September’s book list, because at least for the moment, I’m not going to go back to August right now. Looks like I landed on seven books yet again this month, unintentional and slightly interesting.
- “Present over Perfect” – Shawna Niequest: This was such a great book for me. I have strong perfectionist tendencies and many years ago I wrote out 5 traits I wanted to be known for or themes I’d like to be key for my life and being present is one of them. This was one of my first ebook reads and I made extensive use of the highlight function, a departure from my usual folding down of pages. Of course, I’m also pretty sure I just accidentally erased all my highlighting when I went back to review them for this post.
- “We Should All be Feminists” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi: “I looked the word up in the dictionary, it said: Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes… My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.” Her discussion of the baggage associated with the word feminism as well as the importance of reclaiming and continuing to use it meshes with my developing thoughts on the topic as well as multiple conversations with grad school friends.
- “Assimilate or Go Home” – DL Mayfield: For 75% of this book I was unsure what I thought of it, but there were a handful of moments where it really made me think or challenged me. I’m still thinking about this quote: “And beneath all of that seemingly ‘good’ stuff was a girl who had placed herself on a pedestal, someone who believed I am destined for something special, because I am special… And it was unspoken, of course, but the flip side of this belief was an ugly little hierarchy, a drive to be out on the top that came more from desperation than idealism: I am special because I have to be. Because God loves the special more.
- “The Pearl that Broke its Shell” – Nadia Hashimi: I loved her “When the Moon Hung Low” and also thoroughly enjoyed this one as well. I read most of this on the plan over and was thoroughly caught up in the narrative. It follows two Afghan women of the same family, a couple generations apart who each at some point in life for a period of time act out the custom of bacha posh and function as males in order circumvent some of the gender role restrictions. I’ve heard of the custom, but am not overly familiar with it nor how common it has been at any point, but it left me curious and the book was fantastic. Part of the GoodReads description of it encompasses it well: “searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one’s own fate.”
- Emily Series (“Emily of New Moon,” “Emily Climbs,” “Emily’s Quest” – LM Montgomery: These were my first of LM Montgomery’s outside of the Anne series, while I read, or rather listened to for the first time all the way through a couple years ago. They were easy, enjoyable reads that fit great as airplane/ferry/jet lag recovering reads. They also made me wonder how many other lesser known books I’ve missed out on from key authors of childhood.
I have too many half formed thoughts muddling around in my head that I’m mulling over at the moment to be able to come up with any topic for today’s 500 words. That, and yesterday was enough of a rambling list that I thought I should do something a bit different today.
With that in mind, I’m resuscitating my earlier halted attempted of documenting in some form what I’ve read in the past month. This is book focused only, no articles or other material for the moment and is, I suppose mostly a means of remembering a few things about what I thought/read about things along the way.
So, here’s July’s list. Looks like I landed on seven books again for the month, which seems to be my accidental average.
- “The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba” – Julia Cooke: The author lived on and off in Cuba over a period of ten years first as a university student and later as a journalist. She spent much of her time interviewing and spending time with youth in the Havana, often interacting with the same individuals multiples over several years and visits to the country. It was a different and interesting glimpse into a period in Cuba’s history that I’m not overwhelmingly familiar with, but that coincides with when my dad first began visiting the island. It was interesting to read a bit about the small business, room rentals, etc. that have been gradually given permission to function over the last couple decades.
- “The Breadwinner” (Books 1 & 2) – Deborah Ellis: There are 4 books in this series geared towards young adults or possible older children. I read each of the first 2 over a day or two and enjoyed them. They tell the story or Parvana, a girl living in Afghanistan as the Taliban takes over and then 9/11/2001 occurs. It’s the story of her and her family told from her perspective and without outside judgement or explanation of the occurrences. I think that adds to the enjoyment and effectiveness of the story since there is no underlying judgement or lesson inserted by a narrator, but just the story left to stand on its own.
