My reading has fallen off a steep cliff thanks to Netflix. Yup, I have finally crawled out from under my rock and joined the 21st century. I have been resisting Netflix for years because “I don’t have time to commit to TV shows anymore” but, hello, it’s Netflix. I get it now, people, I get it. I have been binge-watching a bunch of murder mystery series, including Poirot, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (love the series even more than the books and am obsessed with it but MY GOD KISS HER ALREADY, JACK ROBINSON!!!) and Broadchurch. Highly recommend the latter, by the way. David Tennant is my second-favourite Doctor, and Olivia Colman is fantastic. The season 1 finale delivered a real gut punch.

Anyway, reading. Haven’t done much of it, though I have continued to add to my reading list thanks to thrifting. Hopefully I will have more to report next time. I did manage to breeze through The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I loved. If you couldn’t tell from these recaps, I don’t read a lot of non-genre/literary fiction so this was a nice change of pace. I struggle with literary fiction because I have weird, picky tastes. I don’t like reading things that are too depressing, or too sappy, or too fluffy. I prefer action or humour or mystery, though nothing too violent or graphic. I tend not to take risks with fiction novels because I’m afraid I could end up with something like, say, Atonement on my hands. I hated that book with a passion. It is a beautifully written book, but the story made me so angry. It damn broke my heart. Like, ugly-cry broke my heart. Feelings, ugh. No thanks.

Anywaaaaay, GLaPPS (I’m not typing that out again, sorry) is none of things I hate, and many of the things I love. Epistolary novels have been my jam ever since I read Les Liaisons Dangereuses. This one was well executed and heart-warming in a bittersweet, non-sappy way. The various characters’ voices came through very clearly in their letters, and they were all believably lovable. There was a bit of mystery, a bit of will-they-won’t-they romantic suspense, and was somehow joyfully lighthearted despite the fact that the pivotal part of the story deals with the Nazi occupation of Guernsey. The authors have a deft touch that stopped it from becoming an entirely different, much darker book.

If you guys have (literary) fiction recc’s for me — keeping in mind my weird tastes — please share them in the comments. Also, thoughts: I’m debating tracking down a copy of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels … should I?

Moving on, a few cool articles. First up, for the personal finance voyeur in us all (what, just me?) this Refinery29 money diary from a 27-year old single woman making $230K is worth a (longish) read. The reactions from the commentariat (some critical, some supportive) are interesting as well because they reveal a lot about how different people view money (and others’ financial choices). Bottom line: on the internet, people will judge the hell out of whatever you do, no holds barred — probably because money is still such a taboo subject in real life. For what it’s worth, my main reaction in reading the diary was surprise that the author wasn’t working much longer hours, based on her location and industry (NYC, finance). I may have read too many biglaw horror stories from my American counterparts.

Speaking of taboos, check out this article about why women are “not allowed” to age. As I inch ever closer to my 40s, while moving up in my career, I struggle with this more and more. As a professional woman, you want to look wise and experienced — but can you look old? There is SO MUCH tied up in this question, I don’t even know where to begin. It probably deserves its own post, but I have had no epiphanies, and have no real answers, and so the most I can do is ask you all to commiserate with me that It. Is. Freaking. Hard. To. Figure. All. This. Out.

Lastly, this article about feelings which are untranslatable in the English language was fascinating. As a non-native English speaker, I have often pondered how our experience is shaped by the words available to us in whatever language we speak. Needless to say, I loved learning about the feelings which other cultures have decided are important enough to be named. Sehnsucht, saudade, and natsukashii describe, like, 75% of my Sunday mood. (Sunday is the worst day for feeling blue for no reason, amirite?) I was surprised to see that no one has come up with a name for the “mean reds” … although I guess Capote probably nailed it with those two words.

18 Comments on What I Read: Netflix Edition

  1. Ha! I have horribly depressing taste in literary fiction, which mostly doesn’t bother me but on occasion is a problem when I’m trying to find something lighter. The other day I found myself looking for something less depressing and realized the closest I had in my stack of unread books was a novel by Vita Sackville-West (the woman Virginia Woolf had an affair with and based Orlando on) called All Passion Spent. I skimmed the back cover and thought, “great, it’s about an old woman who gave up her dreams of being an artist to marry but in her old age, after her husband dies, decides to do what she always wanted and pick up art again.” Not really uplifting but hopefully kind of badass. Anyway, it was a great book but it turns out I misread the blurb. So while it’s true the protagonist have up her dream of being an artist to marry, she doesn’t pick up art later. She just gets a house of her own and dies. Oops.

