Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Ingvild Burkey, 3/5
Reading this collection of short essays, mostly on such prosaic topics as “apples” and “plastic bags,” is a calming and grounding experience. Knausgaard combines the sensibilities of a sophisticated writer with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, rendering even the most commonplace subject somehow remarkable. The simple and honest manner in which the author’s thoughts and everyday life experiences permeate the text give one a sense of voyeurism without its intrinsic guilt; as if someone has left their curtains open solely to warm the hearts of passersby in the dark.
Why I read it: a recommendation by my sister, Anna.
My Fight / Your Fight
My Fight / Your Fight by Ronda Rousey with Maria Burns Ortiz, 3/5
I’ve never been much of a Rousey fan, but there’s an undeniably voyeuristic appeal to this first-hand account of the rise of the first woman to make it big in MMA. Rousey’s work ethic, mental strength and accomplishments are inspiring and her prose is tolerable. However, written before her only two losses, the book feels premature and some of the warrior rhetoric rings a bit hollow in light of her subsequent complete disappearance from the martial arts scene.
Why I read it: A guy from the gym brought his copy in for me.
The Total Dirt Rider Manual
The Total Dirt Rider Manual by Pete Peterson and the editors of Dirt Rider, 5/5
Well-illustrated and written with a healthy dose of humor, this book seems about as helpful as it is possible for a book about something like dirt biking to be.
Why I read it: Lent me by a friend who rides, doubtless as an elaborate set-up for asking if I forgot to read the part about “not falling off the bike” when I wipe out for the first time.
Better Than Before
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin, 3/5
They say that opposites attract, in which case I suspect that I may be very similar to the author, who I found to be thoroughly grating. Perhaps it’s her approach to the topic, which is somehow both overly analytical and overly anecdotal, or perhaps it’s because studying how to make habits seems pointless to me (surely the hard part is deciding what habits to have, not how to keep them up?). I knew I was in trouble when Rubin’s first attempt (of many) to organize her readers into overly-tidy categories failed to resonate with me–am I an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Does it even matter? At any rate, I felt so little interest in this book that I had a difficult time finishing it and remember practically nothing about it now. It has joined the growing ranks of faceless self-help books that have made the New York Times Best Seller list but not an impression on me.
[Why I read it: my friend Joy recommended it to me.]