Tag Archives: Thirtysomethings

No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July (2007)

I loved this book.  I loved how its stories are meaningful but also speckled with Miranda July’s dry humor (“As with the whole-grain bread, Carl did not initially leap into the idea with enthusiasm”) that stops them from ever being too pretentious.  I love that these stories are about relationships that don’t always work.  I love that July’s characters undergo real emotional turmoil.  I love how there are things about these stories I don’t understand, and that I’m OK with that.  Finally, I love that this paperback comes in five different colors and that mine happens to be orange.

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami (2008)

Every day, Japanese author Haruki Murakami writes and runs, each on a set schedule with set goals.  Most of this essay collection is ostensibly about running, but when Murakami talks about the discipline involved with marathon training he’s also talking about the discipline involved with writing, so that reading about his stretches and his Hokkaido ultramarathon provides insight into a disciplined creative mind.  He also recounts his transition from jazz club-owning twentysomething to focused writer, and the entire book forms a quiet, unpretentious reflection on what it means to pursue a skill—even if you don’t like sports.

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Election, by Tom Perrotta (1998)

A high school presidential election pits a goody two-shoes overachiever against a clueless jock and his rebellious younger sister, with one teacher viewing the race as a microcosm of who gets ahead in life and why.  Election shows how much these contests seem to matter in the moment but afterwards feel trite—it explores rivalries based on jealousy, social class, love, popularity, and the glory of the spotlight.  The novel’s rapid switches between narrators (often in mid-scene) are among the most effective I’ve ever read, and keep the novel constantly moving.  Read this even if you’ve seen the movie.

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1Q84, by Haruki Murakami (2011)

A man and a woman in different parts of Tokyo find themselves drawn into the bizarre world of 1Q84 (kyū is Japanese for nine) where everything looks the same but a sinister religious cult is wreaking havoc.  I enjoyed parts of this book immensely, but others dragged on through its 1,100 pages, and a lot of the slower portions could have been trimmed.  The novel explores the idea of parallel worlds in classic Murakami fashion, and though the ending makes the whole read worth it, I recommend starting with something lighter for your first Murakami experience.

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Where I Got It

Christmas, 2015.

More

Haruki Murakami’s website

Murakami Interview about 1Q84, his early life, and running every day

Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari (with Eric Klinenberg, 2015)

Dick pics. Waiting exactly two hours before responding to a flirty text.  Swiping through Tinder while at an actual bar because the people there aren’t quite good enough.  Aziz Ansari reveals string after string of sharp, relatable truths about 21st century phone-based dating and how today’s young adults struggle through a new period of emerging adulthood in their quests for the perfect soulmate.  The book smartly blends sociological research, jokes about rappers, insights into the dating scenes in Japan and Buenos Aires, and actual, useful advice for navigating the ever-changing world of modern romance.  Well played, Aziz.

Rating:

5-kafkas

Where I Got It

Bought online this September ago after telling myself for months that I was finally going to read the damned thing.

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Aziz Ansari essay, Everything You Thought You Knew About L-O-V-E is Wrong

Eric Klinenberg’s website

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami (2014)

With fewer fantastical elements than Kafka on the Shore or Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Murakami’s most recent novel covers more realistic scenarios that still raise larger, otherworldly questions.  The title character, a quiet loner, becomes estranged from his four childhood friends without explanation, and embarks on a quest from Nagoya to Finland to find out why. We never discover the secrets of Tsukuru’s past exactly, but that’s never the point with Murakami.  My one qualm is the flat exposition in the opening chapters, though this (fortunately) gives rise to more significant scenes quickly enough.

Rating:

4-kafkas

Where I Got It

Impromptu Christmas gift (2015) from my brother, who got two copies and gave me the paperback edition while keeping the hardcover (pictured above, much cooler).

More

Haruki Murakami’s website

Wikipedia page