Avidmom's Literature Parade
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Once again, I have no definite plans for my reading. However, I do want to try to expand my horizons by reading more "globally" this year.
2018 Reading Quilt
1. Live The Let Go Life by Joseph Prince
2. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
3. Sitting At The Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler
4. Do No Work
5. The Promiseby Chaim Potok
6. The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread by Richard Booker
7. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
8. 7 Women and the Secret of their Greatness by Eric Metaxas
9. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
10. In The Country We Love by Diane Guerrero
11. Mother & Son: The Respect Effect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
12. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
13. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
14. Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Rebornby Daniel Gordis
15. Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard
16. A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles
17. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Out of the 27 books read last year, I would have to say my favorite reads were Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple and The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abi Waxman. These were both fun reads, chic lit for sure, but I guess that's what I was needing at the time. Wonder was also a favorite. For non fiction, I was very impressed by Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick and Of Mess and Moxieby Jen Hatmaker.
I’ll be watching to see what you are reading.
Looking forward to following along with your reading once more!
>8 valkyrdeath: I don't know where that picture comes from. That sounds like a wonderful thing to get to see!
>9 janeajones: >10 mabith: I've tried to read more "globally" in the past but never did too well with it. This year I thought if I made an absolute conscious effort to do so, I'd make it to a few (at least) other countries.
(So my ABCs are going to be a little off.... oh well)
Live the Let-Go Life by Joseph Prince
Out of all the books Joseph Prince has written, and out of all the "Christian-ese" books I've read, I think this has to be my favorite. I took a lot away from this book. One of the things I like about Prince is that he is not just satisfied to tell little quaint Bible school stories and spout off a bunch of cliches like some other Christian writers out there, but goes and digs a little deeper. He expounds on Old and New testament Scripture, digs into some of the original Hebrew words and presents things in a way I'd never thought of before.
Even if you're not a fan of Joseph Prince, I think this is one that is definitely worth checking out.
(ETA: Still not a fan of every Christian evangelist that writes a book sticking their mug on the front cover.... oh well)
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
I absolutely love this story and have for a while. I first knew Potok's story as a movie. The first time I saw it was as a part of a Bible study; the second time was actually in a class I took in high school "Musical Comedies". (Really neither a musical OR a comedy but somehow .... ) I had always liked the movie, but didn't know it was a book until I found it on a library shelf years ago and was over the top thrilled when it showed up as one of the "Kindle Daily Deals" a few weeks ago. (This is my second reading.)
The story is a YA, coming of age story. Danny is a Hasidic Jew and Reuven is an Orothodox Jew living in New York in the 1940s. They live only blocks from each other but their worlds couldn't be more different. When their respective schools compete against each other in baseball, Danny inadvertently injures Reuven. Danny offers Reuven his apology and friendship, and, at first, Reuven is not accepting, but as the story progresses, the two become the best of friends. They learn about each other and each other's culture and share their goals for their futures. The oldest son in his family, Danny is expected to take over for his father, the Rabbi Saunders. Reb Saunders is very much revered by his community but Danny is trying to break free: "He was trapped by his beard and earlocks, he said, and there was nothing he could do.". The most perplexing thing to Reuven is how Danny's father never talks to him - except to study Torah. Reuven is mystified by why Reb Saunders would treat Danny this way; he and his father share a very close relationship. Reuven's father is an activist in the Zionist movement, something that is anathema to Reb Saunders and his following. Danny and Reuven have to wade through all the obstacles to maintain their unlikely friendship.
I love Potok's writing and the story is beautiful.
Movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAMz8_MoqrM
The Promise by Chaim Potok
I loved this book, Potok's sequel to his brilliant The Chosen. The book takes place some years after we leave Reuven and Danny in The Chosen. Danny is still pursuing his dream of being a psychotherapist and Reuven is getting ready for his rabbinical ordination ("smicha"). Although still friends, the busyness of their lives keeps them apart somewhat until Reuven and Danny's lives intersect with one disturbed teenage boy, Michael, who Danny tries desperately to help with his newfound skills.
While the book description would make it seem that the story is centered around Michael's mysterious psychological ailment, it seemed to me that it really was more about (once again) the conflict of old traditions vs. new ways of thinking. Set shortly after WWII, Reuven explains to us that there is an incredible increase of Hasidim in his neighborhood as many survivors of the Holocaust have immigrated to the U.S. Not only are more of Reuven's neighbors Hasidim, but they have also taken up positions in his school and even in the school where his father teaches. Conflicts over what and how to study, how to teach, and what it means to be Jewish are all questions that pop up here. Reuven has to navigate through a minefield of standing up for what he believes in while not jeopardizing his (and his father's) future. Danny also puts himself in a precarious position with his treatment of Michael - using a newfound method of treatment that he has had some experience with himself.
