Denver!

We have arrived here in Denver, and we are enjoying our time here so far. I came mid July, and started working at my new job. I help people learn more about their options to complete certificates to teach English as a foreign language and help teachers find jobs abroad as a Program Advisor. I love the new job! It’s great to be back in the field where I’d like to grow my career.

After two weeks at the job, I headed back home to help Pete pack. It was a long day, but we made it to our new apartment three weeks ago! We have been exploring the city, unpacking, and recovering from the move. Pete starts school on Monday, and he is excited to get studying.

And now pictures of our time here so far!

On the road! Pete and I split the driving, and it was a long drive.

On the road! Pete and I split the driving, and it was a long drive.

Pete and I went on a long walk one day, and we spent some time relaxing on a river on the north of the city.

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Hanging out at the farmer’s market, after a long day running at the dog park.

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Out on a walk on beautiful 17th Avenue

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Action shot of an evening walk!

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Zoli has taken his duty of window guard watching very seriously.

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Lovely view of Denver.

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Out and about.

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Cool apartments are everywhere.

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More cool buildings.

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Apartment pic! Also, have you watched Bob’s Burgers yet on Netflix? You should.

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Tired dog, but he’s happy that we’re moved in.

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Kitchen view.

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Weird apartment view.

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Balcony view. We are so glad to have a bit of outside space!

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We are Moving!

Pete and are moving on to a new adventure! We love Salt Lake, so it will be sad to leave at the end of the summer. Although, we will get one more amazing summer here full of farmers markets and parks.

At the end of the summer, we are moving to DENVER!

Pete is starting University of Colorado Denver’s Master in Urban and Regional Planning program in the fall. We went to the open house last month, and it is an amazing program! We are bummed about leaving SLC, but Denver has a great vibe, and I think we will love the city.

Now it is time for me to find a full time job, and hopefully Pete can find a job that works with his school schedule. We think that Zoli will love the city, as it seems to be a super dog friendly city.

And pictures! Of Denver! According to the internet!

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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Sometimes, a book comes into my life that I know will hang around my mind indefinitely. Perhaps it was the story of The Goldfinch which influenced me, but more likely, it was the main character.

To me, an author who can make me love and hate a character, many times within sentences of each other, is a master of writing. Theo was a character who I worried about when not reading The Goldfinch. His plight was so real to me, and his personality was full of endearing attributes and tragic flaws.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, simply because I read the novel with no real research into the plot or reviews, and I think that my lack of prior knowledge of the story made it that much better, but I will say it is a fast paced (and long–800 pages!) novel that involves a painting which is as haunting as the novel in its name. So. If you can handle a gritty book with a bit of strong language, I highly recommend it.

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The Catastrophist

Behold! I have finished another book! This one, The Catastrophist, by Lawrence Douglas, took longer to read, but I blame that on the fact that Pete and I have started re-watching Community on Hulu.

Anywho, the book. I found this book at Ken Sanders Bookstore downtown. It was right by Dostoevsky’s Brother’s Karamazov, which I have yet to finish (started it twice, but I’m not mentally ready for the book… yet). The back described it as an existential breakdown. As a fan of Kafka’s superior existential novels and short stories, I figured I should give a shot to a modern take of existentialism. The Catastrophist did not disappoint. It was a tragi-comedy, with a main character who had some of the strangest impulses, thoughts, and fears. As with all existential characters, I found him both endearing and horrifying at the same time. I don’t really want to get into the plot of the novel, because I’m still processing the whole story and the main characters’ issues. So. I will simply recommend the novel to anyone who is interested–and I own the book, so I’ll even lend it out!

Just started The Age of Innocence. I think it’ll be an entertaining read. It’s probably the most romantic novel I’ve got on the list, yet it sounds like it is less romantic than a typical romance. I did discover, sadly, that the notes contain spoilers, so I’ll have to skip out on the extra background information that I love when books have notes.

