The Second Annual Margo Awards
Welcome back for the Second Annual Margo Awards!
If you need a refresher on the origin of the awards, you can check out the original post here.
Before we begin, I have a few notes about the first awards. Last year I was very on top of things. I had read 100 books in 2013, which was actually what prompted the idea of a books-awards-show-type post in the first place. I had plenty of material to choose from, and I had the post written and ready to go on the night of the actual Academy Awards. I posted it after I finished watching the show start to finish. What a champ.
Unlike 2013, however, I did not read 100 books in 2014.
I read 17.
Yes. That is all. I am sad about it.
So when I realized that was all I had read, I panicked and recalculated. It’s like the thing I do at work when I am working on the budget and I don’t like the final result, which is recalculate hoping that the numbers will change based on sheer willpower. But just like our budget never grows just because I have added up how much we have spent on fuel or repair parts for our vehicles five times in a row, counting the number of books I read last year did not make 17 books turn into 100 books. It did not even make it turn into a respectable number, which would have been somewhere in the neighborhood of more than 1.4 books every month.
Last year there were seven categories: “Best Re-Read,” “Worst Book Ever,” “Most Hipster,” “Least Boring Nonfiction,” “Best Listen,” “Most Thrilling,” and “I Read the Shit Out of that Book.” These were chosen based on the types of books I read that year, so I have decided to change it up a bit this year, because I can. Also, due to the lack of books read in 2014, I have decided to expand the eligible books to include books I read in 2012 so the choices won’t be so few. I am prone to whims in this way.
This year we’ll keep it snappy since I’m already quite tardy in conducting the awards. The categories are: “Best Re-Read,” “Most Hipster,” “This Book Made Me Pee My Pants,” and “I Want My Life Back.”
So let’s do this thing!
The nominees are:
The Witches, by Roald Dahl
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
Re-reading The Witches made me realize that I was perfectly justified in being terrified of this book as a child. It’s actually kind of strange that I liked this book so much because I never cared for scary books or movies (and I still don’t), but this one was one of my favorites. This makes no sense whatsoever, because it’s all about how scary and wretched witches are and how all the do is plot to capture and kill children. Perhaps I thought I was one of the smart children who would never be captured and killed by a witch and so that was how I tolerated the book, but Dahl definitely still had buy-in from me, because at twenty-five years old, I was sitting there thinking, “Oh well, I would be safe in that scenario because the witches wouldn’t be able to smell me now that I qualify as an adult.”
So that’s a somewhat dismal statement about my grown-up grasp on reality.
I re-read The Great Gatsby because I wanted to be fresh for the movie adaptation. My timing was way off, though, because this was one of the books I read in 2012, and then they pushed the release date of the film to the spring of 2013. The movie was meh.
I think I was mad that it was a Baz Luhrmann film set in the jazz age that didn’t use music to its advantage. I mean, what? That’s like hiring Harry Connick, Jr. for a movie and not getting him to sing in a single scene! (Oh, wait. That’s happened. And those movies sucked.)
But I only sort of remember now, because I am over the movie (too long; will not watch again). My opinion on the novel is also unchanged (it is great; will read again).
The Margo goes to:
I read this book for the first time when I was fifteen. I liked it, but the way you like expensive steak as a little kid: I mean, it’s good, I guess, but couldn’t it be a burger instead? I really liked this steak this time.
Also my copy of East of Eden has deckled edges, and novels with deckled pages are just so pretty and the prose seems more profound somehow when it’s packaged in such a lovely way, rather than in a drab, mass market paperback.
(I would like to note, however, that aesthetics did not influence my judgment, since my copies of The Great Gatsby and The Witches both have great sentimental value, so by that token would have gotten extra points.)
Moving on to the next category, which is –
The nominees are:
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chobsky
These all count because I read them before their movie adaptations became a thing. Unfortunately for both the latter titles, however, I got to them too late. Rather like their more esteemed colleague, The Catcher in the Rye, I probably should have read them while I was still caught in the throes of adolescent angst to fully appreciate them. I didn’t dislike either of them, but I didn’t particularly like them either. I actually might have enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower more had I read it in the same state as The Maze Runner (on convalescent leave, post-surgery with my leg elevated and my brain in a haze of opioids).
I’d say the target audience for The Maze Runner is eleven-year old boys who like to (and this is not to be reductive) run, and the perfect reader of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a fifteen-year-old girl on her period.
So by process of elimination, the Margo goes to:
Following the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed became involved with drugs as her marriage slowly unraveled. At age 26, with no outdoor experience, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
In some ways it was a grown-up tale of angst, which I also took as a cautionary tale against Nature, and being in Nature, and trying to go against Nature, because come on, y’all. We have evolved beyond this. We can go to the bathroom inside and not have to dig any holes at any point in this process.
At other times it reminded me of the moments I have affirmed my own strength, so in that way it was inspiring to read about another person’s journey from grief to independence.
(On a somewhat related note, I had to peel the Oprah’s Book Club sticker off the book before I would carry it around in public, because I prefer not to advertise that I read Oprah’s picks from time to time. It’s rather like my penchant for trashy romance novels; I’m not ashamed of reading them, but I’m not going to advertise it by having them sticking out of my purse in Lowe’s for Shakespeare’s sake.)
