Books Read Summer 2013 through Summer 2014

Here are the books from my summer reading. For the most part, they were all light “summer time” books. I’m starting a STM degree in a month, so in one year’s time (August 2014) my goal is to read 50 books. I’ll keep track of ‘em here with short reviews.

1.      Men and Feminism by Shira Tarrant
This is part of the SEAL Studies collection on contemporary feminist and LGBTQ. This book provides a short introduction into whether or not men can be feminists (yes), masculinity: nature or nurture (both, probably, but mostly nurture), and ways men can get involved in feminist organizations and the movement(s) in general. Is a nice read that I could see assigning as a text for an introduction to women’s studies class, but is by no means the definitive text on the subject of men and feminism (which is perfectly okay, because that’s all the text sets out to be). The book is easy to read and is written in a laid-back, humorous style. May 2013.

2.      Husbands by Brad Bell and Jane Espenson
This is a graphic novel tie-in to the online sitcom of the same name ( I have only seen a few episodes of the show, but love the show’s creator and author of this book, Jane Espenson, whose writing credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. The graphic novel follows a newly accidently married couple Brady and Cheeks who fall into a number of misadventures. The book takes a hilarious romp through genres including sci-fi, superhero, medieval fantasy, and Archie-esque high school pop comic. The characterization is a little lacking, but the graphics and humor make up for any lacks elsewhere. I also imagine that the graphic novel plays off of the show’s characterization, and as such, relies on what has already been established on screen. A fun and light read, nonetheless. June 2013.

3.      Chocolat: A Novel by Joanne Harris
I have wanted to read this novel for quite some time. I simply adored the film based on the novel, as it had a refreshingly strong-willed heroine who overcomes the central plot issue without the help of a man. The film and book I think have been dismissed by many to be simply a romancey chic-flic. The novel did not disappoint and lived up to my expectations; however, I will say that the way the resolution to the domestic violence relationship subplot played out in the novel was less realistic (and potentially more dangerous) then in the film. The book had delicious descriptions of chocolate that made me crave it for hours after I would finish reading for a day. The book was light and fun, a pleasant summer read. June 2013.

4.      Tickets for a Prayer Wheel by Annie Dillard
Annie Dillard’s first of only two collections of poetry. Her nonfiction writing is so poetic that I was curious to see how her poetry would fare. The collection wrestles with God, the natural world, and human nature, themes found in many of her works. This collection was published in the same year as her first nonfiction work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and yet her poetic voice tackles similar themes in a very different light.  Even so, a handful of the poems in this volume feel a little forced, as if she was still trying to find her voice. July 2013.

5.      The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) by Chris Hardwick
Chris Hardwick is a comedian, creator of the podcast The Nerdist, and has been hosting television shows all over the place now days. His foray into self-help literature is interesting, to say the least. First, the book is definitely a cheesy self-help book, full of advice and false hopes (if you just keep trying, you’ll make it someday!). Beyond that, the book does have practical advice drawn from Hardwick’s experiences as a recovering alcoholic, down-and-out broke actor, and nerd to his eventual success as a comedian and producer of various nerdy entertainment outlets. The book tackles things like panic attacks, recovery from addiction, and how to get in shape with practical steps and humorous illustrations, told in Hardwick’s comedic voice. At some points, though, his humor does get a little sexist, which I found frustrating. All that said, it’s decent for a self-help book, and perhaps a nice summer reading distraction from the heat. July 2013.

6.      Mornings Like This: Found Poems by Annie Dillard
Mornings Like This is one of the most interesting collections of poetry I have ever encountered. The author describes the poems within the collection as “instead of presenting whole texts as ‘found,’ [this volume] offers poems built from bits of broken text. The poems are original as poems’ their themes and their orderings are invented. Their sentences are not. Their sentences come from the books name. I lifted them. Sometimes I dropped extra words; I never added a word.” The books she found or lifted the poems from range from New Testament Apocrypha to nature books, grammar handbooks to the letters of Van Gogh. And while I will admit that there are a few duds in the collection, most of the poems are stunning and quite brilliant. The new meanings unearthed when the sentences are rearranged are lovely, heartbreaking, and beautiful. I highly recommend this volume of poetry for anyone interested in poetry or the style of Annie Dillard (it’s remarkable how her style even comes through when she is using other people’s words…). July-August 2013.

7.      Superboy: Volume 2, Extraction by Scott Lobdell, Tom DeFalco, R.B. Silva, and Rob Lean
I am a huge fan of the Superman franchise. So I have been following the new 52 storylines, even with all the sexism going on there (that’s enough for another post, but simply search “New 52 controversy” and you’ll find out what’s going on). So anyway, Superboy is a clone of Superman and a mysterious human (spoiler alert: most likely Lex Luthor). This incarnation of Superboy is very melodramatic, but not too much to turn me away. The problem with the second volume collection is that the Superboy series is tied in so closely with Teen Titans and Legion Lost that there were a lot of cross-over stories making this volume confusing as hell as a standalone story. In order to get the complete tale I’d need to get Teen Titans and Legion Lost and frankly I’m not interested in the story enough to do that. August 2013.

8.      Supergirl: Volume 2, Girl in the World by Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Mahmud Asrar
This treatment of Supergirl isn’t as sexist as others (just search “Powergirl costume” and you’ll see what I mean), but it’s not without its faults. Her costume is a bathing suit, and with blonde hair and blue eyes she’s more of a sex symbol than action hero. How is her skin tight bathing suit with cape supposed to be Kryptonian armor? All someone would need to do is aim at her legs and she’d be a goner. The story is decent, but is full of the fish out of water tropes as Supergirl is trying to get adjusted to life on earth. It’s decent, but not anything special. August 2013.

9.      At Home in Mitford (Number 1 in the Mitford Years series) by Jan Karon
My mother and grandmother LOVED this series. If you know my mom or knew my grandmother, that’d be enough of a review. The book series follows an Episcopal priest, Father Tim, as he struggles with turning sixty, diabetes, new love in his neighbor, balancing his personal life and ministry, and deals with the craziness of small town parish ministry. The book is full of cheesy moments, and the whole town of Mitford is a self-professed love of the pastoral genre, the town being practically a paradise with no crime (except for outsiders that later find Jesus and repent), no significant illnesses (except for the rector who has to learn to manage diabetes), and rich parishioners that see to the church’s financial needs, even gifting the church a heft multi-million dollar sum to build a new nursing home. Having spent much of my life in rural congregations, the whole thing just seemed to fake and idealistic for me to really enjoy (and also full of pietistic theology, which gets on my nerves). The characters are compelling though, which tempts me to at least consider reading the second in the Mitford Years series. August 2013.

Currently Reading
Under the Dome: A Novel by Stephen King
Three Treatises from the Edition of Luther’s Works by Martin Luther, various translators
When I was a Child I Read Books: Essays by Marilynne Robinson

Up Next
Doctor Who Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams by Gareth Roberts
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Apocalypse Now and Then: A Feminist Guide to the End of the World by Catherine Keller


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