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Failed Attempt to Cook #2

Pete and I decided to cook more. I even printed out a weekly menu and we went to the store to shop for everything we would need this week for cooking. We were ready for real dinners and yummy new recipes.

Today is dinner #2, and we are currently at a 0:2 ratio of successful dinners. Dinner #1 was a spaghetti carbonara. Easy, right? Well, yes, but our pasta rebelled and essentially broke into hundreds of tiny pieces while boiling. So it was carbonara with pasta that was no longer than an inch. Bummer! Tasted fine, but did not look appetizing!

And today, I accidentally turned on the wrong burner, and on that burner, was a glass dish with the remains of our brownies. I saw that I was recooking the dang brownies, so I grabbed two towels and moved the brownies off the burner. Right when I set it down, the glass exploded! Everywhere! A mess! Our rug is now in the trash, and our linoleum is burned (hope that doesn’t kill our deposit!).

We are now eating chips and granola bars. Once everything cools down, we will try to clean up the stove. Maybe our pizza will still be fine–just a few hours later than we planned.

I think we will go out to eat tomorrow. Much safer.

Evidence:

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Under the Banner of Heaven

Fast and intriguing (and a bit unnerving) read! Krakauer has created a quick, intense, and accurate work where he examines how Mormon Fundamentalist/extreme groups have developed into violent traditions and convictions because of the concept of the Mormon religions’ history and need to be the “truest” religion on earth. He details several accounts of former LDS members who took the religion to its most fanatical reaches, often including violence and abuse. This was my first introduction to the Lafferty brothers, two of whom murdered their sister-in-law and baby niece, all in the name of their god. The book also discusses the Elizabeth Smart case, the Rulon and Warren Jeff’s FLDS group, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. To get a better understanding of these situations, Krakauer gives an in-depth look at the history of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other LDS prophets. I learned significantly more than I anticipated with this heavily researched book, which surprised me, considering that I was raised in Utah, where nearly all of these violent histories occurred. I highly recommend reading this book, as it allows a fair account of what role religion and personal revelation can play when taken to the extreme.

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Heart of Darkness

This was a book that Pete has read a few times, both in school and in free time. He highly recommended it as a must-read. The novella is sectioned into three parts, and is only about 100 pages. In normal situations, a 100 page read should take me about two, maybe three days. This one took more like a week and a half; the first two parts were a bit chaotic and jumbled (Pete says this is intentional), but it sure wasn’t a pleasant first two parts. Confession: I consulted Spark Notes while reading the first two parts, just to make sure I was comprehending everything correctly.

But then! Part three came along and it seemed as if it was a different author, or at the very least, written at a different time as the two previous parts. And this “new” author was easier to follow! And more profound! It may be that the first two parts finally came together for me during the third part. Oh, I guess I forgot to summarize the premise of the book, so let’s do that at the end. It works. Marlowe is a man who has travelled the world by sea, and he goes to the center of Africa with a Belgian company (Marlowe is British). His ultimate goal is to sail to this man named Kurtz, who has made quite the name for himself as an ivory tradesman. Finally, Marlowe does reach a very emaciated and ill Kurtz. Kurtz passes away just before they head home to Europe. Once Marlowe arrives to the mainland, he meets several of Kurtz’s family and friends. A major theme throughout the novella (that I caught on to without the help of Spark Notes!), is the slight obsession and mixed feelings that Marlowe has with the idea of Kurtz. It’s clear that at the end, Marlowe was disappointed by Kurtz himself, as well as his family and friends. Marlowe had high expectations of Kurtz, and he was let down.

Now, my suspicions! I don’t know why, but as I was reading the final section, while Marlowe was meeting Kurtz’s family, I had the creeping suspicion that Marlowe never actually met Kurtz. For whatever reason, I think if you read the few interactions Marlowe had with Kurtz as Marlowe’s imaginations, the final scenes make much more sense. I finished the book, convinced that Kurtz was dead when Marlowe reached Kurtz’s camp. I have no idea if anyone has the same suspicions, and I’m not about to search through peer reviewed journals to find out if I’m not alone. Remember, I was an English major, but this reading goal is to read for the sheer entertainment of it, without the need to write an essay at the end.