“This Book Made Me Pee My Pants”
The nominees are:
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
This one is tough, because I was a devotee of the Hyperbole and a Half blog at school and was quite sad when she stopped updating regularly (you all will never know such devastation here, because I have never updated regularly, so you’re welcome). Bossypants, on the other hand, opened to me a world of delight and hilarity of which I had never dreamed.
So although Allie Brosh’s stick-figure masterpieces will always hold a special place in my heart, the Margo goes to:
This book made me laugh so many times that Sister #3 banned me from reading it in the same room as her because she found it jarring to be sitting in silence and have me suddenly burst into hysterical bouts of uncontrollable laughter.
But it could not be helped. This book is unreasonably funny.
It is also unexpectedly wise, and I recommend it not only to anyone with a pulse, but especially to women who work in male-dominated professions for some humorous, witty advice on how to conduct oneself.
On crying at work:
“Some people say, “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.”
On being assertive:
“MAKE STATEMENTS also applies to us women: Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, “I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?” Make statements, with your actions and your voice.”
And two for the road on living your damn life:
“So, my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.”
“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”
Do not be misled. I have not, with these four quotes, given you the highlights of this book.
This isn’t like a movie trailer where they show all the good parts in the thirty-second teaser. The book is well worth your time. But I could not, in good conscience, proceed to the final category without giving you at least one helpful/profound/potentially useful thought or two to take from this book report of sorts.
The final category of the evening is titled, “I Want My Life Back,” dedicated to the books which, retrospectively, I wish I had spent neither the money to buy nor the time to read. I could have gotten a haircut. Or a pedicure. Or taken a nap. Or had one of my feet removed using a spork. Any of these options would have been more productive than forcing my way through these books.
The nominees are:
Mrs. Dalloway, by Virgina Woolf
A Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
It was tough to choose a winner, but I think I’ve made a good decision. Dalloway is out, because at least I can say I’ve survived a couple of forays into Virginia Woolf without become suicidal myself. And y’know, gained some literary background and context and so I can say I’m well-read and stuff. Martin also survives the slaughter (unlike most of his characters), because even though the second book was dreadful after the first book was relatively entertaining, I at least knew what to expect while watching the series. Now that I have given up reading the books I am subject to the shock of not-knowing like the rest of the ignorant, unwashed, illiterate masses, so I have to watch each new episode with my hands close to my face, ready to cover my eyes as soon as I get too grossed out.
So Fifty Shades it is.
This book is actually the worst ever.
There isn’t a lot to say about how bad it is that hasn’t already been said. I still own the copy that I bought in that tragic twist of fate because no secondhand bookstore wants to buy it from me. (Technically you could say Fifty Shades of Grey is the winner of the “I Want My Life and My Sixteen Dollars Back” category.)
The author is a sixteen-year old girl who has read too many romance novels with bad sex scenes and likely seen a couple of pornography films. She giggled every time she got to write the f-bomb into her book because she’s so very naughty and so grown-up and can’t wait to orgasm every time her partner touches her, because that’s what happens to the main character in Fifty Shades every time Christian Grey touches her virgin body with his magic orgasm fingers.
No she’s not.
E.L. James is a grown woman: married, with two children. She should know better. She is a college-educated woman. So by that perspective, this phenomenon is a tragedy and a travesty of literature. She wrote the trilogy (yeah, that’s right, not one horrible book, not two, but a trio of awful books on which to waste your time and money) during a self-proclaimed mid-life crisis after she read the Twilight series (and loved them, so there’s another gigantic red flag for you). She began writing fanfiction under the penname “Snowqueen’s Icedragon.”
Visualize, if you will, an Icedragon belonging to a Snowqueen.
Good image? Okay, we can move on.
These tales of Bella Swan and Edward Snowden or whatever the vampire’s name was in Twilight apparently got too hot-and-heavy for a girl who was supposed to be younger than the age of consent in most states. (Of course, E.L. James is British, as her clumsy references to ALL THE AMERICAN THINGS HERE IN AMERICA might indicate throughout Fifty Shades of Grey.)
But, not a problem! We’ll just turn Bella Swan, I MEAN ANASTASIA STEELE, into a college student instead of a high schooler and send her on her merry way into the land of BDSM, which everyone wants to pretend is mainstream now because some whack job wrote a series of barely literate-sounding sex scenes strung together by a panty-thin string she likes to call a “plot.”
If I seem bitter that I wasted my time reading this book… Well, okay, I’m bitter I wasted my time reading this book. Hopefully you will not fall victim to hype, curiosity, or naïve thoughts such as, “Well it can’t be that awful, can it?” and waste your life reading this piece of uselessness as well.
I hope you enjoyed the (truncated, belated) return of the Margo Awards! This year I have already read 18 books, so 2015 is off to a far more auspicious lead than 2014 in terms of quantity.
What were the best books you read in 2014? What about so far this year? Let me know if there are any you think I simply must have in the running to win a Margo in 2016 (categories still under review). See you for next year’s awards!