Surznick Reads: June 2014 - The Surznick Common Room

Monday, June 30, 2014

Surznick Reads: June 2014

Halfway through 2014 already! Holy crap! This first half of the year has been a total success for our reading goals. Here's where we stand as of now:

Annual Goal = 36 books
Read so far = 23 books
Favorite so far = The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Least favorite so far = Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Surz is feeling preeeeetty baller... I'm 6 books ahead of schedule! Maybe I'll break last year's record of 40 books. Only time will tell...

Annual Goal = 12 books
Read so far = 10 books
Favorite so far = Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
Least favorite so far = Big Fish by Daniel Wallace

Considering that my goal is 12 books and I'm currently reading book #11, I'm pretty happy. I can't count the number of years in my life where my annual total was ZERO books. I can't wait to see my total after 6 more months!

Remember, you can find any of our monthly Surznick Reads posts here. Or if you just want to see how pretty all of our books look on our shelves, you can do that here. Okay, back on track now... here are our June books.

Sarah's Reads!

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
From "Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the world's great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know."

Believe it or not, this is my first Vonnegut book. Even though he's Nick's favorite author, I've just never had any interest in Vonnegut before. Slaughterhouse-Five was pretty average to me. Vonnegut's writing style is just a little dry and choppy for my taste. The fact that the time and setting in Slaughterhouse-Five changes every couple of paragraphs didn't help either. Overall, I wouldn't read this again, but Nick urges me to read Breakfast of Champions, so I guess I haven't given up on Vonnegut for good.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
From "With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there."

Unless you're living under a rock, I'm sure you know all about OITNB. As a huge fan of the Netflix series, I was really eager to read Kerman's memoir and convinced my book club leader to put it on our schedule. I loved this book. I'm a sucker for a good memoir and Kerman wrote a great one. Her story is inspirational and the recollection of her experience in prison is captivating. If you've watched the show perhaps you, like me, were surprised at what a federal women's prison is like. The stories about the relationships Kerman had with other inmates were heartwarming and relatable. I was also happily surprised at how well the show portrays what's in this memoir. Many of the characters have different names on the series, but you can still picture each character as you're reading. If you're a fan of OITNB the series, or even if you're not, this is a must-read.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
From "A mysterious island.

 An abandoned orphanage.

 A strange collection of very curious photographs.

 It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows."

This was very cool. Sarah read it awhile back and highly recommended it. I was not disappointed. I was happy to know that the story didn't rely too heavily on the photos, but that they instead added great detail to the story. As if the imagery in the book wasn't fantastic to begin with (it really is) the photos add even more to that. The plot is unique, exciting, and mysterious. Riggs held my attention from page one and didn't let go. I highly recommend this for anyone, and I can't wait to read the second book!

My Rating: 5 Stars

(See Sarah's review of this book here)

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman
From "Countless writers and artists have spoken for a generation, but no one has done it quite like Chuck Klosterman. With an exhaustive knowledge of popular culture and an almost effortless ability to spin brilliant prose out of unlikely subject matter, Klosterman attacks the entire spectrum of postmodern America: reality TV, Internet porn, Pamela Anderson, literary Jesus freaks, and the real difference between apples and oranges (of which there is none). And don’t even get him started on his love life and the whole Harry-Met-Sally situation. Whether deconstructing Saved by the Bell episodes or the artistic legacy of Billy Joel, the symbolic importance of The Empire Strikes Back or the Celtics/Lakers rivalry, Chuck will make you think, he’ll make you laugh, and he’ll drive you insane—usually all at once."

I really like Chuck Klosterman, I really do. However, I have to admit that this book was a bit exhausting. I enjoy his commentary on all aspects of popular culture, as he has incredible insight and theories surrounding almost EVERY part of our world (from The Sims to MTV to Pamela Anderson to U2 to the Celtics vs. the Lakers). He is often funny but even more often long-winded. The book is full of words and phrases like "inasmuch" and "in and of itself" and can at times feel very "wordy." His thoughts are truly unique and entertaining, but I sometimes wish there was an easier way for him to convey them to the reader.

My Rating: 3 Stars

See you next month!

Sarah & Nick


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