I still haven't finished reporting on all my summer reading, and now I'm back to work, and have a lot less time to read. The reading I do have time for, though, is an essential to my days. I'm so thankful for books, and for the ability to focus on them and read them, learn and grow from them, relax into them. Reading is a pleasure and a necessity to me.
Book #66 of this year was Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga, a verse novel about a middle schooler who is a refugee from Syria. There's a lot of complexity in this story, which explores different ways to be brave in the middle of so much turmoil. It means different things for Jude, starting school in a new country, and her brother, left behind in Syria, and her mom, adjusting to a new life too, and waiting to give birth. I appreciated the glimpse at what it's like to be a Muslim in the US, too. This is such a timely story, and could help create some empathy in its readers.
Book #67 was a reread, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times, by Henri Nouwen. I'm sure it won't be the last time I'll read it! "Hope does not mean," Nouwen writes, "that we will avoid or be able to ignore suffering, of course. Indeed, hope born of faith becomes matured and purified through difficulty. The surprise we experience in hope, then, is not that, unexpectedly, things turn out better than expected. For even when they do not, we can still live with a keen hope. The basis of our hope has to do with the One who is stronger than life and suffering. Faith opens us up to God's sustaining, healing presence. A person in difficulty can trust because of a belief that something else is possible. To trust is to allow for hope."
Book #68 was my first by Preston Sprinkle, but I have a feeling it won't be my last. The book was Charis: God's Scandalous Grace for Us. "Peter's denial of Jesus isn't the end of their relationship. It's only the beginning. Because Peter's commitment to Jesus isn't sustained by Peter. Peter remains committed to Jesus because Jesus is steadily committed to Peter. Just before Peter denies his Lord, Jesus promises to never let him go: 'I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail' (Luke 22:32). If it weren't for Grace, Peter would be finished. The same is true for you."
Book #69 was 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows, by Ann Brashares. This story takes place in the same universe as the Traveling Pants books; the girls in the story know the Pants girls as older, almost legendary former attendees of their school. One character is a younger sister of one of those girls. I'm sure it says something about me that I love these tales of friendships that last through everything. Certainly it reflects the coming and going of people to and from my own life, and my longing for relationships to last. Here's a quote from this one, about a character traveling down a cliff in a harness and holding a rope: "Away from the group Ama made a jump of pure joy. It was an unprecedented joy, full of opposing properties and opposing parts that for Ama, in that moment, fit together effortlessly: the joy of leaning back, the joy of letting go, the joy of her feet sticking, the joy of pulling them off the rock, the joy of hanging, the joy of not falling, the joy of the past and of the future, the joy of the sky and the mountains and the valley, the joy of having made it, and the joy of not having to do it again."
Book #70 was Pegasus, by Robin McKinley. I really enjoyed this book, and found it absorbing. But I was disappointed that not much was resolved at the end, and there's no sequel. In Lady Sylviianel's world, a princess like her (even if only the fourth child) gets a Pegasus. There is some kind of bond expected between the human and the Pegasus, but for most it is just a formal, symbolic relationship. But it turns out that for Sylvi and her Pegasus, Ebon, the bond goes deeper, and their communication is both a delight to both of them and a threat to the establishment. Robin McKinley, write a sequel, OK?
Book #71 was Jhumpa Lahiri's latest book, Whereabouts, which she wrote in Italian and then translated into English. (I wrote more about her relationship with Italian here.) I feel about Jhumpa Lahiri a little bit similarly to how I feel about A.S. Byatt: I think it's amazing that their books get more and more experimental and that their art is breaking barriers, but at the same time I have to admit (a bit sheepishly) that I prefer their more traditional novels. Lahiri's The Namesake is one of my favorite novels of all time. I am in awe of Lahiri working in Italian, though, and I think she's incredible in every way. And I did like this book.