Thursday, April 26, 2018

The News - Alain de Botton

The News
Title: The News: A User's Manuel
Author: Alain de Botton
Publication Date: 2/11/14
Pages: 272
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: Several sources have recommended it recently. 
Date Completed: 4/25/18

Summary: de Botton takes a wide angle look at our news climate. He breaks the book into sections, each one tackling a different type of news: political, international, celebrity, disasters, weather, etc. 

What I Thought: After seeing recommendations for this in several places, it seemed like a good time to pick it up. After all, we are struggling with how to handle media in our world right now. A user's manual seems like just the ticket.

The book is fascinating. de Botton has a lot of astute observations about how the news works and how we consume it. I particularly enjoyed the section on political news, as that is the majority of what I consume these days. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi

Title: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi
Publication Date: 6/7/16
Pages: 300
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 4/21/18

Summary: Generations of Ghanaians are separate by the Atlantic when one half-sister marries a British slaver and the other is sold into slavery herself. Gyasi tracks the fates of their descendants from the early nineteenth century to the modern era. 

What I Thought: This book was just so lovely and heartbreaking. It's a great concept and Gyasi executes it well. Each chapter centers around a different character, alternating between the family living in Ghana and the family living in America. It's really interesting to track two hundred years of history through those two lenses, separated only by fate. 

This book made me think quite about about alternate histories. What would the world have been like without the slaving exploitation of Africa. Would African culture have developed differently? Western culture certainly would have. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pastrix - Nadia Bolz-Weber

Title: Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
Author: Nadia Bolz-Weber
Publication Date: 9/10/13
Pages: 204
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I attended a conference Bolz-Weber spoke at.
Date Completed: 4/12/18

Summary: Bolz-Weber went from a child raised in the church to an alcoholic stand-up comic to a sober Lutheran pastor. She tracks those big shifts and muses about the nature of faith in this memoir.

What I Thought: Back in March, I attended the Why Christian conference for the first time. It's a progressive Christian conference hosted by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans, whose work I adore. It was being hosted at Duke University, which is basically in my geographic backyard. While I don't align with every theological stance the conference takes, I wanted to take the opportunity to learn and grow and listen. I'm so very glad I went. It was an incredible two days sitting under the testimonies and teachings of women of every stripe and color. It was a beautiful reminder of the diversity of the church and how we are united at the Eucharist table in our belief in Christ. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Daughter of the Gods - Stephanie Thornton

Daughter of the Gods
Title: Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Publication Date: 5/6/2014
Pages: 442
Genre: Biography / Chick Lit / Historical / Royals / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read Thornton's other books.
Date Completed: 4/8/18

Summary: Hatshepsut likely served as one of ancient Egypt's only female pharaohs. Somewhere along the line, one of her successors attempted to erase her legacy from history. Thornton pieces together what little we know and adds a hefty dash of her own imagination to create this historical fiction look at the powerful woman's life. 

What I Thought: I feel as though my general disdain for historical fiction - particularly about royals - has been well established on this blog. It's why I steer so far clear of Phillipa Gregory's fictional Tudor empire. I know too much of the real history to be able to enjoy a fantasized version of events. Thornton, however, has consistently proved herself the exception to my rule.

Very little is known about the life of Hatshepsut (the number of times I've spelled that name wrong while writing this post gives me a whole lot of respect for Thornton's editor). Like with her other novels, Thornton had to draw extensively from her own imagination to craft the world her characters inhabit. It's a lot of educated guessing. Usually, that's what drives me crazy about historical fiction. Thornton, however, has been wise in selecting relatively unknown women. We know so little about them that all we really have is imagination and educated guesses. So, these stories feel indulgent and far less of a violation of historical truth than many other works in the genre. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar
Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Publication Date: 1963
Pages: 244
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: It's a classic.
Date Completed: 4/5/2018

Summary: Esther Greenwood seems to have a wonderful life as a young, single woman in the city. Things are, however, slowly unraveling at the seams.

What I Thought: I remember having the option to read this book at one point in a high school English class. I remember several of my classmates who did. We talked briefly about how Plath's journey is mirrored in some ways through this novel, which was published after her own battle with mental illness and suicide. Since that point, I've been intrigued by the book, but never had a particular impetus to finally read it. Having read it now, I'm rather glad I waited until this point. I definitely would not have understood its depths as well when I was a high school student.

When I was looking through my immense TBR list and trying to decide which specific books to select for Roof Beam Reader's challenge this year, I added this one as a whim. It's been on my list for quite a while and it just seemed time. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dear Ijeawele - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ijeawele
Title: Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publication Date: 3/7/2017
Pages: 63
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've read other of Adichie's work.
Date Completed: 4/3/18

Summary: When a friend asked Adichie for advice on how to raise her new daughter as a feminist, Adichie responded with these fifteen suggestions. Later, she turned the letter into this book so more could apply the principles to their parenting. 

What I Thought: From the first few pages, I loved this book. Loved it. I want to send copies to every parent of young kids I know. Chimamanda's suggestions are practical and well-written. 

As with her earlier work, We Should All Be Feminists, the ideas she share are so simple and yet so profound. It just baffles me that what she is saying isn't common sense. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rich People Problems - Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems
Title: Rich People Problems
Author: Kevin Kwan
Publication Date: 5/23/2017
Pages: 398
Genre: Chick Lit / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read the rest of the series.
Date Completed: 3/28/18

Summary: When Nick Young's grandmother, the formidable Su Yi, is on her deathbead, the family rushes in from all corners of the globe. Drama abounds as they begin jockeying for a better place in her will before she passes. 

What I Thought: I found these books (this is the final in a trilogy) to be cotton candy fun. They are utter fluff and a sugary delight. Reading them is like watching a soap opera or a tv show like Revenge - there is little substance but you can't turn away. This iteration in the series was no exception.

I did actually like that there was less romance in this novel. Nick and Rachel are settled and comfortable. While the first two books centered around whether or not they would ever get married, this one found them stable and happy. I liked that. Any relationship drama had shifted to Astrid and Charlie, who had a nice story line here that was pleasant but didn't monopolize the main plot of the book. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

March 2018 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

March News 

Last month I was so effusive about the changing weather. And then, March tricked me. We had a week or two of glorious spring weather at the end of February and then came more snow and several more weeks of cold. I'm writing this on the 29th and yesterday was the first day I felt warm again and threw open the windows. My hope was misplaced, apparently, but I think spring is here for good this time. Our lilac bush out front is so close to blooming. Last year it only bloomed for a few days and I'm terrified I'm going to miss it while we are at my parents' for Easter. Of course, by the time you're reading this, we'll be back home and I'll hopefully be enjoyed the scent of lilac every time I open the front door.

Despite the weather, March was a better month than February. Still terribly busy, but in a normal way. I didn't get much reading in - again. 2018 is not turning out to be a super prolific reading year for me. At this point, I'm hoping summer can turn that around.

I am making good progress on my TBR challenge (as you can see below). I'm doing so much better about not adding books to the list unless I really think I'll read them. I'm also being brutally honest with myself about the books I'm taking off. I have no doubt I've taken some great books off the list, but I'm trying to be realistic about what I really will be interested in. I think if the 100 Best Novels challenge taught me anything, it taught me not to waste time on books I'm not enjoying or learning from.