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Bookshelf Project 2016: #9 & #10 Goodnight Beautiful Women & Here Comes the Sun

2016 May 31

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It’s safe to say I’ve hit a wall with my Bookshelf Project. I’ve been trying to read everything on my shelves, but the problem is that I also keep managing to somehow acquire more books. So I’m getting overwhelmed, and not even really reading the things I want to be reading. I’m torn over whether I should continue at this point, because I want to read the books on my shelves on the one hand, but on the other hand, it feels like a chore when I give it a name and add it to a list. I love reading, and for the past six weeks or so, it’s felt like nothing but an obligation, and not a fun one.

Lists, queues, piles, inboxes–I feel like I’m always scrambling to catch up, even though there’s nothing to catch up to. The probability that I will listen to every podcast on my phone before a new episode comes out is…nothing. Same with watching everything on my Netflix queue or reading (and responding to) every email in my inbox before a new one comes in. And, of course, this is never more true than for my “to-read” shelf, apparently both real and virtual. I currently have 500 books on my Goodreads “want to read” shelf. FIVE HUNDRED. Even if I stopped adding books to it (hahahahah) and kept a steady 50 books a year reading rate, it would take me TEN YEARS to finish every book on the list.

This is not what I wanted to write about, but this is what’s happening. I know we all feel it, this frantic need to watch everything, listen to everything, read everything–it’s FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and I have it bad. It’s like that Portlandia sketch where the two people ask one another “did you read it?” until they’re yelling and eating pages from a magazine.

 

Things haven’t quite gotten to that level for me yet, but it feels like it in my brain sometimes. Though I no longer subscribe to the New Yorker for this very reason (I couldn’t stand the guilt of the unread stacks), I still have access to them at work, and so I currently have about four unread issues (one from February) sitting on my desk in my office, mocking me and my inability to consume everything I want.

I wonder if I’d be happier, more at peace, if I could just walk away from all the lists and queues and feeds. Unsubscribe from all the email newsletters (that are full of links to more articles to read), stop checking Twitter 27 times a day, read any book I feel like when I feel like it, erase all of the unread blogs from my RSS feed every day. What would that be like? It’s like I’m preparing for a cosmic pop quiz where everyone will be held somehow responsible for the amount of content they’ve consumed in their lives, and I don’t want to fail.

I guess if there’s any good time to give it a shot, it’s the summer. Maybe I’d get more writing done if I wasn’t so busy watching and listening and reading.

Anyway. I read these two books in galley form, courtesy of my roommate’s ALA haul. I really liked them both. Here Comes the Sun is Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut novel about Margot, a woman who works in a fancy resort hotel near her village home in Jamaica, splitting her days between the opulence of tourism and the desperate poverty of her village. Her mother sells trinkets to tourists in an outdoor market, and her younger sister, Thandi, is a star pupil that the women have pinned all their own unrealized hopes on. Unbeknownst to Thandi, Margot has been sacrificing much more than her days working–a hard truth she’s forced to grapple with when their village is threatened by another luxury hotel and she must make her own wrenching decisions. It’s a gut-punch of a story, but I was totally captivated by the characters and their struggles.

Goodnight, Beautiful Women is another debut, a story collection by Anna Noyes.

I really enjoyed this collection. It’s reminiscent of Olive Kitteridge, not just geographically (nearly all of the stories take place in a hard-scrabble Maine town), but in the way you have the feeling all of these characters’ stories are linked, though Noyes doesn’t link them explicitly as Strout does.

They’re also beautifully written and poignant. What I loved most about them is the different kinds of love and relationships depicted–love between mothers and daughters, stepdaughters and stepfathers, sisters, estranged friends. Sadness hangs heavy over all of these stories, but it’s not strangling. Noyes does a great job of writing in young womens’ voices, young women who have yet to face all they will face in the world, but who are nonetheless getting warmed up to all of the pain before their time.

I like reading galleys because you feel like you’re on the inside track of the book world…and clearly, I like to be on that track.

Now to have a glass of wine with my friend on my porch–the kind of thing that I will strive to do more of instead of scrambling to READ/WATCH/HEAR ALL THE THINGS!

3 Responses Post a comment
  1. Wendy permalink
    May 31, 2016

    A well-intentioned self improvement project can suck all the joy out of life. I suggest getting a coffee milkshake and reading US weekly.

  2. Kelli permalink
    June 1, 2016

    “I wonder if I’d be happier, more at peace, if I could just walk away from all the lists and queues and feeds. Unsubscribe from all the email newsletters (that are full of links to more articles to read), stop checking Twitter 27 times a day, read any book I feel like when I feel like it, erase all of the unread blogs from my RSS feed every day. What would that be like?”

    THIS struck a chord for me. I keep making these to do lists and even as I cross one thing off I add five more. And everything suddenly becomes a chore. Personally, I only have a brief break from school anyhow so I’m TRYING to just read what I want, watch what I want, do what I want when I want. It’s harder than it sounds…but I am trying.

  3. Emily permalink
    June 6, 2016

    Let me know if there were any you didn’t get a chance to read! I read Goodnight, Beautiful Women over the weekend and thought it was pretty good.

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