Madeline Miller - Circe

Circe was the second book I finished this year. I actually started Circe last fall, but even though I found it intriguing, I didn't really get going reading it until the electronic loan got returned. It stayed in my mind though, and I borrowed it again from the digital library early this year. Now I had more time to really get into it, and once you get sucked in, it's hard to let go. This is by far the best book I've read in years (since the Goldfinch!). It tells the story of the witch Circe, with whom Odysseus spent a year on her island.   My knowledge of Greek mythology is not very strong, and I found myself googling some of the gods and goddesses mentioned in the story. But no matter, the book is a stunner, whether you're a fan of mythology or not. In the hands of the author Madeline Miller, Circe is described as a strong character, a feminist and very relatable and human despite her goddess abilities. I loved this book so much that I now want to read Miller's earlier books as well. What an enjoyable education in Greek mythology!

Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey - She Said

This is the story of the New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey investigation into the Harvey Weinstein case. It's a mind boggling story of how one man used his position to abuse so many women, and a fascinating look into the work of these two investigative journalists. The picture above was on my Insta story when I was reading this book. The Weinstein trial is now on-going, and I hope that he gets his due in court. These cases are very hard to prosecute because so few women want to step out and ruin their own reputations in the process. But whatever happens in the trial this book exposes Weinstein as the monster that he is. Recommended reading for anyone who's interested in the #metoo movement, and interested in the truth behind the Weinstein story. 

Rachel Simon - The Story of the Beautiful Girl 
the Story of the Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. This book came out in 2012, and my cousin mentioned it to me a while back. I finally read it this past summer and it's a lovely book written about a topic that hasn't got a lot of coverage in the world of literature. It's the story of a girl with developmental disability, and her love story with a deaf man. It's also the story of the institutions that housed people with developmental disabilities, and the horrible things that happened in those places. I felt the book captured the voice and feeling of its subjects well although it's not the most sophisticated writing. It's full of humanity, and understanding. I highly recommend this book.

Chimamanda Negozi Adichie - Americanah
In February I finished only one book and it was a good one. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah. It gets four and a half stars on Amazon, and has been a best seller since it came out in 2014. It's the first book I read from this author and I was very impressed. She has a nice clean writing style and a lot of very insightful social and race commentary. The book is a love story and a story of immigration and return to the homeland. Adichie is Nigerian, highly educated in the U.S., and writes about African people and culture. For me it was somewhat eyeopening to read this book, and I'm almost ashamed to say that I was so ignorant about current day Africa that it changed my view of it a little. We only hear about the catastrophes, genocides, starvation, and wars, and not enough about the every day life of Africans. I will definitely read more of her books to educate myself, and expect it to be a fun and rewarding educational experience. She has also emerged as a speaker for women's rights, delivering the TED talk (which I've yet to see - but will watch soon, with my 14-year old daughter) "We should all be feminists", the title which was famously taken for the Dior t-shirt, and parts of which were used  for a Beyonce song. I will definitely be interestedly following her career to see what she does or writes next.

Saroo Brierley - Lion
The original name of the book was "Long Way Home" but it was renamed to Lion because of the recent movie of that name. What an extraordinary true story. A real tearjerker. I started crying literally on the first or second page of the book. (I'm a crier, which results in some awkward moments in the commuter train where I do most of my reading.) Anyway, the book tells Saroo's story; how he got lost from his brother at age five in India, and after a long train ride ended up alone and lost living on the streets of Calcutta. He was eventually adopted to a family in Australia, and from there as an adult, he painstakingly used Google maps (the search took years) to determine where he was from in India. Amazingly, after being lost for 25 years, he found his mother, brother and sister. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm definitely keen to see how it lives up to the book and the story. It doesn't hurt that Nicole Kidman plays the Australian mother, and Rav Patel plays Saroo.

Wilbur Smith - Pharaoh 
The reason for picking up this book was pure escapism. Unfortunately it did not offer the escape I was looking for, because it was not a very good book. I expected so much better from Wilbur Smith, having read his great book "River God" a long time ago. "Pharaoh" had all the right ingredients, but for some reason it just fell short. It felt very formulaic, too long, and was not able to suck me in into its world. However, the book would probably make a great movie. Maybe it can still redeem itself if it's made into a movie. We shall see.

Maureen Sherry - Opening Belle 
I had picked it up because of interest in the financial industry setting, and the struggle of women in the highly sexist trading environment. The story takes place around the time of the subprime crisis 2007-2008. Sadly, it's not hard to believe some of the most blatant stories of the book, although I've never had to experience anything like it myself, given my corner of the financial industry. But I do remember the environment being extremely uncomfortable for a woman when I temped at a Morgan Stanley trading floor about twenty years ago. It was a good experience then to have to know what I did not want, and I was lucky that my eventual career happened in a different setting. Sherry's book is not the greatest, and I would not recommend it unless you had some sort of interest in the financial industry and women's role in it. It's not that she's a bad writer, but unfortunately the book just doesn't have that special something.

J.D. Vance - Hillbilly Elegy
This is a great book because it grabs you emotionally. My reason for reading it was to understand why Trump got elected - what is going on in the minds of the poor underemployed white Americans. The book does a good job describing the blight of the hillbillies, the poverty, drug abuse, moral breakdown, lack of opportunity, erosion of the family structure, role of religion, etc. And then goes to show how it is possible to rise above, with the right support, the right decisions, with hard work and determination. The book does not offer solutions, but it did help me understand that population a little better. In addition, it is an excellently written book, and is a quick read because it's so hard to put down.

Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar

"If I didn't think, I'd be much happier"
Sylvia Plath

I'm a bit behind documenting the books I've read. Some time ago I got into my head that I should occasionally read classic novels to educate myself. Not that reading contemporary literature is not educational too, but you know what I mean.

