Monday, February 1, 2016

So Far This Year

A question I am fond of asking friends or strangers is, "So, what are you reading?" This is a great source for future reading, often taking me down trails I would otherwise not have ventured upon to discover hitherto unknown regions in literature.

January is traditionally a good month to get some reading in, though this past month has been busier than the typical January recuperation from holiday leisure time for me. Rather than wait till the end of the year to publish a large list I thought I'd monthly share the books I've finished and make a comment or two about them. We have been woefully lax in keeping up with our "what we're reading" link, so this is my remedy.

1. Atticus by Ron Hansen. All my friends were raving about this book ten years ago, but it just became available to me on audio. It's well written and a compelling modern version of the prodigal son. If you're struggling with forgiveness, it will grip you.

2. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic by Steven Johnson. This book is an example of the surprises we find when we step out of our comfortable genres, a fascinating book on many levels, encompassing the fields of sociology, epidemiology, ecology, forensics, history, geography, anthropology. An excellent author weaves vivid historical figures (including Dickens) into an otherwise forgotten event that gives an unforgettable appreciation for what scientific sleuthing can accomplish to benefit the safety of life we take for granted.

3. The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. Often asked for good books written in recent years, here's one I mentioned recently (http://www.livingbookslibrary.com/2016/01/first-impressions.html). I highly recommend this for middle school readers and older.

4. In Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus. This classic satire was reminiscent of reading Screwtape Letters--I had to keep reminding myself that folly was speaking.

5. One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters. I usually ease into a new year with some light reading and am so glad to have discovered this author in recent years as the historical setting and the quality mystery stories about Brother Cadfael are entertaining and well written.

6. Moonwalking with Einstein, The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. A fascinating account of how our minds store and recall information within a humorous account of the author's own attempt to compete with the world's memory champs.

7. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. My husband and I began this biography a year ago when we saw the film. I cannot say enough about this excellent author, the Olympic runner and real-life hero she so masterfully portrays, or the value of reading a true World War II account. Your mature high schoolers will be inspired and informed in reading this powerful life story.

8. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. My book club met this past week to discuss this-- and yes, I was correct in my prediction made about the first chapter. I love this author and recommend any young person read this novel for its beauty, as well as tremendous insight and wisdom about choices in love.

9. How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. This author is truly gifted in vocabulary, style, and ability to weave historic developments and scientific discovery. If your high schooler needs credit or inspiration for technology and engineering, this book is riveting.

10. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Girls, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jean Birdsall. I read this one during a blizzard and found it to be thoroughly delightful, as heartwarming as the old Moffat or Melendy series and absolutely in that tradition for elementary students on up. Pure fun, humor, touching, and memorable.

11. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt. This newly discovered author by me has risen to stardom in my eyes. This is probably one of the most powerful stories I have read in years, perhaps because of my own experience with parenting adopted children. The sensitivity with which Schmidt addresses difficult modern issues is incredible and I highly recommend this book for mature young people, and anyone older, but be sure to have a box of tissues nearby. I will never get over this book and am still oozing tears at the thought of it.

For the joy of reading,

Liz

9 comments:

  1. Oh, what a wonderful list. I've only read two of those books, so now I get to add to my own To Read list. I love Ron Hansen, so that one's going at the top :)

    Also, I may steal this idea of blogging each month about what I've read. I used to do that and fell out of the habit. I think it's time to re-establish it.

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  2. What a great list! I love "Unbroken" as well. And I've been meaning to read "The Ghost Map" -- it sounds so intriguing! Have you read A Distant Mirror? It's a history/anthropology type book that I really enjoyed.

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    1. Beth,

      If it is the one by Barbara Tuchman, I read it many years ago, but have considered rereading it now that I have more knowledge of that period in history.

      Liz

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  3. So no reservations about The Penderwicks? I wish I could remember the source, but a while back "someone" said there was just enough romantic interest between a couple of the characters to make them uncomfortable. Thoughts?

    Thank you!

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    1. I should add that it made them uncomfortable for a children's novel, not uncomfortable in general. Thank you!

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    2. Kelly,

      As an adult, it was quite amusing. Hasn't every 12-year-old girl had a crush on an older boy? I liked the way the author dealt with it--the character had no involvement with the boy, realized the silliness of her undeclared infatuation, and learned a valuable lesson
      about waiting for the right time. There is nothing explicit or inappropriate in this book. In addition, this was not a major theme or even a significant part of the entire story. It was a harmless and natural episode.

      Liz

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  4. Dear Liz, what a great list! I've been unfortunately indulging in some twaddle, but did finished Applesauce Needs Sugar by Victoria Case and it was lovely. A memoir of a large, Canadian family at the turn of the century. I found it very humorous and delightful! :) Blessings, Amy

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    1. Amy,

      I used to avoid books if they were described as "memoirs," but enjoy them now. It's fun to hear what friends are reading. Thanks for sharing.

      Liz

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  5. No matter how old my daughter is, she has loved the Penderwicks ( all the books) and so many of Gary Schmidt's books, even rereading The Wednesday Wars for pure delight.Thanks for all the titles and reviews.

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