I’m working on my Read Harder Challenge again, and this time I decided to:
- Read a book out loud to someone else.
- Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia
- Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)
For this challenge, I struggled a little more to find books I knew would fit my challenge but would keep my interest. I’m getting close to the end of my challenge, so I’m starting to run low on ideas. (Luckily, the forums at BookRiot and Goodreads had had plenty of recommendations for each category.) I did, however, decide pretty quickly on which book to read aloud: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. At first, I read a few pages to my dog, but she didn’t seem particularly interested and, moreover, she appeared to have better things to do. My boyfriend, on the other hand, proved to be a more receptive audience and he seemed to enjoy Lawson’s crazy (figuratively speaking—or literally?) memoir.
He and I both enjoyed reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, because it was just so funny. After reading Furiously Happy, which is fueled by Lawson’s frenetic energy and her off-kilter sense of humor, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was familiar ground—and it was equally hilarious as her second memoir. I loved hearing about Lawson’s childhood with her father’s crazy pets and bread bag snowshoes, her struggle to become an author despite her general fear of people, and her struggle to acclimate to her various disorders.
It’s really quite funny, and it’s hard not to laugh at the seemingly random and entirely crazy things that have happened to the author. But, be warned, some of the stories may be jarring or, more accurately, scarring. I mean, the incident with Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel left me with alternating feelings of revulsion and horror that’s hard to beat. But the embarrassing (and traumatizing) experience involving Jenny and a particular cow does its best to rival it.
Next, I read Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo, a Malaysian-American author. Set during the British colonization of Malay, Ghost Bride is an intricate and beautiful novel brimming with Chinese folklore, regional myths, and Malaysian history. The story revolves around Li Lan, a young woman from a poor aristocratic family, who finds herself confronted with an unusual proposal: a spirit marriage to a young noble who recently perished. But Li Lan has no interest in becoming a bride for a ghost. In this haunting debut novel, Li Lan must fight for her freedom—and possibly her very soul—if she ever hopes to escape the clutches of the dead and marry the man she truly loves.
Li Lan was a lovely, dynamic narrator. I found it interesting to see how she changed as a person from her experiences in the underworld and through her relationship with the mysterious Er Lang. Li Lan did a wonderful job of explaining much of the customs and beliefs of Malay without overwhelming the reader by offering too much information or leaving the reader lost, unable to discern what is happening in the narrative. It strikes a perfect balance, which I find I greatly appreciate.
Ghost Bride is a bit of an unusual story, yes, but it’s absolutely fascinating. I was enchanted by Choo’s descriptions of the spirit world and the rules which govern them, by the intriguing (and, sometimes, terrifying) full-bodied characters she created, and by the history of the Pacific nation. In short, it’s a wonderful book—and I fell in love with it.
Last, I read The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. I was not impressed, let me say so now. At least part comes from the fact I purchased a translation that was—well, let’s say less than spectacular. While I was reading, I noticed little mistakes. Some were simple typos, but a few were glaring grammar mistakes. It’s almost like the original Italian text was fed through a Google translator and published with the usual transcription mistakes.
Plus, I was so bored for most of Machiavelli’s work. It literally took me weeks to finish reading my copy of The Prince, even though it was only 114 pages. I just couldn’t keep interested in it. I was bored after only a few pages, and I couldn’t stand reading it after I realized I couldn’t consider the text reliable. I finished the book only because I needed to finish a book on politics and The Prince seemed to fit the bill. Truthfully, I would never read it again, unless it was absolutely necessary.