Better Reading = Better Writing #4

Another month has ended, and it’s time to post the books and reviews for what I’ve read this month! I only got 4 books in this month, but I was traveling a lot… I mostly slept on the long flights, and I can’t read in the car (and my audible books weren’t downloaded! I didn’t want to download over data, so I listened to podcasts… Not bad, but sad I couldn’t use the time for reading!).

Ok – back to the books. Here we go again with my thoughts and a few quotes 🙂

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

This story is about refugees from a city that is not named, and follows their travels as they escape and move on with their lives. Such a timely storyline. I’ve been reading more immigrant novels lately and thinking about how life changes so quickly depending on the person in power. But it’s also a realistic love story of two people in maybe the wrong time and place who experience this traumatic event too soon in their relationship.

Obviously, good fiction shows you something you can relate to in a character (even when you’ve never been a refugee running for your life). And this is one of those books. The only issue I had were the doors mentioned to other countries throughout the book… I think the author didn’t want to waste time on the difficulty of leaving the country and traveling, so they just pop up somewhere else. Not realistic, so I was a little confused.

However, the writing is seriously so good, and I have many favorite paragraphs from this book. One of my absolute favorites is from the very end and would definitely be a spoiler… so just read it, and you’ll know. Here are a few so you can get an idea…

“It might seem odd that in cities teetering at the edge of the abyss young people still go to class—in this case an evening class on corporate identity and product branding—but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does.”

“Saeed and Nadia knew what the buildup to conflict felt like, and so the feeling that hung over London was not new to them, and they faced it not with bravery, exactly, and not with panic either, not mostly, but instead with a resignation shot through with moments of tension, with tension ebbing and flowing, and when the tension receded there was calm, the calm that is called the calm before the storm, but is in reality the foundation of a human life, waiting there for us between the steps of our march to our mortality, when we are compelled to pause and not act but be.”

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Non-fiction, marketing book here. I go this one on my kindle through the library, and I’m glad I did because it was pretty short… I read it in maybe 2.5 hours.

I feel like I knew most of the information already, but it’s nice to have a little acronym to outline and check my own process. Overall, it was a really simple read. It would be good for someone not from a marketing/PR background to understand the industry a little better. But I didn’t feel like I learned anything super enlightening.

It’s still worth reading! But maybe not buying…

“How does it make people look to talk about a product or idea? Most people would rather look smart than dumb, rich than poor, and cool than geeky. Just like the clothes we wear and the cars we drive, what we talk about influences how others see us. It’s social currency. Knowing about cool things—like a blender that can tear through an iPhone—makes people seem sharp and in the know. So to get people talking we need to craft messages that help them achieve these desired impressions. We need to find our inner remarkability and make people feel like insiders. We need to leverage game mechanics to give people ways to achieve and provide visible symbols of status that they can show to others.”

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

I loved loved loved this book, and I got it through BOTM for only $9.99! Such a great buy.

Another immigrant story, that showed an alternate to the American Dream story. Ugh, I don’t want to give any spoilers, but it’s definitely a bittersweet ending. Surviving in America (especially NYC) is difficult and expensive. Jendi moves to America first, and then brings his girlfriend Neni and son to New York CIty a few months later. Things start out great, until the 2008 market crash when jobs become difficult to find and keep.

I was not expecting the ending, and like I said, it’s an alternate to the American Dream. Many people don’t achieve that dream. Ok, I’ve said too much.

“You know what I’m realizing now?” he said to her. “What?” she asked, looking at him adoringly. “We are sitting in the center of the world.” She laughed. “You’re so funny.” “No, think about it,” he said. “Columbus Circle is the center of Manhattan. Manhattan is the center of New York. New York is the center of America, and America is the center of the world. So we are sitting in the center of the world, right?”

“How long will I keep on washing dishes?” “Only until you get your papier.” “That’s not true,” he said with a sad shake of his head. “Papier is not everything. In America today, having documents is not enough. Look at how many people with papers are struggling. Look at how even some Americans are suffering. They were born in this country. They have American passports, and yet they are sleeping on the street, going to bed hungry, losing their jobs and houses every day in this…this economic crisis.”

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Another BOTM, but not as exciting as Behold the Dreamers. 

First of all, I can’t resist stories about sisters, female friends, etc… but this one was a little annoying because everyone was drunk or high all the time. But that is the result of the toxic family situation described in the summary. For me, I had a really hard time liking any of the characters because of this.

The story wasn’t necessarily “thrilling,” but I was curious. The alphabet game gave the whole book a fascinating structure, and I wanted to see where it ended up. some of the best writing was all the alliteration in the letters focused on the letters of the alphabet. It was pretty fun.

The lakeside vineyard setting sounded lovely, and maybe I felt like there was actually hope for Ava in turning into a likable person worthy of the Wyatt boy who was obsessed with her. But she treats everyone so badly.

Not much to say about this… probably better to get from the library than to buy…

“Dear Tangled, Trusting, Trepidatious Twin,
Ta-da! Is the Truth tentatively trying to tell itself? Are there tantalizing tip-offs and trace of what truly transpired? Tell me, tricksy twin, tell. I’m pretty sure I’ve surprised you either way. Tell the truth. You weren’t expecting: teeth!”

“Sister darling, the stories we tell ourselves! Maybe because we’re twins, we sought a way to differentiate to oh so rigorously sketch out our borders. You needed to say, to speak the ways you were different. I’m Ava, I’m the ambitious one; that’s Zelda, she’s the messy one. As though you could determine your own story, secure the ending you wanted through obsessive narration…. You insisted on… telling me the way you were, summarizing your selfness with amazement. You said: “‘I’ve always known what I’ve wanted, I’ve had a desire, Zaza, to get somewhere. I’ve been jealous of you, with your waywardness and directionality-lessness… but when it comes down to it, that’s how I have to be, and you have to be how you have to be. It’s like together we make up all of a whole person'”

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