Potok has a brilliant way of inserting these deep, philosophical, religious debates in his story through his characters while never detracting from the story or the characters themselves. I also learned a lot here. It never occurred to me the impact the immigrating Jewish people would have had on their own community after WWII. Potok portrays them as clinging desperately and zealously to their traditions and how that desperate need to hold on to had a ripple effect on the Jewish community. It takes a while for Reuven to accept the Hasidim into his world, but he finally comes to the conclusion (in one of my favorite passages in the book, a bit chopped down here due to spoilers) "...I did not understand them and they did not understand me, and our quarrels would continue....I thought I might try to learn something from the way Rav Kalman and the Hasidim had managed to survive and rebuild their world. What gave them the strength to mold smoke and ashes into a new world? I could use some of that strength for the things I wanted to do with my own life."
My only complaint (and it is a minor one, to be sure) is that there were many Hebrew words inserted into the story that I didn't know. Usually Potok defines it the first time, but pages later I would forget (unless it was used over and over, like "smicha"). I thought it would have been lovely to have a little glossary in the back with the Hebrew/Yiddish words defined for quick reference. Other than that nitpicky whine of my own, I loved this book. It grabbed my attention from beginning to end and I felt that, for such a short novel, I learned quite a bit from it.
The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread: Revealing the Power of the Blood of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation by Dr. Richard Booker
This was a very enjoyable read. A lot of what Booker says here I have heard before from other Christian pastors, teachers, etc. Yet there was a ton of stuff here I had never heard of which I thought most interesting. This is a concise spot for all the different pictures of Jewish tradition, feasts, sacrifices and how they point to Jesus. I found the chapter on the "Salt Covenant" the most fascinating and how DaVinci's "The Last Supper" (while not very historically accurate in terms of what Passover would have looked like) used salt as a clue to denote which disciple was Judas. Very cool!
My one complaint though was there seemed to be no citations for some of the things Booker says. The Biblical stuff was easy enough to look up and Booker usually integrated chapter and verse into his text, but other non-Biblical references were nowhere to be found. ??? Maybe it was due to the Kindle version I read, or maybe I missed it ... but if you say "Mark Twain wrote blah blah blah" tell me where so I can see for myself.
It was also a great book to read alongside the Potok book (as was also Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus).
Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This was a fun one. I had never read an Agatha Christie book before this, and maybe never would have, if it hadn't been for the movie (the 2017 version). I really loved the movie for many different reasons. The book was great too. However, I found that the book lacked some of the depth the movie had. (!) The book is rather cut and dry focusing on the mystery itself, while the movie has some more emotion attached. (I guess you would have to add some to stretch out the story to 2 hours). Christie's writing is excellent, of course, and I love the way she would insert some dry wit into her writing in unexpected places. And I wonder if seeing the movie first and knowing going in who did it, lessened the enjoyment of the book a bit for me too.
Also, when Christie would pick on her characters somewhat in her writing (Princess Dragomiroff is described as "ugly") I would get a bit offended .... "How dare you, that's Dame Judy Dench!" LOL
Seven Women And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas
This was such a good read. It's just 7 little mini-biographies of seven great women: Susanna Wesley, Corrie Ten Boom, St. Maria of Paris, Hannah More, Rosa parks, Joan of Arc, and Mother Teresa. Some of these women I was familiar with and some I had never heard of before (like Hannah More and St. Maria of Paris). These women all lived fascinating lives of faith and conviction and passionately stood up for what they believed. All had an impact on the world around them. That seems to be the only caveat for being included in Metaxas's book. There's a lot to learn here, about people you may not know at all and more about people you only have a cursory knowledge.
I think it a brilliant feat that Metaxas can pack so many details about someone's life in such little chapters. Of course, he leaves the reader with bread crumbs to other more intense works of the various women mentioned here.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
If it wasn't for my Jane the Virgin obsession, I may have never picked up this book. The main character on that show, an aspiring writer, mentions Allende on her show quite a few times (Allende actually appeared in one episode last season). Part of my goal for this year's reading is to branch out and read "globally" and this seemed to be a good place to start. It took me quite a while to read this (I read other books in-between and, of course, had to deal with a college math class that took up most of my free time.)
The House of the Spirits spans four generations of the del Valle/Trueba family in an unnamed country in South America, although it's easy to assume that it is Allende's home country of Chile. (It also brought to mind much of the political goings on in Argentina in the movie "Evita"). The book is filled with eccentric characters (a daughter who is more mermaid than girl; a clairvoyant main character with telekinetic powers, a rather odd uncle who travels on a spiritual quest) and is flavored with magical realism from start to finish. It is funny at times and heartbreaking at others. There is political and social commentary throughout that range from the funny to the mundane and every character that we are introduced to has their own complete story.
