I’m doing surprisingly well in quarantine, but one thing I’m really missing—that there isn’t a good substitute for—is the library. I can still see friends and family through zoom, and I like cooking enough that I’m not really missing restaurants just yet, but there’s a hole in my life where the library used to be.
I can’t read a book on my phone or computer. I just can’t do it. So even though my library lets me check out ebooks for free with Libby, it’s not helping. I’m trying not to buy more books at this point either. I’d end up spending all my money and would quickly run out of storage space since my book shelves are already stacked.
So I’m stuck with actually reading the books I own. Which happens to be quite a lot. The problem is, I bought most of those books YEARS ago and let them gather dust until I eventually lost interest. A LOT of them are written by long-dead white guys, which doesn’t exactly spark my interest like it used to.
One thing I do like about those old dead white guys is the way they use language. Here are some choice quotes from what I read in April.
As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
from Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world.
from The Stranger by Albert Camus
Everybody needs his memories, they keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.
This collection of essays made me feel like Tolentino was inside my brain, pulling out all my half-formed qualms and questions about modern culture and turning them into deeply smart, well-researched speculations about what the internet has done to human society. She peels away the layers on topics like the performance inherent in social media, the ridiculous extravagance of modern weddings, and the surprisingly similar experiences offered by religion and the drug Ecstasy. It’s a dense read and worth taking some time to fully digest. 4/5
The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness
I was expecting to like this series more than I did. I’m usually a sucker for fantasy stories with magic and witches and prophesies, but this one just wasn’t that exciting. The world-building was inviting, but the story dragged a bit and the romance had me rolling my eyes every few chapters with its Twilight-like undertones. The heroine spent a good portion of the books being a wet noodle and literally got swept off her feet too many times to take any of it very seriously. 2.5/5
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Running 600 pages, this book had the confusing problem of being too drawn out while also making me wish I’d gotten more details on certain plot points and characters. Until the last part of the book, the narrative felt more like vignettes of the characters’ lives instead of a cohesive story, making it hard to stay engaged. There were, however, some really fascinating character relationships and illuminating points about race and the immigrant experience that definitely makes this book a worthwhile read. 3.5/5
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
If internet memes are any indication, lots of us can relate to a desire to forget the incessant traumas of the world and sleep a year away swathed in easygoing movies and a full bank account. This story is bizarre and unsettling but also tender and hopeful. Writing style is a big factor in whether I can really connect with a book, and Moshfegh’s unsentimental boldness telling this truly weird story totally captured me. I’m looking forward to reading everything else she’s written. 4.5/5