Friday, July 21, 2017

Reading Update

Book #46 of 2017 was Boys Without Names, by Kashmira Sheth.  My 14 year old son recommended this to me.  It's hard to think about the events in the book, knowing that they are a reality for so many around the world.  Gopal and his family move to Mumbai when life in their Indian village becomes impossible.  But life is impossible in Mumbai, too, when you're poor.  Because this is YA, there's a happy ending, but sadly that is not always the case in real life.

Book #47 was The Nesting Place, by Myquillyn Smith.  This is a book about making the most of the space you have, and creating a nest for your family there instead of waiting for your dream life to appear.  The juxtaposition between this and the previous book is instructive.  To Gopal and his family, the most humble spaces occupied by the American women at whom this book is aimed would feel like a palace.  I read this on my Kindle, and it would be better to read the paper book because of the photos (I have an older model and the photos all show up black and white).

Book #48 was Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly.  After I saw and enjoyed the movie based on this book, I wanted to know more.  The movie changes the real events significantly, and makes them much more dramatic.  Nevertheless, I was glad to learn about this part of history.

Book #49 was Passages Through Pakistan: An American Girl's Journey of Faith, by Marilyn Gardner.  I friended Marilyn on Facebook after reading and loving her book of essays, Between Worlds.  I, too, am an American missionary kid who attended boarding school high in the hills (though not in Pakistan), and I could relate to this book in so many details.  It's vividly written, and I recommend it.

Book #50 was Charming Ophelia, by Rachael Miles.  The author is a friend from graduate school, and I've been enjoying her Muses' Salon series (there's more about the previous books in this post).  This one was a novella, sweet and, as the title suggests, charming.

Book #51 was Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen.  I reread this book all the time, but I hadn't listed it in a while, so I thought I would this time.  I wrote about it before here and here.  

Books #52 and 53 were The Sparrow and Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell.  My daughter called these "theological science fiction" when she recommended the first one to me.  A new friend passed it to me this summer and told me I should read it, and I finally did.  Jesuit missionaries go to space and, like missionaries through the ages, they completely misunderstand the situation they find, blunder about, and suffer unspeakably.  Russell writes exquisitely and unsentimentally.  She never downplays the anguish of her characters, or their doubts, or their complete rejection of God, but somehow she also never allows us to forget God's grace.  I'll definitely be reading more of her work.

Here's a taste of the first book:  

"‘I had a dream last night,’ he said quietly. ‘I was on a road and there was no one with me.  And in the dream I said, “I don’t understand but I can learn if you will teach me.”  Do you suppose anyone was listening?’  He didn’t turn from the windows.

Without answering, Giuliani got up and went to a bookcase.  Selecting a small volume with a cracked leather binding, he paged through it until he found what he wanted and held it out.

Sandoz turned and accepted the book, looking at the spine.  ‘Aeschylus?’

Wordlessly, Giuliani pointed out the passage, and Emilio studied it a while, slowly translating the Greek in his mind.  Finally, he said, ‘In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’”

Book #54 was a picture book, and I never list picture books in my count, but I figure I'm justified since this one got the Newbery medal last year.  It's Matt de la Peña's Last Stop on Market Street.  Again I find myself using the word "unsentimental," because people so often do sentimentalize the themes of this book.  The conversation between CJ and his Nana as they ride the bus is fully convincing: CJ complains, and his Nana helps him to see that there's something to appreciate in every human being and every moment.  

Book #55 was Sunrise, by Mike Mullin.  This is the third in the Ashfall trilogy, and it had been a while since I had read the first two (my review of the first one is in this post, and the second in this post).  The title of this one is hopeful, so I was expecting a little more of an upbeat story, and yeah, I guess in some ways it is, at least in the last couple of pages.  But there's still plenty of grim, hyper-realistic horror in this book.  The trilogy is about a nightmarish post-apocalyptic America after the super-volcano that is under Yellowstone (and yes, there really is a super-volcano there) erupts and plunges the country into winter.  Instantly, modern knowledge becomes mostly useless, and those who are left have to figure out how to survive.  

This post is linked to the July Quick Lit post at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

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