- “One More Year” – Sana Krasikov: An interesting collection of short stories of immigrants experiences in the US, mostly from Georgia, a region of the world I’m not overly familiar with. I’m not usually a big fan of short stories, but enjoyed this book just tine.
- “Mornings in Jenin” – Susan Abulhawa: I think this is the first book I’ve read that dives much into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and it is also from a Palestinian perspective. It left me much more interested in the topic and with a lot more reading material on my “to-read” list gleaned from her notes section. I recorded one quote in particular that struck me from page 193: “Amal, I believe that most Americans do not love as we do. It is not for any inherent deficiency or superiority in them. They live in the safe, shallow parts that rarely push human emotions into the depths where we dwell. I see your confusion. Consider fear. For us, fear comes where terror comes to others because we are anesthetized to the guns constantly pointed at us. And the terror we have known is something few Westerners ever will. Israeli occupation exposes us very young to the extremes of our own emotions, until we cannot feel except in the extreme.”
- “Bel Canto” – Ann Patchett: This was my first work of Patchett’s after hearing her name and recommendations for quite a while. I listened to this as an audio book on my commute and picked it up rather at random since it happened to be available at the library. It was a bit of an odd one that I probably wouldn’t have made it through if it hadn’t been distraction on my commute, but it was interesting enough to keep up with. I’m not sure if this is a good one to consider Patchett on though?
- “Fangirl” – Rainbow Rowell: This was more engaging and enlightening then I had expected. It was another audio book on the commute and thoroughly enjoyable. She hit the teenage characters in “Eleanor & Park” so perfectly and this isn’t quite there, but it was still a great book for the commute and more insightful then I was anticipating.
I once stole a book. From the library. Which almost seems worse somehow. I adore libraries. I love the idea of them and the actual physical presence of them. I love that a long walk, short bike ride or quick drive from my house takes me to this magical place where I can borrow books of all sorts. Even better is the perk of this crazy age we live in where I can log into the library site from anywhere and request books, that my little town library doesn’t have, but will happily get from any of the libraries in our rural county or either of the much larger neighboring counties. The downside, is of course, that somehow those books always seem to all arrive at the same time.
One of my favorite author’s is Madeleine L’Engle. Who, thankfully, has written quite a number of books. However, in order to postpone as long as possible the imminent day when I will have read her entire catalog, I’ve implemented a ration so to speak and only allow myself to read a new book or series of hers every couple years. It helps that many are rather hard to find or out print, making it a bit of a scavenger hunt to watch for them in used book shops.
Somewhere around 8 years ago I grabbed a copy of one of her less popular, but not impossible to find novels from the library. Upon opening the otherwise unremarkable and not in that great of condition hardcover, I discovered I was autographed on the title page. Apparently authentically from the looks of it. After finishing the book and angsting over it a bit, I inquired at the library, what the impact would be if I couldn’t find it to return. A quick search from the librarian and she noted I could pick up an identical copy or pay them for the lost copy, their preference being the first option. She even noted that there the copy they had was nothing special, so as long as I picked up the same book all was well. A quick check at Powell’s a couple weeks later resulted in new used copy for the library and just like that I had another Madeleine L’Engle addition for my library. And an autographed one at that with the stamp of the library on the binding.
I’d almost forgotten about this incident until I read the suggested writing prompt for the 500 words a day writing challenge that suggested making a confession. Ironically enough, upon writing this I feel a bit guilty about the whole thing. I’m sure there’s a possibility of analyzing that further, but for now I’m mostly kicking myself a bit that when packing up my books a few weeks ago I didn’t make a point to take another look at this one. Alas, now it is safe and well buried among the many boxes that make up my book collection and currently live in storage. I’m also pretty sure it’s one of only 2 or 3 autographed books that I own. The other memorable one being the 7th Harry Potter book that I bought at the Powell’s release part and waited in line for at midnight and then waited in another line to have the Powell’s hired actors playing Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall sign, but that’s a whole other story.
Bit delayed on this one, but it was still a good month for books. Or I read several at least. The no gainful employment definitely helps with that and the number is higher for November also because I picked up a lot of fiction fun/easy reads as a break from some of my other normal topics.
