Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Short Form: The Four Agreements, The Impossible Fortress, Sabrina, Garden State (redux), Beastie Boys Book, Rock Steady, Let's Go (So We Can Get Back), Asymmetry, Go Tell It on the Mountain

The Four Agreements (Don Miguel Ruiz) 
I read this book because a girl I matched with on a popular dating app asked me if I had and I said no. I proceeded to be "really bad at this" and reserved it from the library and messaged two months later, thanking her for the rec, at which point I was unmatched.
(1) be impeccable with your word
(2) don't make assumptions
(3) don't take anything personally
(4) always do your best
Good rules to live by, but the book could have been much better. He really could have fleshed it out better. Instead it's kind of a philosophical text with very basic vocab.
C+ (6/10)

The Impossible Fortress (Jason Rekulak)
I read this book because my younger sister brought it home with her for Christmas last year and she gave it to me and said it was good, but she wasn't going to read it again. I pretty much feel the same way. It really has a cookie-cutter plot and paper thin characters. It was the lightest read I have done in a while, and it was a pure guilty pleasure. It was sort of unintentionally hilarious, but I grew to love it for how silly it was. Also the game on the authors website (based off the computer game programmed by its main characters) is really addicting and fun (I had to play until I won).
C+ (6/10)

Sabrina (Nick Drnaso) 
I read this book on about 2 hours on Saturday. It's a beautiful book in every sense. First graphic novel nominated for Man Booker prize. I do not think it should win but it deserves the nomination and I think everyone should read it and then give their loved ones a hug.
A (10/10)

Garden State (Rick Moody) (re-read) []
Not as good for a 35 year old as it was for a 26 year old.  Still a good book, but its flaws are more apparent to me (it also has a charming, almost antique quality now).  This is also the subject of the Flying Houses Podcast (Episode 3 - projected release date September 2019)
(6/10--should be 5/10, boosted for nostalgia)

Beastie Boys Book (Adam Horovitz/Michael Diamond, etc.)
I only got through about 20 pages of this.  It's the nicest book I've ever taken out of any library ($50 list price) and also one of the hardest to finish in 3 weeks.  I got it for my brother(-in-law) for Christmas in the hopes that I can finish it one day.

Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from my Bipolar Life (Ellen Forney)
It's taken me about 3 months to read this book, and it should only take a couple days.  It's a really easy read.  It's sort of like a comic book.  It wasn't as helpful as I thought it would be.  If you live with a mental illness, you learn how to take care of it yourself (or you just die sooner or less happy).  The book may be useful for teenagers and young adults.  It may be useful for adults but the only reason I didn't like it that much is that it seems to infantilize its audience, just a little.  
(7/10--should be 6/10, boosted for public service quality)

Let's Go (So We Can Get Back) (Jeff Tweedy)
One of the best memoirs by a rock musician I have ever read.  The only thing that keeps it from a perfect grade is that it could have gone even deeper.  It is not the authoritative book on Wilco.  It could have been, but there are several others.  Tweedy does not attempt to write the only book on Wilco that matters.  I know Greg Kot wrote a book about them, and it's probably very good and worth reading, so I can understand the impulse not to want to do everything.  In any case, this book is an absolute pleasure, even when Tweedy kind of/sort of floats into the territory of pseudo-humblebrags--and no one could begrudge him that.

Asymmetry (Lisa Halliday)
Uneven, yet highly recommended.  I heard about this a lot last year.  I think it came out before Philip Roth died.  In any case, his DNA is all over this.  It wasn't exactly top 10 of 2018 material, but one NY Times reviewer put it on his honorable mention list, and said just to read Part 1 ("Folly") and skip Part 2 ("Madness"). Now as a reader, I could never do that to a writer, but I have to concur.  Part 1 is 10/10, and Part 2 is 5/10 (Part 3 is N/A, probably 5/10 too, only worth reading because it "unlocks" the mystery of the apparent dissimilarity between the two). "Folly" is a flawless piece of fiction.  

Go Tell It on the Mountain (James Baldwin)
It's not really fair for me to review this, because I still have about 20 pages left, but I have many thoughts.  First of all, it's great, there's a reason it deserves to be in the category of 20th Century American classics (and it was shelved in the African-American literature section of the library, which I can understand, but feel is unnecessary).  Second, it's rather slow.  There is a LOT of religious (mostly Christian) rhetoric.  It's kind of hard to figure out what's going on, but now, by the final (or penultimate) section, I think I get it, and it's a beautiful way to tell a story about a family.  I wouldn't recommend it as highly as Asymmetry but I know it is the better book.