Anyway, now I’m reading The Banner of Heaven. I’m already half way and it’s an intense read!

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Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day

Well, it’s the last day in December, and I’m already done with book two! At this rate I’ll be reading a lot more than 20 books for this list. But, it did help that these two last books have been easy reads. So. Before moving on to my next book, Heart of Darkness, I’ll go ahead and give my brief thoughts on Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day by Doug Mack.

My mom bought this book for Pete and me to read–she must know us well because we both do love travel memoirs. The premise of the book is that Mack found a vintage travel guide from the 60s. This ended up being the same book that his mom used during her travels of Europe. The book claimed that you could visit many of the main Western European countries with $5 a day. Mack decides to trek across the Atlantic to see if any of the hotels/restaurants were still around. He found, without much of a surprise, that most of these were either out of his budget (I never did learn what his daily budget was, but it was definitely more than $5 per day) , or they had closed.

Honestly, the book was a little hard to get into; I can’t quite put a finger on why I didn’t love it, but I think it was in part because of the writing style–it seemed a bit forced, and I guess that Western Europe isn’t as exciting to read about as, say, the Caucuses or Balkans. Mack emphasized that he knew that we was traveling the beaten path, but I think that there are other, equally beaten paths, that are more interesting. And I guess I was hoping to hear of more ridiculous mishaps that I could relate to. Pete and I have plenty of stories that could fill a travel memoir, but I just don’t think that it would offer that much to the world to have it actually printed, and ultimately, this book would be funnier as a movie. There. I said it. Most books are better in written form (obviously), but there are some where actually seeing the locations and hearing the voices would make for a more entertaining scenario. Anyway, it was still a fun, light read that does remind me of how traveling is integral (for me, at least) for self-discovery and understanding.

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The Bell Jar

After finishing each read, I’m going to do a quick “my thoughts” post, just to keep track of each book I’ve read. So, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath was the first book I finished from my list. Now, it’s crossed off my list, and here are my brief thoughts on a fantastic book:

I wanted to finish this book in three weeks, but It only took a week. I loved the writing style–beautifully written, but not forced. I also enjoyed how Plath pieced the story together non-chronologically. Esther is a complicated character, and watching her spiral out of control was somehow liberating; I felt like she was true to herself more during her “outbursts” than when she was doing what was socially acceptable. Overall, I’d call The Bell Jar a must-read for any age, but that it would be especially appropriate for college students or recent graduates.

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Books! Goals! On turning 30…

Once upon a time, I read more hours than I slept. I’d forget to eat on Saturdays because I was too busy reading all day. I’d get headaches from not eating! Aside from picking raspberries, my favorite way to spend my time was wandering through the library, searching for the next book I’d delve into.

And then I became an English major.

Suddenly, I was reading the same amount, but they were no longer books of my choosing. A few of the books were amazing (anyone who hasn’t read Kafka’s The Trial needs to read it ASAP!), but a lot of the reading didn’t particularly interest me. Upon graduating from college (back in 2010), I decided to take a break from reading. And aside from a few great books that I’ve read, I’ve never consistently resumed my passion for reading.

Time for a change! I’ll be turning the lovely age of 30 in 20 months. So, a goal: read 20 books before I turn 30. I wanted to create the list now, because whenever I go the library these days, I end up with a book I’m only slightly interested in. I’m thinking I’ll do a small post after I finish each book. I just started reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I’ll need to fly through this book, because December is already partly finished. Loving it already.

