June was another two book month.
First up, I finished a book leftover from May. Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has Time grew out a piece that journalist Brigid Schulte wrote for The Washington Post in 2010, which explored the decline in leisure time in America. In the book, Schulte blends personal experiences with interviews with, neuroscientists, leisure researchers (who knew there was such a thing?), and regular, everyday people to find out what contributes to our ongoing sense of overwhelm and the impact that this has on family life, productivity and creativity.
Some of the criticism of the book stems from the fact that many felt like Schulte was making this an issue specific to mothers. Since she is a working mother herself, she does tend to focus on this population quite a bit, but was also careful to note and provide examples of how everyone—dads, working professionals without kids, and kids themselves— feels the affect by so many competing demands
Most interesting to me was the comparison of leisure time and family roles in Europe as compared to America and the discussion of progressive offices and flexible work-life scenarios that are already in place within some organizations. Although these examples are still far from the norm, learning about them gives me hope that others will soon come to see that there is a better, more productive way to balance work and life. The book is kind of depressing and hopeful all at once, and I think that just about anyone who struggles with trying to keep an million things in the air at once would find this an interesting read.
My second book was The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. It had been on my wish list since last summer, but I moved it up in the queue after I read an interview in which David Sedaris called it one of his favorite summer reads. He is one of my favorite authors, so I was pretty sure he wouldn’t steer me wrong. I was right—I loved this book!
The story kicks off with a group of six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts, who dub themselves“The Interestings” because they think they are, well, the most interesting people in the world. During the next three decades, we see some people falling away from the group, some of them achieving the fame and fortune and others giving up on their dreams because they realize that, in reality, they are just kind of average. I thought the way that Wolitzer chronicled the way that the friendships among members of the group endure, are tested or break was pretty realistic. I found myself caring about what happened to all of the characters, and stayed up late a few nights in a row just so I could read more of their stories. I would definitely recommend it for a summer beach read.
At the halfway point in the year, and more than halfway to my reading goal!