Surznick Reads: January 2015 - The Surznick Common Room

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Surznick Reads: January 2015

New Year, New Reads! That's the saying, right? We're super excited to start another year of our Surznick Reads series. You can see all of our 2014 books here!

After a few months of transitioning into a new job, a busier schedule, and less reading time, I think I'm finally back on track with my book goals. I'm also feeling super inspired to read right now since putting together my reading list for the upcoming year. (In case you're wondering what's on it, I shared it on Instagram.) I just think it's especially exciting to make a reading goal, pick out the books that I'm really interested in this year, and go to town! I'm off to a pretty good start this month, but before we share our reads, here are our reading goals for 2015.

Sarah: 24 books (12 my choice + 12 book club selections)

Last year was my first year being in a book club. I LOVED IT. Not only was it a great way to meet new people and simply get out of my house on a weeknight once a month, but it also gave me the opportunity to read a bunch of books that I likely would never have read otherwise. If you're in the Pittsburgh area and looking to join a book club, you can find out more about mine here. (We also go out for sushi regularly, if that's something you're into.)

Nick: 15 books

If you'd like to follow along on our reading journeys this year, feel free to add us on Goodreads! This is the site Nick and I both use to create our reading goals, share what we're currently reading, what we've already read, and what we want to read! (My want-to-read list is pretty extensive and I would be lost without Goodreads!) You can find our accounts here: Sarah & Nick.

Okay, here we go - our first books of 2015!

Sarah's Reads!

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
From "Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world."

This book has been on my want-to-read list for a long time, so I was pretty excited when it was chosen as my January book club selection. This was a super quick and easy read. It's lighthearted, funny, and definitely enjoyable. At times it felt more young adult than I would typically read, but that didn't make me like the story any less. Because this book is comprised of narrative, letters, emails, official documents, etc., you get to view the story from a variety of different perspectives and try to piece it all together to answer the question, "Where DID you go, Bernadette?" I'd recommend it!

My Rating: 4 Stars

Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler
From "Life doesn't get more hilarious than when Chelsea Handler takes aim with her irreverent wit. Who else would send all-staff emails to smoke out the dumbest people on her show? Now, in this new collection of original essays, the #1 bestselling author of Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea delivers one laugh-out-loud moment after another as she sets her sights on the ridiculous side of childhood, adulthood, and daughterhood. Family moments are fair game, whether it's writing a report on Reaganomics to earn a Cabbage Patch doll, or teaching her father social graces by ordering him to stay indoors. It's open season on her love life, from playing a prank on her boyfriend (using a ravioli, a fake autopsy, and the Santa Monica pier) to adopting a dog so she can snuggle with someone who doesn't talk. And everyone better duck for cover when her beach vacation turns into matchmaking gone wild. Outrageously funny and deliciously wicked, CHELSEA CHELSEA BANG BANG is good good good good!"

I've read several of Chelsea's other books, but this one just didn't make me laugh quite as much as the others. I thought that chapters were pretty hit or miss; some I thought were great, others I could have lived without. The one thing I did enjoy was that there were a few photos to go along with some of the chapters. There were a couple times where I thought "Come on, this is ridiculous, it can't be true," but then there'd be a photo on the next page so you're like, "Hey, it IS true!" If you're familiar with Chelsea through her stand-up or her show on E!, I'm sure you'd know what to expect in one of her books. Nothing life-changing or thought-provoking, but is it worth a read? Sure, why not.

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Fault in our Stars by John Green
From "Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love."

Whew. Where do I begin here? I knew very little about The Fault in our Stars before I picked up this book. I knew that both the book and the movie were hugely popular last year in the teen world, pretty much to the point where I couldn't get on Pinterest or Wanelo without seeing 5 different types of pillowcases that said "Okay? Okay." Anyway, once I started reading, it was hard to stop. I became so deeply invested in these characters and their stories and I just needed to know what was going to happen. Maybe it's embarrassing to be 25 years old and love this book as much as I did, but what can I say, I just did. I pretty much never cry when I read, but I literally sobbed through the last hundred pages of this story, to the point where Nick walked in the room and thought there was a death in my family because I was crying so. much. Even though you may have a negative perception of this book due to it's insane popularly, I would say to just read it anyway. It's a tragically beautiful story that if nothing else, will make you realize how lovely it is to have love in our lives.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin
From "...In the mid-seventies, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. This book is, in his own words, the story of 'why I did stand-up and why I walked away.' Emmy and Grammy Award–winner, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Martin has always been a writer. His memoir of his years in stand-up is candid, spectacularly amusing, and beautifully written..."

Steve Martin has long been a favorite comedian of mine, and I knew I had to read this book. It did not disappoint. I was amazed to read about the incredible, unbelievable work ethic this amazing man had (and still has). Yes, much of it was indeed funny, but even more of it was an incredible story of resiliency and hard work, of ups and downs, and of exciting brushes with some of todays most iconic performers. This is a truly fantastic book that I had an absolute blast reading.

My Rating: 5 Stars

White Fang by Jack London
From "When White Fang was first published in 1906, Jack London was well on his way to becoming one of the most famous, popular, and highly paid writers in the world. White Fang stands out as one of his finest achievements, a spellbinding novel of life in the northern wilds. In gripping detail, London bares the savage realities of the battle for survival among all species in a harsh, unyielding environment. White Fang is part wolf, part dog, a ferocious and magnificent creature through whose experiences we see and feel essential rhythms and patterns of life in the animal kingdom and among mankind as well. It is, above all, a novel that keenly observes the extraordinary working of one of nature's greatest gifts to its creatures: the power to adapt. Focusing on this wondrous process, London created in White Fang a classic adventure story as fresh and appealing for today's audiences as for those who made him among the bestselling novelists of his day."

When I saw this in Goodwill, I bought it immediately. I only bought it because, in my mind, I see it as one of those books 'you have to read.' Being written in 1906, I thought it would be difficult for me to read, but it wasn't at all! The way London writes is extremely descriptive, vivid, and very easy to follow. I crushed this book in about a week, because I found it so captivating, which is a fantastic achievement for me. I've never been a dog owner, but the emotions you feel for White Fang, and the pain you share with him throughout the book are extremely moving. Though it is a story that follows just the life of a wolf--a true "animal story," it is somehow incredibly human and relatable. I loved this book, and I would recommend it to anyone.

My Rating: 5 Stars

If you made it to the end of this post, thank you, and you should have a beer! Have a great weekend!

Sarah & Nick


  1. I remember reading White Fang in school and getting sooo mad at certain parts of the book. I'm a huge animal lover and I can't stand when animals are mistreated...which as you know happens in the book. I would love to read that Steve Martinn book. I've always thought he was hilarious!

    1. Yes! I completely agree. I've never had a dog, even growing up, but some of this still made me cringe. (and definitely check out the martin book, he's amazing)

  2. I've read Steve Martin's novella "Shop Girl" but not anything biographical. Looks awesome!

    :] // ▲ ▲

    1. This is the first thing by him I've read. I used to own "Cruel Shoes" but never read it! I need to find that and get back into it!