So, other than #1 on this list is the first book I’m reading, I will be reading these books in no particular order. I chose some books that I’ve intended on reading for years, some totally random books that had interesting reviews, and a good portion are books I’ve never heard of, but ended up on a variety of lists recommended to be read before turning 30 (it’s amazing how many of those lists are out there!).

And now, a list of books I’ll be reading over the next 20 months, along with basic descriptions that I took from Amazon (the descriptions are mainly to remind and help me choose the next book to tackle):

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
the-bell-jar-by-sylvia-plathAbout: The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under — maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies.

Why: I’d say this book inspired me to get reading again. A friend posted on Facebook that they were graduating and looking for books to read for fun. One of her friends suggested this book and called it a novel of poetry (or something to that extent). I’ve never been one to love poetry, but I figured I should read Sylvia Plath at some point in my life, so why not read her when I am near the same age as she was when this book was written!

Click through for my thoughts, after finishing The Bell Jar

2. The Catastrophist by Lawrence Douglas

catastrophistAbout: Meet Daniel Wellington: art historian, academic star, devoted husband, and total basket case. Although Daniel has known nothing but success, he’s convinced the future promises nothing but disaster. When his wife, known simply as R., presents him with a tiny, size-XXS Yale sweatshirt, Daniel is seized by the impulse to bolt; the specter of imminent fatherhood sends him into a full-blown existential crisis. Soon this well-intentioned young professor finds himself plotting bigamy, lying about his past, imagining his pregnant wife in the arms of an androgynous grad student, and explaining to the dean his obscene e-mail to the lead in a student production of Miss Julie.

Why: I found this book at Ken Sander’s bookshop and it sounded hilarious. Anything with the word existential in its description is sure to interest me. I hope it’s as entertaining as it is likely to be depressing.

3. Animal Farm by George Orwell

animal_farm_1About: As ferociously fresh as it was more than a half century ago, this remarkable allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality is one of the most scathing satires ever published. As readers witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals, they begin to recognize the seeds of totalitarianism in the most idealistic organization—and in the most charismatic leaders, the souls of the cruelest oppressors.

Why: I, of course, loved 1984, so it is obvious that this book needed to be on my list, as it is a classic novel reproaching certain societies.

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4. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

herman_hesse_siddharthaAbout: In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life — the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.

Why: Ever read The Alchemist? I’m hoping that this book will be slightly similar to it, because of the soul searching and unique connections with the environment.

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5. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

gaudy nightAbout: The great Dorothy L. Sayers is considered by many to be the premier detective novelist of the Golden Age, and her dashing sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, one of mystery fiction’s most enduring and endearing protagonists. Gaudy Night takes Harriet and her paramour, Lord Peter, to Oxford University, Harriet’s alma mater, for a reunion, only to find themselves the targets of a nightmare of harassment and mysterious, murderous threats.

Why: Surely every good book list needs some sort of mystery novel.

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6. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

room-with-a-viewAbout: In common with much of his other writing, this work by the eminent English novelist and essayist E. M. Forster (1879–1970) displays an unusually perceptive view of British society in the early 20th century. Written in 1908, A Room with a View is a social comedy set in Florence, Italy, and Surrey, England. Its heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, struggling against straitlaced Victorian attitudes of arrogance, narrow-mindedness and snobbery, falls in love-while on holiday in Italy-with the socially unsuitable George Emerson.

Why: Honestly, this book doesn’t completely get me excited about reading, but it was on so many of the recommended novels that I figured I should give it a shot. Reading the back of Crime and Punishment gave me the same feeling of disinterest, and I absolutely loved that read.

7. Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov

ada or ardorAbout: Published two weeks after Vladimir Nabokov’s seventieth birthday, Ada, or Ardor is one of his greatest masterpieces, the glorious culmination of his career as a novelist. It tells a love story troubled by incest, but it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue.

Why: Confession: I started, but never finished Lolita, and I know I will go back to that novel at some point, but I was fascinated by the description of this Nabokov’s work. I hope I can find a translation that I like. It’s amazing how a translation of a novel can make such a difference.

