Surznick Reads: August 2015 - The Surznick Common Room

Monday, August 31, 2015

Surznick Reads: August 2015


Well here we are again. It's time for our monthly reminder that "we've been so busy, time is flying, and we can't believe tomorrow is already September!" But in all seriousness.... seriously. Wow.

That being said, we did manage to squeeze in a few books this month. (Thank you, 14 hours on a Megabus!) I think the reads this month are really solid, so be sure to read the reviews below and click the links to get yourself a copy, there are some good ones here!

Sarah's Reads!


The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
From Amazon.com: "Anita Diamant’s 'vivid, affectionate portrait of American womanhood', follows the life of one woman, Addie Baum, through a period of dramatic change. Addie is The Boston Girl, the spirited daughter of an immigrant Jewish family, born in 1900 to parents who were unprepared for America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End of Boston, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine - a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture, and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, to finding the love of her life, eighty-five-year-old Addie recounts her adventures with humor and compassion for the na├»ve girl she once was. Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Diamant’s previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world."

This was my book club selection for the month and I absolutely loved it. It was such a quick read, I finished it in only a couple of days. The narrator is 85-year-old Addie Baum, recounting stories about her life to her granddaughter in the year 1985. I think what I enjoyed most about this book is that there's really no central conflict. No major climax, nothing too crazy or wild - just a woman sharing stories about growing up as a Jewish girl in Boston during the depression, WWII, surviving the death of siblings, seeing friends moving away, and other events that seem to be just a regular part of life during that time. That being said, something about this book just totally sucks you in. At the end of each chapter, I HAD to keep reading. I just wanted to know more and more and more. Something as seemingly mundane as Addie wearing pants for the first time ever was so exciting and fascinating thanks to Diamant's beautiful and captivating writing. This was my first book by Diamant and it definitely won't be my last. If this book is anywhere on your radar, I recommend picking it up ASAP.

My Rating: 5 Stars


Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
From Amazon.com: "Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch - 'Scout' - returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one's own conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision - a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic."

To be honest, I'm not sure how I felt about this book. I LOVED To Kill a Mockingbird, so I wanted to read this, or felt obligated to read this... maybe a little both. I went into it a little excited, but mostly nervous because of the controversy surrounding it being published, and all of the headlines I read saying that Atticus Finch is now a racist. That was disappointing to find out, and even more disappointing to read. But despite that sad discovery, I still enjoyed the book overall. I love being in Scout Finch's world, experiencing her wild personality and reading stories from the Mockingbird days. I definitely think it's worth reading, but it certainly doesn't leave the mark that To Kill a Mockingbird did.

My Rating: 3 Stars


Nick's Read!


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
From Amazon.com: "It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl. This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life. Fiercely funny, honest, heart-breaking - this is an unforgettable novel from a bright talent, now also a film that critics are calling 'a touchstone for its generation' and 'an instant classic.'"

Like so many books I've been reading lately, I read this book because I saw (and absolutely loved) the movie. Set in Pittsburgh, funny, and emotional, the film was absolutely fantastic. When I first decided to read the book, a friend of mine told me it was "young adult that seemed just a bit too young." I completely agree. I did enjoy reading this, but for the first half, I was really struggling to allow myself to enjoy it. With every sentence, the narrator is fighting cliches, and with every fight, he seems to dig himself deeper and deeper into those same cliches. About mid-way through the book, I felt much better about the narrator's voice, and this familiarity helped me to realize just how funny he actually is. The tired high school cliches exist because the narrator is a tired high school kid. The story itself is fantastic, and there are plenty of unexpected reactions to very difficult situations. In that regard, the book felt extremely real. Overall, the book is very enjoyable to read. Allow yourself to think back to the awkwardness of high school and you'll love every page.

My Rating: 4 Stars

September is a really exciting month for us (Sarah's birthday!) and we can't wait for it to get here tomorrow! Have a great week!

Sarah & Nick

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