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Monday, October 28, 2013

Last Five Books I've Read

Per a blog topic request I did a bit ago, one suggestion was my five favorite books this year. I'm not sure I've read enough books to choose my top five, so instead I'll put the last seven books I've read:

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

I'm not quite finished with this one yet, and I don't even know how to evaluate it exactly because of that fact. It is more literary than I usually read, and it's discussing books I've never read, but I am rather captured by it. I'm listening to the audio, which has a great reader, and I probably have another week or so before I finish. I have determined that I will never read Lolita, and I've learned some very intellectual evaluations of some other classics, and I am more grateful than ever to be an American. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir from a former English Literature professor in Tehran before/during the revolution that turned a relatively progressive country into the Islamic Republic of Iran. Fascinating look at a culture different than my own, but also very interesting in light of different groups I see in our own country trying to control the actions of everyone else. I have heard that the end is intense, and I have a feeling I know what happens so we'll see how I feel when I finish it. Right now I would rate it a PG 13 but that might change by the end.

Mommy Tracked by Whitney Gaskell

This is a book about four different moms--different types of moms--and the struggles each of them are facing within their roles. The chapters switch between the four characters and I liked the way it showed such differing women and different problems. I liked that it wasn't a 'man hater' book nor was it a 'super mom' book. It was more like 4 women's fiction novels put into one, showing each woman and what she was up against. The stories were good, though most of these women live a more cosmopolitan life than I do and so there were some portions that I did not relate to well. And, at the end of the book I found that while I liked each woman a bit better than I had in the beginning, there wasn't a single one that I felt I really related to; that I felt approached the role like I did. Not that I do it right or they do it wrong, but I think because my lifestyle is different and my motivations are different, I didn't 'fit' within the relationships of this story. The writing was good although the author had a tendency to use adverbs in dialogue tags like "she said sarcastically" "He said loquaciously" "she said energetically" "He said darkly" "she said humorously" "He said charmingly" and I did tire of all those adverbs. This was a rate R book.

Come to Zion Volume 1 & 2 by Dean Hughes

This is a story about English converts to the Mormon church at the time of mass immigration to Nauvoo. The first book follows the individual characters through their processes of converstion and then their crossing of the ocean to come to Zion. The second volume shows the life in Nauvoo as the church is still trying to figure itself out and then loses its first prophet. I love Dean Hughs and I have the other LDS fiction series he's written and have enjoyed this one just as much. One of the things I love about Hughs is how much I learn through the stories he writes. He does a fabulous job of showing the details of times and places. I feel that I better learn the facts through seeing people live through these times. One of the things I loved, loved, loved about this story is the imperfections he allows us to see in the early saints. We so often put early saints on pedestals and believe that they were these amazingly perfect people of faith and character. I have never believed this was the norm. Yes, they had great faith. Yes, they made great sacrifice. Yes, they paved the way for so many of their posterity to benefit from both of those things. But they could not have been perfect. They had to have had doubts. And they had to have been taking their journeys for their own growth--not ours. That meant it was hard for them, it means they struggled, it means that some of them were jerks. I like that Hugh shows this. I'm a bit nervous about the next book because it will involve polygamy which is still a difficult thing for me to deal with, but I trust Hughs and am therefore willing to take this journey with him. These books are rated PG.


Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

This is a memoir about a girl who got lost in the Florida foster care system in (I believe) the late 80's--before many reforms were implements. The book covers her story from being a toddler taken from her dysfunction mother, to a child living in a variety of homes that were not equipped to truly care for her, to young woman finally in an adoptive family. It did not sugar coat anything but neither did it feel gratuitous. It was shocking to see how many times the system failed her, frustrating to see how ungracious she was when she got an adoptive family, and humbling to see those people who gave Ashley a chance to really change her course. My husband and I have recently become Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and this book was required reading in our training. Since then, our appointments have become official and we are working together with a child whose family is involved in a DCFS case. It is our job to report to the Guardian ad Litem about how they are doing, what's working and what's not. I've reflected on Ashley's story many times, looking toward those things that made a difference for her story. I listened to the audio version which was read by Ashley herself. For me, this was a paradigm shifting book and I highly recommend it. I would rate this PG 13.
 

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I am not a Sci-fi reader, and I'm not a big YA reader. But the movie is coming out, I have heard about this book for years, and I decided to listen to it during a long road trip. I was reminded why I don't like science fiction, and yet I do agree that this book is more than that and it crosses that genre line. It's a story about a boy being trained to be a military commander in an intergalactic war. There were parts that were hard to listen to because of the fact that it was a little boy in the story, there were also parts that I would have liked more clarification on, but all in all I liked the story. My favorite part was toward the end, after the climax and many changes have taken place. Ender reflects on the fact that in order to know people well enough to beat them with his military tactics, he has to know them so well that he loves them. Which then leaves him torn between the feelings of empathy for his enemies and loyalty to his side of the war. I found that absolutely fascinating and for me it made the story both complete and important. The writing is fabulous, the story was easy to follow, and I am glad I read it. I listened to this on audio and liked that as well. If I were sitting and reading I'm not sure I could have stayed with it simply due to the genre not being one that I like. I listened to the first chapter of the next book, Speaker for the Dead, and determined that I will likely not read any other books in this series. Not that it's bad, but it's just not my thing. I would rate this book PG 13.

Farenhieit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I read this book many moons ago in high school and remembered liking it. I have talked about and heard about it many times since then. Recently, after mentioning a part of it in a presentation, I realized that I had heard about that part I quoted from someone else--I didn't remember it on my own. I decided to read the book again and I am so glad I did. I've heard people say that Bradbury is overrated--I disagree. I love his use of words. I loved the depth of this story, the reflections it made to our time right now, and the connection it gave me to the time when I had read this book the first time. I listened to it on audio and the reader was excellent but I want to get a new copy of the book and highlight some of the ways Bradbury used words. For me this is a beautiful story and made me want to seek out more Bradbury in the future. It also reminded me that while there are only so many words out there, the way they are put together can make them feel brand new. Included at the end of this audio were some thoughts from Bradbury about the book and some very interesting cases of censorship that had taken place with this book in the preceding decades. What irony. I loved hearing Bradbury's comments and learning how this story came together for him. I would rate this book a soft PG 13, more from ability to understand content than from anything of a sexual or violent nature.

As you can see, I am moving more and more toward audio books as the time to sit and read seems to be a more and more fleeting experience for me. It has allowed me, also, to 'read' books I likely would never have read if I had to sit down to do it. Sitting to read, for me, is an experience of intimacy and visualization--I will continue to reserve it for those books who are best enjoyed in that situation.

2 comments:

CTW said...

The only book you listed that I've read is Bradbury's. And I agree. He is not over-rated. I think he's brilliant and that book remains one of my favorite. The movie I saw eons ago was good too.

jmoesser said...

If you thought that Three Little Words was interesting, you should read Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. And if you thought Reading Lolita was thought-provoking, you may find Greg Mortensen's Three Cups of Tea intriguing as well. I have read the latter book multiple times and highly recommend it. The Language of Flowers was raved about at my recent book club meeting.