Adventures in Reading


Fiction: Mexican High by Liza Monroy

Liza Monroy’s Mexico City is the story of Mila and her senior year of high school in Mexico City. Her mother works for the American government and Mila has spent her life moving from one metropolis to the next. It’s a period of transition and growth for Mila, but all happening in the dangerous and unfettered environment of Mexico City’s wealthiest social circles.

In many ways, Mexican High is a teen girl novel a la Clique and Gossip Girls (or at least what I’ve heard about them). However, the reader cannot so easily write off Mexican High because Monroy not only explores the glitzy yet darker side of teen life, but also represents the repercussions of lifestyle choices including drugs and sex. Additionally, Mexican High is a well-researched book about Mexico’s history, geography, culture and politics. Though Monroy has set her story in an abundant world of wealth, a theme runs throughout the book comparing this ostentatious lifestyle to the enormous group of working poor and the impoverished that also call Mexico City home.

This is a good book for anyone wanting a light read or for any teenager interested in reading a little more adult-like literature.

Conclusion: Returned to library.



Nonfiction: First Stop in the New World by David Lida

While taking my Spanish classes I have been particularly interested in exploring what I can of Spanish speaking culture. Thanks to the wonders of Bookmooch, I have picked up an array of authors but hadn’t really delved into much of the non-fiction sphere. Until I stumbled across David Lida’s First Stop in the New World in the new hardcover stack.

Located under travel writing (another first for me!), David Lida has lived mostly in Mexico City since the ‘90s. As an American who moved to Mexico City, I appreciated his honesty in the introduction of meeting the reality of Mexico City as a tourist after much of the negative propaganda that has surrounded the city. The title of the book First Stop in the New World explores the idea of Mexico City as a hypermetropolis and the idea that Mexico City is representative of the actuality of a city in the 21st Century.

Written as a somewhat loose collection of essays, Lida admits an entire book could almost be based off of every chapter, the reader explores many nuances of Mexico City from politics to food to sports to music and so forth. With a delightful eye for detail and the wonderful ability of apt socio-cultural criticism, Lida never shies away from displaying the glamor as well as the grit of Mexico City.

http://davidlida.com/



Half Way There!

It being July 1st, it is roughly half way through the year and I decided to spend some time looking back at my reading progress so far for 2008 and commenting on some of the more notable books I had adventures with.

I read Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad back in January and I loved it. It kicked off my experience with the Canongate Myth series, which I have been increasingly fond of with the more I read. Since reading it though, I have stumbled across a fair amount of less enthusiastic and more critical reviews. While I still find the book charming and is one of my preferred Atwood books, I do feel I must add the disclaimer that I read The Penelopiad shortly after I finished a course on “great literature” with a rather narrow-minded if not misogynistic professor.

In February I was completely enchanted and enthralled with Kelly Link’s Magic For Beginners. It was a book I picked up on a whim and ordered through Amazon before I had even finished it. This collection of short stories was located in fantasy and science fiction, but I suppose a more descriptive (and somewhat imaginary) genre would be something like contemporary surrealism. Whatever it is though, Link’s book is good and I see many a Christmas stocking in my future I will be filling with it. And, her latest collection available for free here.

In March I read some really terrific books ranging from Haruki Murakami to Terry Pratchett. But I don’t even have to twist my arm to settle on my favorite and most influential book being Words in Context (previously known as Japanese for Japanese) by Takao Suzuki. Reading the book was enjoyable though there were certainly some more grueling moments digging through this commentary on linguistics and language. However, during the past six months this has to be one of the books I refer to the most. Additionally, it gave me an entirely new and more inspiring way to look at learning languages.

I expanded my J.D. Salinger experience in April with reading his short story “A Perfect Day For Bananafish” from his Nine Stories collection. Until 2008, my experience with Salinger was limited to Catcher in the Rye, but I finally got around to reading Franny and Zooey and dug into Nine Stories for my personal short story reading challenge. It’s a brilliant short story that is… it’s just so perfect. And I got some terrific comments on other people’s experience with the story as well.

Perhaps a bit of a surprise as I read some really great books in May, but I have to say one of the best was Anisha Lakhani’s Schooled, which if not available yet will be out for public consumption over the next few weeks. I typically have a ridiculously horrible time when it comes to popular literature and picked up an ARC of Schooled at work to ease my brain. Though I had to twist my own arm into just enjoying a book for enjoyment sake, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself eagerly turning the page and getting pretty involved with the main character. It’s still the middle of summer and Schooled is an excellent book to spend some time with on a lovely day.

First Step in the New World by David Lida is a brilliant book that I read last month. An eclectic collection of essays exploring some of the many nuances of Mexico City, Lida has provided much more than a piece of travel writing with book. Lida spends time looking at the politics, socio-cultural, food, entertainment, gender studies – the book has just about anything. Whether you’re interested specifically in Mexico City, in modern architecture, or are just looking to expand your horizons Lida’s book is terrific. Perhaps my favorite part of the text is Lida’s actual voice, which makes Mexico City sound so tantalizing I want to hop on the next flight and buy Lida a beer.