What I’ve been reading backstage

With tech week, the run of a show, and long waits for a few recent auditions, I’ve been getting caught up on my “to-read” list (and doing a few crossword puzzles to keep things interesting).

The Glass Castle: A Memoir
by Jeannette Walls

I had read the first chapter of this book months ago and was eager to dive in to Walls’ memoir. Raised by two creative but mentally unstable parents, Walls had a childhood that was nearly unfathomable in its chaos and challenges. What made her story so touching was the deep love and compassion with which she treated her parents, both in life and in writing. When she got to the tying-up-loose-ends portion of the book, which I found really dry in the last memoir I read, I found myself engaged and desperate to know what happened to everyone. I finished the book really admiring the author, which is no small feat for a snob like myself.

In brief: Life is hard. Love anyway. Even your disturbed parents who made you live in squalor and could have ruined your life. 

The Chaperone
by Laura Moriarty

Cora Carlisle needs to go on an Epic Quest for Answers, and Louise Brooks, whose parents seek a chaperone for her trip to New York City, provides Cora with a reason to go back east from Wichita and Seek the Truth. Along the way, Louise also teachers her some Deep Lessons about Liberation and Not Wearing Corsets.

Aside from some moments that were a little heavy handed in their treatment of social issues (at times I found myself sighing every time the Corset Symbolic of Old-Fashioned Concepts of Femininity came up), this book was maddeningly enjoyable. Each plot twist seemed more preposterous than the one before, but I was happy to be along for the ride.

In brief: Just when you thought things couldn’t get any weirder…/Waiting for the twenty-first amendment.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
by Gretchen Rubin

I don’t know what possessed me to pick up this book. Oh who am I kidding: I grabbed it because I like the color blue on the cover. I am not really into the self-help genre, therefore I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. (Disclosure: I didn’t end up finishing it. By the time I got to the chapter on June I really wasn’t interested anymore).

I was reminded of a sweatshirt one of the spiritual directors wore on my recent retreat. It read “Meditate: Don’t just do something, sit there!” Rubin’s suggestions for Happiness were an action plan (including many items/actions that came with a price tag), which is the last thing a type A person like myself needs. Completing a to-do list might make me satisfied, but it doesn’t carry any deep significance for my emotional state.

To her credit, Rubin acknowledges the limited scope of her project. She doesn’t promise bliss or harmonic convergence, just run of the mill happiness, which apparently is harder to find than I realized.

In brief: The kind of self-help book I might like if I liked self-help books.

The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

Is there a male version of an “It-Girl”? If so, that’s John Green right now. Of course he only came to my attention a few weeks ago, but I quickly got my hands on a copy of his most-buzzed-about book, a novel about teenagers-in-love-who-have-cancer.

Warned it was an ugly-cry sort of book, I went out on a limb and started reading it at a call-back audition that involved a lot of waiting. I figured I could make it through the first 100 pages or so without gulping sobs. I finished it that same evening at home where I could ugly-cry without shame.

I’m always skeptical of works of art that are billed as “irreverent”, because that often means “flouting social norms just because it seems edgy”. In this case, Green’s irreverence seemed more like “my sense of humor”. He had me on page 24, when his teenage narrator recounts her first cancer diagnosis:

The diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.

The balance of humor and tragedy, of light and dark, was brilliantly maintained throughout. Seeing the world through the eyes of teenagers with cancer certainly took me out of my comfort zone, but I was happy to go there. The narrator was a particularly well-drawn character, though I felt like some of the other characters I never quite got to know. Her tenderness toward her parents and recognition of their suffering provided some of the most moving moments of the novel.

In brief: Life for some people is unimaginably hard. Love anyway. 

I’m still figuring what should be on my to-read list as we cruise into summer. Suggestions?

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Purchases made through these links send some change back into my piggy bank.
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2 Responses to What I’ve been reading backstage

  1. Bridget says:

    Have you read Gone Girl yet? Also, I just finished Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham. It wasn’t wonderful but it was a fun, short read.

  2. Bethany says:

    Are you familiar with Brene Brown? The researcher on vulnerability and shame who did the best TED talk ever? (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html) I’m reading her book, “Daring Greatly” right now. I kind of think it should be required reading for all humans. If I had to recommend a self-help book to someone who doesn’t like self-help books, I’d recommend this one. 🙂

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