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8. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

under the bannerAbout: Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy.

Why: This book feels like it is full of controversy, and especially surrounding the polygamous religion, which has always fascinated me.

Click here to read my thoughts on this fantastic book. 

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9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

heart of darknessAbout: We live as we dream–alone…. Heart of Darkness is a short novel written by Joseph Conrad, presented as a frame narrative, about Charles Marlow s job as an ivory transporter down the Congo River in Central Africa. This river is described to be … a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. In the course of his commercial-agent work in Africa, the seaman Marlow becomes obsessed by Mr. Kurtz, an ivory-procurement agent, a man of established notoriety among the natives and the European colonials. The story is a thematic exploration of the savagery-versus-civilization relationship, and of the colonialism and the racism that make imperialism possible.

Why: Two reasons: 1) Pete liked the book, and I can’t have him reading more books than me. I’ll catch up eventually. 2) I once shadowed a high school class who was reading this book, and their discussion was impressive and interesting enough to encourage me to read this book.

Click here to read my thoughts on this novella.

10. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone girlAbout: Marriage can be a real killer. On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Why: Because every good book list should have 2 mystery novels…. Right?

11. The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron

road-to-oxianaAbout: In 1933, the delightfully eccentric travel writer Robert Byron set out on a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Teheran to Oxiana, near the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Throughout, he kept a thoroughly captivating record of his encounters, discoveries, and frequent misadventures.

Why: Travel memoirs are some of the funniest reads I’ve experienced, and I especially love reading travel novels on places I’ve yet to visit.

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12. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt TheGoldfinch

About: Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity.

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

Why: This book is 800-ish pages, so it’ll be quite hefty to trek around to and from work, but from the reviews I’ve read, it sounds like it’ll be worth it!

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13. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

clockwork orangeAbout: A vicious fifteen-year-old “droog” is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to “redeem” him—the novel asks, “At what cost?”

Why: This book’s description is terrifying, so I’ll give it a shot. It’s unlikely that I’ll watch the film; for whatever reason, I can handle scary novels (aside from the R.L. Stine novels from the late 90s–too terrifying for a fourth grader), but I rarely can survive a horror film.

14. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

the glass castleAbout: Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

Why: I’m hoping that this is a feel good book. If it’s not, I’ll probably love it all the more.

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15. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

age of innocenceAbout: Deeply moving study of the tyrannical and rigid requirements of New York high society in the late 19th century and the effect of those strictures on the lives of three people. Vividly characterized drama of affection thwarted by a man’s sense of honor, family, and societal pressures. A long-time favorite with readers and critics alike.

Why: Yep, I’m interested.

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16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

catch 22About: Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

Why: One of my favorite novels of all time is A Confederacy of Dunces. I simply googled “books like confederacy of dunces” and Catch-22 kept coming up as a hilarious read. I’ll happily give it a shot, but it will be tough competition to beat out A Confederacy of Dunces as my new favorite funny book.

17. Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day by Doug Mack

europe on 5 wrong turnsAbout: A quirky travel memoir where Doug travels Europe using only a 1963 travel guide and his wit to finally find meaning in life through the ultimate grand tour.

Why: My mom gave us this book for Christmas, and it looks hilarious. I’m reading it now, and it think I’ll enjoy his views of traveling on a budget (as Pete and I have been in the same situation before).

And here are my thoughts on this read.

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18. – 20. Divergent series by Veronica Roth

divergentAbout: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

Why: I enjoyed the story of The Hunger Games, even though I couldn’t stand the writing (which was a clear example of how terribly wrong first person narration can go). But, I did like the story, as I’ve said, and I think that this trilogy will be the same. I’ve got it on my list because I know at some point, I’ll want some sort of light read that is basically an action film in writing.

So, there you have it! I’ll be crossing these books off as I go, along with a little blurb on my thoughts after finishing each novel.

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