I settled on Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar for a few reasons: she's a legendary poet, had a tragic ending killing herself pretty young, I like her name, and I was curious. The book was also cheap on Amazon (usually NOT a good reason to read a book - or have you ever tried reading those free books on kindle? If not, DON'T!) Anyway, the Bell Jar is a pretty short book and a quick read. It was really well written with a tremendous ease to the tone but at the same time very sophisticated language. It's full of amazing little pearls of original thoughts, passages and quotes, by the way. I'm going to include one below. The book is clearly autobiographical, given it's a description of a young girl going into and through a mental illness, which is pretty much Plath's life. It may have been intentional by Plath, but the girl  felt cold and detached, which made her hard to like. Still it was a really good book, and I'm glad I read it. I will continue reading classics every now and then, though now I'm on to another contemporary book.

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet." 
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Juha Itkonen - Anna Minun Rakastaa Enemmän

En muista enää mistä sain inspiraation lukea tämän kirjan. Luultavasti etsin hyviä viime vuosien suomalaisia novelleja ja tämä putkahti esiin. Anna minun rakastaa enemmän sai hyvät arvostelut kriitikoilta, mm. Helsingin Sanomien Suvi Aholalta, ja on kai ollut jonkinlainen myyntimenestyskin. Minulla on ollut valtava halu löytää todella upea suomalainen romaani, mutta on se vaan niin vaikeaa. Tämäkään ei ollut se, vaikka olikin ihan viihdyttävä ja koukuttava. Loppuvaiheessa paljastuva juonen kikka oli minulle pettymys. Mutta muuten oli aika hauskaa lukea Itkosen käsitystä New Yorkista, varsinkin 2000-luvun alkupuolen tilanteessa. Myös kuvaus rock-tähden elämästä oli ihmeen uskottava, ja kahden kertojan erilaiset persoonat ja kielet onnistuivat aika hyvin, vaikka molemmat olivatkin välillä rasittavia. Antin pettymys itseensä ja tavallisuuteensa oli varmaan jotain johon suurin osa ihmisistä pystyy samaistumaan. Kyllä minun täytyy lukea kirjan jatko-osakin että saan tietää mitä Suville tapahtuu.

Jess Walter - Beautiful Ruins

I loved this book. It's a great story, tying together different places, times, destinies. It's life-affirming, fun, intelligent. However, it also jumps back and forth in time and has a lot of characters, so you need to read it with some thought. It's not the kind of book that you can keep going alongside other books that you may be reading at the same time. But this book is so good that it's worth dropping whatever else you may be reading and focusing on this one. I really enjoyed it. 

Anna-Leena Härkönen - Kaikki Oikein 

Kirja kertoo lotossa jättipotin voittavasta pariskunnasta. Odotin kirjalta enemmän, koska Härkönen on fiksu ja oivaltava kirjoittaja. Kirjassa olikin pari kiinnostavaa ajatusta, mutta jotenkin minua häiritsi sen kovin negatiivinen ja kyyninen ote. Parasta kirjassa oli se että sai itse unelmoida mitä tekisi vastaavassa tilanteessa. Latasin kirjan Elisa-kirjasta ja palvelu toimi loistavasti. Tosin kirja oli kallis kuin mikä jos vertaa vastaavien kirjojen Kindle hintoihin. Mutta sinänsä on kiva että nyt pystyy lukemaan suomenkielistä kirjallisuutta halutessaan koska vaan, eikä tarvitse raahata selkä vääränä kirjoja Suomen reissuilta. 

Veera Nieminen - Avioliittosimulaattori

Suomalaista "chicklit" kirjallisuutta. Hauska ja viihdyttävä höttö. Ehkä parempi hieman nuoremmalle lukijalle, mutta silti minullekin ihan kiva ja nopealukuinen makupala josta sain parit naurut. Sopiva sairaspäivän ohjelma kun ei ole keskittymiskykya mihinkään kovin syvälliseen, eikä halua lukea mitään surullista tai masentavaa.

Donna Tartt - The Secret History

I so loved the Goldfinch that I wanted to read Donna Tartt's first book too, the Secret History. The book was originally published in 1992, was a best seller and made Donna Tartt a big name. It's a sort of a reverse murder mystery, because the murder takes place in the beginning, and the story follows what happens to the group of friends afterwards. This book was a bit harder to get into than the Goldfinch because it is not as fast-paced, but it is very good in its own right, as the psychological story of the consequences of the murder. I did enjoy the book, but I definitely liked the Goldfinch better.

Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch

Losing yourself in a good book is the greatest feeling you can have. I have a lot of time to read during my commute to the City, so I'm always on the look-out for good books that can take me away from the commuting misery. One such book that I recently finished was Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. She won the Pulitzer prize for the book and it's well deserved. She writes with beautiful language, and makes people and places really come vividly alive. You can feel what they feel, understand why they feel it and really lose yourself in their story. Some people have criticized that the book is too long, but I don't agree. I didn't even feel that it was long. And as always, when you finish an extraordinary book, you mourn the ending of it, and having to let go of it. That's how I felt when the Goldfinch ended. 

Bridget Jones - Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding

If you like Bridget Jones, I am sure you were wondering what happened to her. If so, this book is for you. It takes a little while to get going, or for some reason I enjoyed the second half of the book better than the first, which at points seemed a bit silly or childish, considering that Bridget is over 50. She seems to "grow up" a bit during the book. Even though Bridget is going through a tough time, the book is a pretty quick and light read, entertaining, and you can definitely see parts of yourself in Bridget, which I guess has always been the thing about the Bridget Jones' success. All in all, I would recommend this to those that have read the previous Bridget Jones books, but not necessarily unless you're a fan. (March 12, 2014)

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