Books I read this week: June week 1

 

 

 

Here’s what I read this week.


Orlando by Virginia Woolf. I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time. Something in The Art of English Murder made me think about it, and I decided to take it on. It’s the story of a young aristocrat (Orlando) who finds his fortune,  finds love, loses love, and becomes a recluse, marries, and then wakes up one morning a woman. She carries on life as a woman (running into a few problems as far as her marriage and estate go), and lives for hundreds of years. Over the course of the time she writes, and generally just observes the world. It’s an odd, interesting book. It’s not my favorite Woolf by a long shot- it gets a little too meandering for me. But I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Green in nature is one thing, green in literature another. Nature and letters seem to have a natural antipathy; bring them together and they tear each other to pieces.

He opened his eyes, which had been wide open all the time, but had seen only thoughts.

She was almost felled to the ground by the extraordinary sight which now met her eyes. There was the garden and some birds. The world was going on as usual. All the time she was writing the world had continued.


The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. Oh my goodness, this book. It is just so incredibly good. Montgomery became interested in octopuses and began to learn about them, beginning with Athena, an octopus in the New England aquarium. Her interest became a deep love, and this book is a memoir of her journey learning about these incredible animals that is filled with so much fascinating information. During the course of her learning she becomes a volunteer at the aquarium, traveling there multiple times a week to study and enjoy the octopuses. She becomes friends with three different octopus, learns how to scuba dive and goes on research expeditions, and is so good at describing what she sees and learns. Most people don’t think of fish or sea animals as having thinking brains in the same way humans do- and they don’t- but octopuses definitely can recognize people, act strategically, and interact in a way that really points toward intelligence.  I can’t even begin to sum up this book, it’s really mind opening and I highly, highly recommend it.

Octopuses represent the great mystery of the Other. They seem completely alien, and yet their world- the ocean- comprises far more of the Earth (70 percent of its surface area; more than 90 percent of its habitable space) than does land.

Worst of all, an octopus can take the opportunity to escape from an open tank, and an escaped octopus is a big problem for both the octopus and the aquarium.

“So if an octopus is this smart,” Steve asked Bill, “what other animals are out there that could be this smart- that we don’t think of being sentient and having personality and memories and all these things?”

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones is an unexpected little book. It’s Emerald’s birthday, and there’s a party planned. The man that her mother wants her to marry is coming, the housekeeper has been working at dinner all day, the dreaded Step (her step father) is away trying to save their home, and her little sister, unbeknownst to everyone else, has chosen that night as the time for her Great Undertaking- which involves bringing a pony into her upstairs bedroom. But a train derails down the road, and the house is suddenly filled with the uninvited guests of the title, including one very unwelcome guest. It’s a character piece, a look at how people react under stress, and how families interact. I really liked it.

Of the dozen or so clocks at Sterne there were only six that moved at all and three that told the approximate time. It was somewhere past seven.

Could it be that she was not entirely described by her shameful past? That she had other concerns, more poignant?

 


Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom. Sometimes when I can’t decide what to read I just page through my Kindle until I accidentally push too long or hard on one of the books and it opens, and then I read it. That’s what happened with this book, and I’m glad because I really enjoyed it. It’s the true story of Bloom, who grew up in a household where excellence was demanded (and attained- her brother Jeremy Bloom is a three-time World Champion, two-time Olympian, eleven-time World Cup gold medalist in skiing and her other brother is a surgeon). She never felt like she could live up to her brothers’ achievements, and moved from Colorado to Los Angeles where she ended up with a job as an assistant to a, quite frankly, abusive boss in the real estate field. She defends him as just trying to make her better, and she did learn to succeed in the ways he wanted her to. She also started running a poker game for him- to which high rollers and movie stars were invited. It quickly became the most prestigious game in LA, with Tobey McGuire and Ben Affleck as regulars. She ends up taking over the game as her own, and then moves to NY (in the midst of great drama instigated by Tobey McGuire, who does not come off well at ALL in this book) and has great success. She takes great pains all the way along to make sure that she’s working within the law, but eventually ends up accused with a bunch of others for criminal conspiracy.

The book is so interesting because Bloom is really likable even when she’s not. As she gets pulled deeper and deeper into things, she starts neglecting her family, friends, everything in order to keep her game and her customers happy, and she totally realizes that she’s doing it, but she can’t really see any other way to handle her life. She wants so much to succeed at something, and she feels like the only thing that she’s good at is managing these games. I found it sad because it gets to the point that she’s not even living her life, she’s so busy arranging things so that other people can enjoy themselves and give her a lot of money. There’s just a lot to think about. But there’s also some great gossip about various celebrities, and it’s a fun read.

I wanted so much to be part of them. I wanted to make deals, to enjoy the good life that comes with money and status. The single-malt scotch tasted like gasoline, but I smiled and forced back my urge to gag.

You can tell a lot about a man’s character by watching him win or lose money.

This isn’t high school, it’s not a popularity contest. This is part of being a businesswoman. It’s just business, I thought. This phrase was a useful way to justify behaving with greed instead of compassion. I had been using it a lot lately.

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