Seven total and in no particular order here they are.
- “Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness” – Sasha Martin: I enjoyed this one. It was an easy to engage with personal story. The author cooks a meal from each country of the world over a few years and both blogs about the experience and works in bits of her own history and journey. I saved a couple of the recipes and look forward to trying them.
- “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home” – Rhoda Janzen: In case you hadn’t noticed I gravitate towards memoirs sometimes. I like peoples stories. This was just ok. It was a quick easy read with a few good moments, but nothing overly remarkable that pulled me in.
- “While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change” – M. Jackson: Yet another sort of memoir. This one by the friend of a friend who researches glaciers and leads National Geographic excursions. This is an excellent and captivating memoir that links the author’s experience of loss alongside her research and love for glaciers. It is heavier on the memoir/personal dimension of the story then it is on the science, but I think that’s ok and also what makes the book so readable and accessible. Thoroughly enjoyed this one and finished it in just a few days. READ this one.
- “Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women” – Sarah Bessey: This didn’t dive as deep as I had hoped it would and at points was slow to get through, but I still enjoyed it. For much of my life Christian and Feminist seemed like terms in direct conflict and contrast to one another. Over the past few years I’ve found myself claiming both and sorting through a bit of what that means. This also led to a couple good conversations with my husband and a discussion of why the word Feminist is feared and the importance of not giving up on the word, but of reclaiming it for what it really means — the women are humans as well. And the importance of the feminist movement having space for global feminist women, not just a western vision of what that looks like.
- “Paper Towns” – John Green: We listened to this on a road trip to visit our families. It was meant as a light easy road trip listen several people had recommended and it lived up to that expectation. It had a few insightful moments and kept us interested throughout.
- “An Abundance of Katherines” – John Green: We picked this one up as another road trip listen after enjoying “Paper Towns.” It was less engaging and more formulaic, but still entertaining.
- “This is What Happy Looks Like” – Jennifer E. Smith: I was looking for a light engaging easy to read story and this fit the bill. I enjoyed the author’s “The Geography of You and Me” and the way she story tells in that one. This was less engaging and just ok, but I still finished and sped through it.
Apparently I’m a coffee drinker now. Once again at my favorite coffee shop enjoying the most likely numbered days I have left to enjoy their coffee and atmosphere. A Burundi single origin that’s one of my favorite’s and rarely in their rotation.
One of the perks of the lack of a day job is the additional time available for reading. Particularly after the last few years’ combination of full time work and full time school alongside dating and later wedding planning, it’s refreshing to play catch up a bit. Below are the books I’ve finished in October.
- “A Problem From Hell: America & the age of Genocide” – Samantha Powers: Now an Ambassador to the the UN, Powers began her career covering the Balkan conflicts of the 90’s. This is her Pulitzer Prize winning attempt at understanding the US’s historical response to genocide and how what she witnessed in the Balkans aligns. This was an educational and excellent read.
- “Why Not Me?” – Mindy Kaling: This was a quick, easy, light and enjoyable read. I needed something light after the past few books on genocide and global health.
- “Glitter & Glue” – Kelly Corrigan: Another book I assumed would be quick and light, but had more substance then I was expecting.
- “Acedia & Me” – Kathleen Norris: My first Norris, I thoroughly enjoyed and found this challenging. Not a quick read, this one a read alongside several other books this month, while letting it sink in bit by bit.
- “After You” – Jojo Moyes: The follow up to “Me Before You.” Another quick read, she has a knack for telling a story that really pulls the reader in, while still mixing in some good items and topics for contemplation. Parts of it I felt were less then believable, but I appreciated the ending.
- “Carry On Warrior” – Glennon Doyle Melton: This one has been on my list for awhile. From the creator of momastery.com. Some of her essays I loved, some I struggled to get through and by the end I was very ready to be done, but still an enjoyable read.
Tea of the day: Coffee actually. The in house blend of my favorite coffee shop, following lunch with the parents on their way through.