Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.
      And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.
      So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate breaking down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.
      This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate being different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.
( BN | GR )

I've been wanting to read this book for a loooong time now, and P gave me a copy for Christmas! I read it over about 30 hours, it was quick and charming and I picked it up every chance I got. I definitely search out books with LGBTQ characters (for great recs check out Dahlia Adler's blog), but this one was far and away the most rooted LGBTQ. I don't even know exactly what I mean by that, but it's the best word to describe it. Everything about it is completely right, and with BK's deft writing there is nothing awkward or unclear in the storytelling, even though it stays true to the messiness of life. This is the kind of book you hug like a teddy bear for a few hours after finishing it (oh, that's just me?). I definitely recommend it, and please don't wait as long as I did to get around to it. And when you're done, read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Grasshopper Jungle.

The Martian by Andy Weir

      Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.
      It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.
      But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
( BN | GR )

As great as the previous books were, this one is at the top of my list for the month. I used to be an astrophysics/physics/atmospheric science/could-NOT-decide major, and this one fed the science lover in me. Lots of numbers and facts and inner workings of astronaut life, but with enough humor and snark to entertain someone not interested in that kind of thing. Extremely high stakes and an extremely likeable character made the pages of this book fly. I had originally bought this on my Nook (it seemed appropriate for a book about Mars and science) but I am sad I don't have a paper copy to put on my favorites shelf (or to pass around amongst the previously mentioned friends and coworkers). I'll probably buy one, because that's how I roll. There isn't much to say other than you HAVE to read this book if you are at all remotely interested. You will love it. This book also won the 2015 Alex Award, which has yet to steer me wrong. This book started me on a kick of Mars books, including Caliban's War, Red Rising, and The Conquest.