Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book #2: The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Sometimes I don't read books that are currently popular because I'm afraid I won't like them and then people will think I'm a book snob. But when my friend Chauncey tells me that a currently popular book is good, I usually read it. (The same goes for Aaron, unless vampires are involved. I may never forgive them for that). I read about this book several times, but it seemed so terribly, awfully depressing that I couldn't make myself read it. I feared falling into a really dark place where I could only cry and think about dying. This is an irrational fear because I don't know that I've ever actually been to a dark place like that, but it doesn't seem, well, fun.

Random thought: I often think about dying, but not in a scared, sad way. I find myself wondering what people will say about me when I'm gone. Sometimes I frame the decisions I make that way - "Later, when I'm dead, will this be something I'd be happy for people to share about me or not? Like, when they're telling Stormy stories, is this something that people who like me will share?" That's probably weird. Maybe I should keep weird things like that to myself.

Anyway, Chauncey's recommendation for this book was something like, "It's good. You'll tear through it in about six hours and you won't wish you had that six hours back."  I was sold.

And he was right.

The Fault in our Stars is beautiful, awesome, amazing, and lots of other superlatives. The narrator, Hazel, has terminal cancer. Her life has been prolonged by a miracle drug, but she knows she's dying relatively soon. Her voice is sarcastic, sometimes bitingly so, and honest almost to a fault. At a cancer kid support group she meets Augustus Waters and her life changes forever. She comes to understand her family, her illness, and herself better because of him.

There is a point in the book when Augustus and Hazel are talking obsessively about a book they both love, and for a moment I thought they were a little pretentious. But as I better understood the characters, I became sentimental about their pretentiousness and loved them more.

I started this Monday night and finished it tonight (Wednesday). This book is sad. I cried (sobbed?) during several scenes. But it is not depressing. Somehow it is an uplifting story about life even though it's about death. And it's really, really good.

Book #1: Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer

First, I've had serious internal conflict about whether I should keep numbering my books or start again with the new year. Ultimately, I've decided to start again. However, I shall record the total number for 2013 here so that when I'm 109 I can get one of my great-great-grandchildren to add all of the numbers from each year of my life together and tell me that I read a lot.

2013 book total = 29

The first book I finished in 2014 is Under the Banner of Heaven. This is my third Krakauer book, as I previously read Into Thin Air and Into the Wild long ago in 2013. I loved those books. This one was good for like 150 pages, and then I loathed it more and more as I read.

This is part where I was going to link to my notes on the other two books, but when I went to find them on my blog I couldn't, which means I don't think I counted them, which means I didn't count all my books, which means when I'm 109 my great-great-grandchildren will be dealing with inaccurate numbers. Crap.

Anyway, Under the Banner of Heaven advertises itself quite dramatically: "On July 24, 1984, a woman and her infant daughter were murdered by two brothers who believed they were ordered to kill by God. The roots of their crime lie deep in the history of an American religion practiced by millions..."

Sounds all murdery and suspenseful, right?

Since I love a good murder book, one linked to something so crazy as "God said to" seemed awesome. But this book was about 15% murder and 85% history of Mormondom. It was interesting for about 150 pages. Then I was bored, but I was too far in to put the book down, so I plowed through like the dedicated reader that I am, complaining about it all the while. In early 2013 I read The 19th Wife, which is sort-of-fiction-sort-of-not, so I already knew a lot of the Mormon scandal stuff and was not intrigued for too long when I read all about it again in this book.