Books: What I Read in July

And … I’m back. Decided to take a bit of a break from blogging for July, so I’m going to skip reviews of what I read in June and get right to the books I read last month. Except for the first book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, because it’s really five books and I read them over the course of June and July, along with a few others.

Ready? Let’s begin.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I have a bit of a hypothesis about Douglas Adams’ books. I like the Hitchhiker’s trilogy (it’s actually five books. Just let that sink in and you’ll get the humor found through the books). But I love Dirk Gently. And I think that’s because I read the Dirk Gently series first. Meanwhile, people who read Hitchhiker’s first love it, but only like Dirk Gently. My hypothesis that whichever Adams series you read first is the one you like more could have nothing to do with anything and could just because we are different people, and so we like different things.

Anyway, Hitchhikers. The basic premise: Right before Earth is destroyed so that an intergalatic superhighway can be built, Ford Prefect (an alien) whisks Arthur Dent (a human) off of the planet. Hilarity ensues, over the course of five books.

Admittedly, some of the books are better than others. I found the third book, “Life, the Universe and Everything,” to be a bit of a slog, while I thought the fifth book, “Mostly Harmless,” was the most enjoyable (after the first book, which is absolutely hilarious). “Mostly Harmless” is a little on the dark side and the ending is a bit, “whoa, OK, did that just happen?” But I liked it.

If you’ve never read Hitchhiker’s, go read it. But first, I’d recommend reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Just to test my  hypothesis.

 

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

July was all about re-reading books I’d enjoyed in the past. I first read The Children Act, a slim novel from Ian McEwan, when it was published in 2014. It’s been on my re-read list ever since.

Fiona Maye is a high court judge in the family court in London. She’s earned praise and recognition for her level headed decisions in challenging cases, most notably a case involving conjoined twins. Severing the twins would save the one, but kill the other. Leaving them attached would kill both.

In The Children Act, Fiona faces another challenge. A 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness has leukemia and is refusing blood transfusions, because of his religion. The transfusions would most likely save his life. Fiona has to decide whether to accept that his wishes are valid or rule in favor of the hospital giving him the transfusions.

At the same time, her personal life is going to shit. Her husband has announced that he’d like to have an affair (but stay married) and promptly leaves their shared flat. Fiona’s constantly wondering if she made the right choice in not having children. Although she ultimately makes a decision in her case, a few of the choices she makes at the same time come back to haunt her.

Although The Children Act is a short book, it packs a powerful punch. Fiona’s a character steeped in regret. She’s done well professionally, but she’s not sure if she made the right choices throughout her life. The books not only focuses on the big choice she must make and the ramifications it will have for Adam (the teenage boy) and his family, but also how the small choices and decisions she’s made and continues to make have affected her life and those around her, for better or for worse.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Not only was July re-read a few favorites month. It was also “man month,” in that I only read books by male authors. I guess it happens sometimes. The last book I read in July was Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. I first read the book in 2003,  after the Oprah’s book club debacle (my copy actually has a small label on it announcing the book as a book club pick. Oops.)

If you’re never read the book, it centers on the Lambert family. Albert and Enid, the dad and mom, live in a small town in the midwest. Their children have scattered, with their oldest son, Gary and their only daughter, Denice, in Philly. Their middle child, Chip, is in Lithuania by way of New York City and some terrible life choices.

The first time I read the book, I was a super naive 20-year-old. Now, I’m a less naive 33-year-old, a year older than the youngest character, Denice. So, I guess I got the book a bit better this time around. There were parts of it that I found funny, and I don’t remember there being so much humor the first time I read it. There were parts of it that were more relatable.

Although The Corrections was Franzen’s third novel, it’s interesting to re-read it and note how much like a first or beginning novel it feels. There’s a lot of heavy handedness about it, in terms of metaphors and symbolism (true to its title, the book sure talks about things being corrected a lot).  It’s like you can feel him trying to write the Great American Novel. There’s a sense of strain throughout, like he’s trying to achieve greatness. I’ll have to re-read Freedom and Purity, but I don’t remember getting the same sense from those two books.