If I closed my eyes, I could picture vividly the last time I read a book by John Green. I was high school sophomore then, and had the luxury to spend entire afternoons reading non-academic books. The book I picked that day was The Fault in Our Stars, and it made me stay in the same armchair for hours. Fast-forward four years, and there are some things that haven’t changed all that much. The heroine of John Green’s new novel Turtles All the Way Down is much like Hazel Grace as she’s a quirky, nerdy sixteen-year-old girl who embarks on an adventure and encounters friendship and love along the way, all the while battling a chronic illness that stands between her and happiness.
Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel Exit West tells the compelling story of migrants Saeed and Nadia as they face the challenges of a nameless country in the midst of civil war. In fleeing their country, the couple passes through Greece, England and the United States and face literal and psychological obstacles on their way. Hamid successfully penned a novel regarding a pertinent topic with an anonymity that appeals to human experiences of abandonment and cultural detachment that explicate the migrant experience to his readers. Through simple but poignant prose, Hamid spins a tale of anxiety and hope that is equally engaging and humbling. Mohsin Hamid is an internationally bestselling author and essayist who is known for tackling topics that shake global social and political spheres.
I spent the warm week of spring break in Ithaca, lounging around in shorts and reading trashy best-sellers. Having read some positive reviews of the book The Commoner, by John Burnham Schwartz (Vintage Contemporaries, 2009), I decided to armchair travel to the royal compound in Japan.
Sarah Jefferis’s collection, Forgetting the Salt, is filled with full-bodied, no-nonsense poems, some of which read slow and detailed, full of causality and precision, and others which rush the reader through as if on a “water slide” of images and sounds. The stories and characters, and specifically the way in which the information about them unfurls throughout the collection, are so compelling, they should be left to discovery of the reader. Clues about the speaker’s mother’s Laundromat, her discovery of various facets of her sexuality and of the “grief on the hip bone / of fear” which has been present in her life, are dropped throughout the collection.
After suffering through years of history lessons about the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and John Winthrop’s role in shaping his “city upon a hill,” one would think that (yet another) novel on the subject would be a less exciting read than the New York City phone book.
Sarah Vowell’s newest novel about the Puritans’ stateside adventures, however, is a pleasant anomaly in the catalogue of history books about 17th century New Englanders. Witty and cheeky in the face of Puritan sobriety, Vowell interprets excerpts of our forefathers’ diaries and doctrines to reveal a society more complex than our history books have taught us.
With chapter titles from “Grillin’ Like a Villain” to “How Sweet It Ends,” George Duran’s unique cookbook sets out to take comfort food to a new, decidedly unexpected level. While the recipes may not make for the most appetizing sounding dishes (potato chip Spanish tortillas?), the book is, overall, well written and interesting.
Duran explains right off the bat his penchant for fried foods, and even goes so far as to list some of his favorites: fried pickles, fried strawberries, fried olives, etc. As Duran himself writes, “You can fry all of these things. The question is, should you?” In my opinion, you should not, so the enormous amount of fried food in the cookbook was a bit off-putting. Once past the initial grease, however, there are delicious recipes to be found.
Combine science fiction with romance and you have Stephanie Meyer’s first adult fiction novel. The Host concentrates on what it means to be human in the wake of a foreign invasion.
We’ve all heard the alien conspirators, the paranoid people who believe that the Earth is under attack and people are being abducted. This novel shows what would happen if those conspiracy nuts were right all along. Not just another extraterrestrial science fiction conundrum, we see the story through the eyes of one of these aliens, forcing a perhaps unwanted sympathy. By constructing this point of view, Meyer turns the violence and animalistic nature of humans into a dualistic package.
While I really do love “chick lit,” I strongly believe that it has two distinct categories: the good and the really, really bad. Unfortunately, the newest novel from Lauren Weisberger ’99, Chasing Harry Winston, falls in the latter category. Yes, Weisberger is a Cornell alumna, so I feel terrible about trashing her work. But let that go to show just how unfortunate the book is, because I am going to trash it anyway.