As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:
- (★★★★★): Loved it
- (★★★★): Really liked it
- (★★★): Liked it enough
- (★★): Didn’t care for it
Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Genre: Fiction, classics, romance
GoodReads rating: 4.27 / 5 (3,352,000 ratings)
Medium used: Paperback and audiobook (purchased from Elliot Bay Book Co. in Seattle, WA)
PopSugar prompt: A book everyone has read but you.
Summary: “The novel follows the character development of Elizabeth Bennet, the dynamic protagonist of the book who learns about the repercussions of hasty judgments and comes to appreciate the difference between superficial goodness and actual goodness. The satire lies in its honest depiction of manners, education, marriage, and money during the Regency era in England.”
Thoughts: Finally forced myself to read this. I chose this by going on to GoodReads and finding the books with the most ratings and this was the first one I haven’t read (after 1984, which I’ve tried to read twice and can’t get into). It took a while to get into and understand the writing (I would be lost without the audiobook to listen to while I read along) and not much happened, but I didn’t mind it. This would have gotten a lower rating if it wasn’t already such a classic. Not to mention it was surprisingly funny (the gossiping wife was asking the husband if he wanted to hear a juicy bit of information and he replied, “You want to tell me, I have no objection to hearing it.”) and ahead of its time (joking about being an “old maid” at 23, men ignoring rejection, etc.). I mean, Austen was born before the U.S. was a country for Christ’s sake! Merphy gave a good bit of advice saying you have to go into this book knowing its a satire or it might put you off. All around okay, but not amazing.
Other adaptations: Too many to count.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Genre: Non-fiction, classics, true crime
GoodReads rating: 4.82 / 5 (582,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book and audiobook (borrowed from library via OverDrive)
Summary: “On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. At the center of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human.”
Warning: This book contains mention of pedophilia and rape.
Thoughts: Despite loving non-fiction, I haven’t read this modern classic until now. It was interesting enough, but of the handful of true crime books I’ve read this is one of my least favorite. The paragraphs of quoted dialogue made this feel too much like a fiction book which when it comes to true crime doesn’t sit right with me. I abhor any fictionalized/dramatized adaptation of a crime where the family/friends of victims are still around to re-live their loved one’s loss. That’s why I only consume non-fiction books or documentaries of such atrocities. And, not to my surprise, this book’s veracity has been widely questioned.
Other adaptations: Again, quite a bit, a lot of it critically acclaimed like the 1967 movies of the same title and the 2005 film Capote.
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Genre: Fiction, contemporary
GoodReads rating: 4.03 / 5 (21,000 ratings)
Medium used: Hardback (purchased from Secret Garden Books in Seattle, WA)
Summary: “Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in.”
Warning: This book contains brief mention of pedophilia, self-harm, suicide and abortion
Thoughts: I loved Normal People, both the book and the TV show. I felt a huge connection to the characters and saw myself going through a lot of what they did when I was in uni. I feel this book tried something similar with people in their late twenties and it fell flat for me. Her writing style of excluding quotation marks wasn’t as affective in this book as it was in Normal People. The characters were kind of pretentious and melodramatic and their relationships were just turbulent for the sake of being turbulent; it felt like John Green for adults. However, Rooney does a fantastic job of creating an atmosphere, I always felt like I was in the room with the characters, and I liked how the e-mails between the two friends were a vessel for real-world conversations about class, capitalism, etc., even if they didn’t always knock it out of the park. Finally, Rooney committed a crime that would make my dad scream: wrote of the “global pandemic.” PAN-demic already means worldwide! It’s like saying “ATM machine.” Ugh.
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach
Genre: Non-fiction, animals, science
GoodReads rating: 4.07 / 5 (600 ratings)
Medium used: Hardback (purchased from Secret Garden Books in Seattle, WA)
Summary: “What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. The answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.”
Warning: This book contains graphic description of animal death.
Thoughts: When I heard Mary Roach put out a new book, I had to buy it immediately. She has my dream job of accessible, succinct science writing and always puts her own unique voice in it, she’s such an inspiration. There were some funny quips in there, some not so funny ones, but I appreciate the effort. That’s the thing about humor: some jokes will stick with others, some not so much. The best joke is in the title itself (get it? Fuzz? Like police?) and the first chapter (“Maul Cops” about murderous wildlife). As a conservation biologist and someone who is very interested in animal ethics, this book about human-nature conflict was right up my ally. Some chapters were more interesting than others, but all around a very great read. My home state of Arizona also got two mentions: a case against the wildlife department after a relocated problem bear mauled a child and a self-driving Uber that fatally hit a pedestrian at 40+ MPH. Come on, guys.
Have you read any of these?
Photo by Radu Marcusu.