SALT LAKE CITY — January has come to an end and usually by this time I realize I’ve already failed at all of my New Year’s resolutions. But not this year.
One of my intentions for 2020 is to read more books. Now, reading is something I’ve always loved. As a kid, I always had a book with me for car trips (short and long). Over the past few years though, reading has taken a back seat.
As much as I’ve wanted to dive into a good book after a long day, it seemed so much easier to dive into Netflix instead (don’t judge me), and that pile of “been meaning to read” books grew larger than the “finished” pile.
And thus the goal to read at least one book a month was born. One seems reasonable, one seems doable, one seems fun.
Enter, the KSL.com Book Club.
It’s a book club with a twist involving some members of the KSL.com team. Due to our conflicting schedules and tastes, we’ll each be reading a different book rather than the same one, and we’ll recap our picks on the last Friday of each month. The goal here is to simply read more and escape real-world distractions, if only for a few pages a day.
This month's KSL.com Book Club includes social media manager Yvette Cruz, writer Graham Dudley, news director Whitney Evans and writer Jacob Klopfenstein. If you think of a book one of us might like based on our book choices and reviews, feel free to let us know!
Yvette's pick: "Slade House" by David Mitchell
"Slade House" is a haunted house story that follows various characters who, every nine years, are lured to a hidden house in a suburban working-class area of England and once they go in, they never come out. The story spans decades and each chapter’s main character — a gifted teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student, a skeptical journalist — narrates the events that led them to Slade House and eventually, the mysterious twins who inhabit it.
I thought this book started out a bit slow but once it picked up I was hooked. It’s essentially the same horror story with each character but with some twists (which I love). Usually with haunted house stories, I want to think that I’d be able to avoid the main character’s inevitable fate because I’d be smarter and I’d know when to get out, but "Slade House" tests that. Just when I thought I had found the way out, I was oh so wrong.
Who would like this book? If you like paranormal stuff or a good mystery, you might enjoy this book.
"Slade House" contains profanity and some sexual content.
My next read: I have several memoirs that I've been meaning to get to so one of those for sure.
Graham's pick: "Say Nothing" by Patrick Radden Keefe
“Say Nothing” tells the story of Northern Ireland’s 30-year period of intense sectarian conflict called the Troubles, which lasted from the late 1960s to 1998, and how the echoes of that time can still be heard today.
The book does a great job of both giving a general overview of the conflict — mostly from the perspective of the Provisional IRA, a Catholic paramilitary group — and showing individual examples of the cost of war. To outsiders, and even to people in mainland Britain, the Troubles often felt like a faraway and totally inscrutable event. Yet, Keefe’s book illustrates vividly the passion of its soldiers, the amount at stake, and how a group of otherwise ordinary young adults became wrapped up in a struggle that would go on to define them.
Who would like this book? History buffs, people with Irish heritage, and true crime enthusiasts will appreciate “Say Nothing.”
“Say Nothing” contains some violent and disturbing content.
My next read: There’s a lot of great new and upcoming sports nonfiction — like Keith Law’s “The Inside Game” and Ken Dryden’s Scotty Bowman biography — that I can’t wait to get to.
Whitney's pick: "The Giver of Stars" by JoJo Moyes
The book is a fictional account of a group of Pack Horse Librarians in Kentucky, an actual group that delivered books in rural areas in the late '30s and early '40s. The narrative follows Alice Wright, who meets and quickly marries Bennett Van Cleve. He whisks her away from England to Kentucky. Instead of the big city life she had imagined, she finds herself in a small town with a lot of scrutiny from the townsfolk and her father-in-law. While she hoped to escape a family that expected conformity from her, she soon finds her new family situation to be just as oppressive. Looking for an outlet, she joins the Pack Horse Librarians and begins delivering books. The novel follows their struggles and triumphs as they try to promote literacy and help weed out corruption in the town. The descriptions made you feel like you were there, and the storyline was constantly moving.
I almost didn't read the book, because I did not like the central plot of Moyes' earlier book, "Me Before You," and what I saw as its reductive portrayal of someone who has a disability. But, "The Giver of Stars" was my book club's choice for the month, so I decided to give it a read. I was pleasantly surprised. The book was really hard to put down, and I spent a good chunk of a day off of work breezing through. Moyes handled the women's stories well and made you feel as if you were experiencing the same frustrations and moments of triumph. My main frustration with the book was with how she handled nonwhite characters. They had some powerful moments, but from my read, basically filled the tropes of needing help or giving help. They weren't fully formed.
Who would like this book? This book is good for someone who wants a quick read and a storyline that features strong women.
My next read: I'm in the middle of a couple books for work that will probably bore a normal reader, but I'm thinking of either finishing "Dracula" or starting "The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle" by Kent Alexander.
Jacob's pick: "Everything Under" by Daisy Johnson
“Everything Under” is a weird and mysterious modern retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus. The protagonist, Gretel, now works as a lexicographer and is searching for her mother Sarah, who left her when she was an adolescent. Gretel grew up on a houseboat in a strange, nomadic existence on the canals near Oxford, England. She and Sarah were so separated from normal society that they created their own language with words like “bonak,” which refers to a malignant being that prowls through the waters. During her search for her mother, Gretel recalls a winter month long ago when a strange boy named Marcus wandered into their lives.
Johnson’s prose is direct and easy to read, but still maintains an eerie sense of weirdness throughout. Reading her words, you can’t help but assume something about these characters is off.
Who would like this book? Those who like weird, unsettling fiction with a touch of mystery and horror should give it a try.
“Everything Under” has some limited profanity and sexual content that makes it unsuitable for kids.
What else I'm reading: I’m currently revisiting J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic “The Fellowship of the Ring” and I’m trying to make my way through the full “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I barely remember the books from when I first read them as a teenager, and they’ve been collecting dust on my bookshelf ever since.
Have you read any of these books? Let us know what you thought about it or what you’re reading in the comments below.