The Book Report: May 2024

Book picks from Zoe Wu, Voss Flaherty, Mr. Kuczenski, and Ms. G.

The Book Report: May 2024
Images via Amazon, Sulphur Books, and Amazon. Illustration by Kaiden Chandler.

Welcome to The Book Report, a monthly round-up of book reviews and recommendations from the students and staff of MSMHS. In this edition, reporter Gracie Peil talks books with Zoe Wu, Voss Flaherty, Mr. Kuczenski, and Ms. G. Interviews are lightly edited for clarity.

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Gracie to her committment to UConn! We know she'll do great things!

Voss Flaherty's Pick: The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Illustration by Kaiden Chandler. Image via Amazon.

Synopsis: The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath is a collection of diary entries by the American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath. Spanning from her teenage years to her adult life, the journals offer a candid look at Plath's personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings, as well as her creative process. They provide a deeper understanding of her life and work — including her struggles with depression and her relationships — leading up to her tragic suicide. The journals are a raw and powerful look at the inner life of a complex and influential literary figure.

Voss Flaherty says: “I first picked up this book because I read many Sylvia Plath poems. They were violent and about being a teenage girl which intrigued me. There were a bunch of versions so it took me a while to get through, but I really enjoyed it. It’s honestly a more delusional version of Virginia Woolf. 

“It's definitely an interesting read, because it references and goes into detail about difficult experiences. The book is really just a teenage girl writing about her life. She roasts a lot of people, all random strangers, and it's important to know it's very gory. Towards the end it is really sad, but extremely interesting. It just feels like someone's diary. It definitely makes you pause and think about what it was like at the time she wrote it. It takes the smallest things and makes them a big deal, making the reader more perceptive.”

Ms. G's Pick: You Are a Badass

Illustration by Kaiden Chandler. Image via Sulphur Books.

Synopsis: You Are a Badass is a self-help book that aims to empower readers to improve their lives by changing their self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors. Cincero uses humor and personal anecdotes to inspire readers to take bold actions towards their goals. The book talks about identifying and overcoming limiting beliefs, making money, building confidence, and tapping into your inner power.

Ms. G says: “Initially, I like that the book seemed relatable; it didn’t seem like a boring, motivational book. I remember reading it and thinking ‘there's nothing I can't do.’ The author points out how a person's way of thinking can actually be blockages. It helps you believe that your dreams are achievable, and the only obstacle is yourself.

“I think it's great to read books that are fictional and let you escape, but it's also great to read a book that makes you feel positive about the world you’re in. Rather than being a “get help” book, it makes you feel positive about your life. [It’s taught me] that obstacles are just obstacles, I can still achieve my goals. If you really want something you’re going to continue to reach for it. This book is a great resource if you want to start gaining more introspective and a more positive view on life.”

Mr. Kuczenski's Pick: The Prophet

Illustration by Kaiden Chandler. Image via Rakuten Kobo.

Synopsis: The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran, is a collection of poetic essays that delve into aspects of the human experience. The central character, Almustafa, shares his wisdom on various topics such as love, marriage, work, and freedom. Gibran's work is celebrated for its philosophical depth and its exploration of the human condition.

Mr. Kuczenski says: “This book is truly a philosophical poetic view on life. Any dilemma or any challenge you face, you essentially can pick up this book and find advice on it through the writing. Originally, the book was recommended to me by a professor who I didn't really like, but that was where the seed was planted. When I met my wife, she introduced me to it and immediately, I said ‘Wow, this is really powerful stuff.’

“I think The Prophet offers wise words on how to not necessarily live your life, but how to understand your life. This is one of those books that you’ll read cover to cover in like an hour and a half, you'll put it in your nightstand drawer, and then you’ll open the drawer six months or even six years later and you'll definitely pick it back up and read it again.”

Zoe Wu's Pick: Crying at H Mart

Illustration by Kaiden Chandler. Image via Amazon.

Synopsis: Crying in H Mart is a memoir by Michelle Zauner, the lead singer of the indie pop band Japanese Breakfast. Zauner explores her relationship with her Korean identity, her mother's battle with cancer, and the power of food and music in connecting with one's heritage. Through vivid storytelling and emotional reflections, Zauner shares her journey of grief, identity, and the search for belonging.

Zoe Wu says: "I first found the book off of TikTok. I don't often find memoirs about Asians, so it was nice to connect in that way. The novel touched upon cancer, an having close family members diagnosed with it helped to connect with me really deeply. I think the book is important to read because it follows a journey of grief, something we all have to face."

"Before this year, our school hasn’t really touched upon culture. This book can teach students — especially those who come from two different backgrounds — ways to face a world where you have to learn the balance between two lives. For example, in America, a lot of Asian culture is seen as disgusting, which can really sucks since I can't change that about me. It was really nice to read it on paper, to know that you can connect with someone and create a sense of understanding and belonging for your culture.

"I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who has had challenging familial relationships, anyone who is scared of grief, or anyone who wants to know how to connect more to their culture. Being exposed to this book allowed me to connect with the grief in the book and showed me how important the small things are when your family is alive. It made me appreciate every little moment with everyone I love."

Thanks for reading The Book Report, a publication of The Current. For more news and updates, follow The Current on Instagram!

-Gracie Peil, Editor of The Book Report