    Anyway, Vita Sackville-West does have an amazing autobiography co-written by her son about the early years of the completely happy open marriage she had. Maybe not quite what you’re looking for but so good.

    I read the first book of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. I’m mixed about it. She’s really talented but I found the relationship between the two women suffocating. I don’t have much patience for novels about adultery or women as frenemies. Maybe other people felt differently, though.

  2. We’re on season 3 of Broadchurch in the UK now, I wasn’t as keen on Season 2 but this one is great so far. I think it’s broadcast on Monday nights but I never watch it live so can’t be sure. David Tenant as a broody detective does things for me for sure!

  3. I’m so glad you brought up the article about emotions and language. I’m a native English speaker and I think in English. However I live in France and my children(4&6) are native French speakers. There are words, phrases, ideas that don’t translate exactly and I have integrated them into my own thought process but I don’t think I would have if not for my kids expressing these ideas and trying to see the world through their eyes. A funny example is of my son “getting in trouble”. Those are the words I would use to tell my English speaking mom what happened. But to my French speaking friends, basically I would say he had a problem at school. I think in French he would feel less blame.
    But for me I like English better to skirt an issue. It’s easier to be diplomatic in English. Just my opinion. Great topic. Thanks!

    • I agree … I think English is a good language for diplomacy, at least of the ones with which I’m familiar. There are a lot of words that are, essentially, just tools for avoiding saying something outright.

      In my mother tongue, there is a word that means, more or less, “ill-mannered asshole” and I constantly miss having an equivalent in English. “Rude” just doesn’t connote the same level of disgust and disapprobation.

  4. I love not too graphic or violent mystery novels, too. One of my favorites is Whip Hand, by Dick Francis. I’m currently reading a lot of the Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout, and they aren’t too bad, either.

  5. I also adored GLaPPS. My most recent literary fiction read was The Underground Railroad and I loved it, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it if you don’t want *feelings*.

    Not fiction, but if you’re a fan of epistolary storytelling, have you read 84, Charing Cross Road? Hands down one of my favourite books ever.

    If you’re looking for something funny, quirky and comforting, I don’t think you can do better than I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith. Another book that shares all those qualities while at the same time being about as different a story as possible is Heartburn by Nora Ephron. I love them both.

    • I ADORE I Capture the Castle! GLaPPS reminded me of it in tone, which is probably why I liked it so much. ICtC is basically everything I love in literary fiction these days*, so I’m down for reading anything that comes even close to it.

      * I used to read a lot of darker, more existentialist-angsty stuff when I was younger, but I find that I don’t have the appetite for it anymore.

  6. You might like “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. It’s sad/heartbreaking in places, but overall I don’t feel like it was super emotionally taxing. I felt good after reading it. Same thing with “The House sat the End of Night” by Catherine Banner.

    Have you ever read the Maisie Dobbs mystery series? If you like PD James and Agatha Christie, I’d recommend them. I listened to the audiobooks and really enjoyed them overall. She’s a little too “perfect” at times, but the stories are interesting and I think we’ll-written.

  7. If you like mysteries and biographies, have you read P.D. James’ Talking About Detective Fiction? I loved it. Her biography is also very good. It’s called Time to Be in Earnest. Interestingly, she also talks about how language changes the way you think.

    And I absolutely second 84, Charing Cross Road. It is one of the most wonderful, funny, endearing and heartbreaking books I’ve ever read. Read it as soon as you can!

  8. It’s always interesting to see the (usually negative and critical) comments on the Money Diaries pieces. I don’t always think the Money Diaries format gives that accurate a picture because a monthly breakdown would often be more informative than a breakdown of any given week, but people nitpick the weirdest things! There was a biglaw one a while back where people thought the diarist was “cheating the system” with regards to reimbursed food and the like, but being an industry insider I know that wasn’t the case. The diarist may have framed a few client-development or summer-associate-recruiting meal or drink outings as “going out with friends,” which could have been a bit confusing to those not in the industry, but that was about it.

    I’ve been trying to read more (got a library card and have been loaning ebooks), but I haven’t found any good literary fiction recently. I’m on the very long waitlists for the Man Booker prize shortlist books from last year, though I’ve been disappointed with the ones I’ve gotten so far. (I couldn’t get into The Sellout because the writing style there just didn’t work for me. My Name is Lucy Barton is alright, but it’s very melancholy and felt a bit… incomplete to me, like too many things were left unsaid. Based on your description of the type of fiction you like, I don’t think you’d like either of those!)

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