I would definitely recommend Allende's debut novel but I would also suggest finding a way to keep track of the characters as there are quite a few characters and stories to keep track of.
It is a pretty unforgettable read.
There was also a movie (I haven't seen it yet) with a pretty stellar cast:
In The Country We Love by Diane Guerrero
Here's another book Jane the Virgin led me too (indirectly). Diane Guerrero has not 1, but 2, supporting roles in two highly successful shows: Jane the Virgin (where she plays Jane's "bestie" Lina) and Orange Is the New Black. I saw Guerrero make a few appearances on the talk show circuit a few months ago telling her story, plugging her memoir here, and ordered it from my library .... way before all the border/children separated from families at the border was first place in everyone's mind.
Guerrero tells her story of being born here and being a naturalized U.S. citizen; however, her Colombian parents, who came here on a work visa, had a much different reality than she had. As hard as they tried to get legalized status and become residents, there seemed to be road blocks every step of the way. Guerrero makes it clear that becoming a citizen of the country is not that easy; money is a problem for many and just the mere wait another. Because of all this, Guerrero lived every day under the shadow that her mother and father could be deported any minute. At age 14, the unthinkable/inevitable happened and Diane, a freshman in high school, came home to an empty house and found herself suddenly "orphaned". Both her mother and father had been arrested while she was at school; both were deported a short time later.
Fortunately Diane had friends whose families took her in while she was in high school. Obviously, the trauma did effect her. Much of Diane's story is about how she dealt with her loss (she still could call her parents in Colombia and even visited once or twice) in the beginning by being a "good girl." She didn't want her friends' parents to have any reason to kick her out. Once she was in college and living on her own, the years of walking on egg shells, and the resentment she held against her parents, manifested itself in a major depression which she dealt with in unhealthy ways until she got some help and found a career path that made her happy.
Diane tells her - and her family's story - with a lot of humour and is very forthright with what she is/was feeling. Her youth certainly shines through; I've never read a book where emojis and # were a part of the text! There is no railing against the machine here either; she does, however, at the end of the book, talk about the immigration laws, the flaws, and the organizations working toward reform for U.S. immigration.
Very interesting and timely read.
Mother & Son: The Respect Effect
Having raised two boys who have turned into, I think (but, hey, I might be biased here ;) ) pretty decent human people who I not only love but like I almost skipped this one. However, parenting never ends and you always want to do better. So, when this book came around on sale on my Kindle I thought, hey, why not? I did learn something here but it wasn't anything earth shattering. And some of it was a bit eye-rolling and some of it was a bit repetitive, but overall, there is some wisdom here on how boys/men process things differently and have a deeper need for respect than us moms (and women in general) may be aware and that communicating respect to our sons is vitally important to them.
Recommended. (But maybe not that highly).
Of course, if I had read this book a few decades ago when my kids were preschoolers instead of college kids, I may have felt differently.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
This is on PBS 100 Great American Reads list. I asked my son (the Creative Writing major) to pick one from the list that neither of us had read. He picked this one. It's not one that I would have picked but I am so glad that my son picked it for us because I really liked it and thought it was funny.
Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis
For anyone wanting a foundation for understanding Israel, the conflict(s) there past, present and future, this is a great starting point. The story of Israel is just fascinating and flabbergasting. It took me a long time to get through this one; it is packed solid with information - from the first Zionist Congress led by Theodore Herzl (who I haven't even heard of till this book) in 1897 to the present day (well 2016 at least). I also read certain things over and over; there are a lot of "Wait. What?!?" moments here (for example, the first Israeli settlers using weapons built for the Nazis in their first war).
My knowledge of Israel was 0 (or pretty close to it) when I started the book so there was a tremendous learning curve for me here. I liked the fact that Gordis presents all his info in chronological order so you really felt as if you were reading a story - not some dry history textbook. I was also impressed by Gordis's clear effort to present all parties involved in the story evenly and objectively.
(This book received the "Jewish Book of the Year Award" in 2016.)
A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles
(Read the library's ebook version)
Loved this one about an aristocrat being sentenced to house arrest - in the Metropol - right after the Russinan Revolution in the mid 1920s. Count Rastov is a classy, kindly, soul who, through the years, sees his Russia and the culture change around him.
This is one of those gentle reads .... at first, I found it a bit slow going (and maybe a little over-wordy in spots although the writing itself is excellent). Once the story picked up in the middle and got a bit more exciting, I was hooked.
Kenneth Branagh is producing and starring in a TV series of this!
Israel's history is crazy; certainly never a dull moment!
The Towles book is well worth reading; I listened to a sample of the audio and it sounded very well done. (But, my library only had the ebook or I might have done audio.)