Thursday, June 15, 2017

Born a Crime

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African ChildhoodBorn a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short and simple: I was blown away by this book. Noah's life experiences are extraordinary and his candor remarkable. I think the audio is essential because of how many languages and accents that Noah can share and how true and natural his voice is. This is one of those stories that summing up any of the details does not do justice. Truly his life story is stranger and more powerful than fiction.

One more thing- I only knew vaguely of Noah as the new Daily Show host. I have maybe watched two or three clips of him speaking ever. You don't have to know his work to appreciate this book.

Happy reading and happy risk taking- Noah wouldn't have it any other way.

People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Hate U Give

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

George Eliot said, “The only effect I ardently long to produce by my writings, is that those who read them should be better able to imagine and to feel the pains and the joys of those who differ from them in everything but the broad fact of being struggling, erring human creatures.” It's interesting to note that George Eliot was only Mary Anne Evan's pen name, and that she perhaps understood better than many why empathy and appreciating others' differences were essential to the human experience.

Angie Thomas' "The Hate U Give" is one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. Every step of the way, it challenged my assumptions and my life experiences and gave voice to issues that demand our attention. I'm not sure I would have read it had I fully known what the subject matter was, but I am so glad that I did. Thomas' main character Starr comes to life in a way that I felt like I was with her as she walked through Garden Heights and listened to her incredible mom navigate an impossible parenting situation.

Raw, poignant, and brilliantly alive, "The Hate U Give" will stay with me for a long time. Describing it in more detail would not do justice to the impactful narrative, Thomas has created. It is almost better to go in with no expectations. That said, the language and the violence are jarring and may not be to everyone's tastes, so I add that caution as you're making your own reading selections.

It's perhaps corny to say, but I am exceedingly grateful that we get to hear other people's voices through reading. C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we're not alone." While I 100% agree with Lewis, I also would add, we read so we can help others not feel alone. This is our blessing and our responsibility.

As always, happy reading and happy living--

Monday, June 5, 2017

What Learning Leaves

What Learning LeavesWhat Learning Leaves by Taylor Mali
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taylor Mali puts into words how teaching and education feels - something that I often try and fail to do. I love him for that. His word play is exceptionally clever, and I'm glad to have finally started working through my "to be read' shelf at home. There are really good books I've had tucked away for ages.

Happy summer and happy reading--

*"To Be Read" Shelf Book No. 3

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bird in Hand

Bird in HandBird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really good writer. Really sad subject matter. Really need to read up on what my books are about before I dive into them.

The plot is probably a two star rating because I seriously don't want to read about selfish people having affairs, but the writing is a four. If you haven't read Kline before, read Orphan Train instead.

Either way, I'm thrilled to have had a three day weekend to read this book and start another couple.

Happy reading-

*"To Be Read" Shelf Book No. 2

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's be honest, I read this book for three reasons:
1) I really like the cover and the title. The juxtaposition of the two title words is startling and intriguing.
2) A few of the readers I trust most recommended it.
3) Last but not least, I, like so many, was completely caught off-guard by November's election. All the media I consumed had positively assured me that he who must not be named could never win. Clearly, we all missed something. I knew that reading Vance's book wouldn't be able to fully explain that, but I needed to make an attempt to understand other voices in this country.

Vance's book left me shaking my head in disbelief. It is unthinkable that we live in the richest country in the world, and yet, so many of our people suffer and struggle unnecessarily. Even harder to grasp is how those problems are made worse by personal choices, and then, of course, it's the children that suffer most. Vance offers some theories about why it happens and what can be done, but mostly, this is just his story. He survived a hard childhood and rose above his struggles to attend Yale law among many other successes. And yet, I don't feel a tremendous sense of resolution. His success pales against the vast majority that still struggle with no end in sight.

I am not sure that I am glad that I read this, but it's a good dialogue to join. It seems essential that we all become more aware of what is happening around us. The more informed we are, perhaps the more likely we are to find ways to support those who need it most.

Happy reading--

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Orphan Keeper

The Orphan KeeperThe Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's no surprise that I love to get lost in a good book. The story of a young Indian boy taken from his home and then illegally put up for adoption in the United States is a fascinating one. This novel is based on the life of a real person from Utah who eventually really did return to India to find his family. The real story is so compelling that I wanted to disappear into the contrasting tastes and sounds of an Indian village alongside the stoic grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. But I couldn't.

The writing is distracting and uneven. The story telling is unevenly paced and important details glossed over while others brought to the forefront when they don't really matter. I wonder if part of the issue is that the author made the stylistic choice to skip over much of the religious life of the real person. This meant that the two year mission the real Taj Rowland went on became a study abroad. The details don't entirely make sense, and I think that a non-fiction version of this written in Laura Hillenbrand's style might have been better.

Long story a bit longer: I 100% get why so many people love this story. The story really is amazing. But the writing leaves much to be desired. Truth be told, I would probably give this book two stars, but because so many people I love loved this book, I am giving it three so as to not start any drama...and I have just joined a new book club and this is their second book choice. I'm not connected with any of them on Goodreads, but in case they do join, I don't want to be ousted so early on. ;)

Happy reading and happy almost summer--

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Little Prince

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I know what you're thinking-- that only a person without a soul could not like "The Little Prince"...that I probably hate bunnies and sunshine and the sound of children's laughter too. That is definitely not the case, but I did not love The Little Prince. Perhaps my expectations were too high. People rave about this book and how it profoundly affected their outlook on life. And don't get me wrong, the message is beautiful, but I forced myself through every page. It just did not speak to me as it has spoken to others. Anne Bogel who writes the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog and runs the "What Should I Read Next" podcast, recently referenced W. H. Auden and his belief that there are some books that we as readers, can acknowledge are good, but they are not good for us. This is one of those books. I can see why people love it, but it will not make my list of must-reads.

With that less-than-popular opinion said, as always, happy reading--

*"To Be Read" Shelf Book No. 1