Since I’ve not been reviewing every book that I read, I thought I’d start the year with a one-post-ten-books overview. I’ve got a classic, some books on prayer, several Caribbean reads, some history, fiction and nonfiction. Off to a bang-up start. Could be something here for everyone – I’m optimistic!
I finished Salt Houses by Hala Alyan at the beginning of the year. It is a multi-generational novel about a family navigating the warring landscape of the Middle East. The emphasis is more on the family dynamic than on the conflicts. It was an okay read but didn’t pull me in as much as I had hoped. I’m having trouble reading novels with split point-of-views. I’ve only read one so far that seems to do it effectively (Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi).
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster was a read-aloud for my daughter and I. My brother gave her the book for Christmas, and we both delighted in the word play and storyline. I have a feeling this is one we’ll revisit in a few years for even greater appreciation. The book has fantastic potential for growing with the language development of a child.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson was the “A” on my ABC list through my TBR pile. And if that doesn’t sound like alphabet soup, I’m not sure what does. I enjoyed it, and have yet to read a book by Woodson that I do not appreciate on some level, but wouldn’t put it up near my favorites. Still, a good read and a great start to my ABC goal.
Then I took on three reads of Caribbean origin. This aligns with my Reading Bingo challenge, but I wasn’t intending to start off so quickly! Three very different books in three different locations and yielding three different responses. Interesting to say the least. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat was complex and elegant. Set partially in Haiti and partially in the United States, it is a story of women and their demons and resolution.
Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad by Krystal A. Sital was given to me as an advanced copy in exchange for review consideration. The constant use of patois slowed the story considerably and was often distracting, but the underlying premise was strong enough to fuel the story from beginning to end. When an elderly woman stares at the fallen form of her spouse and pauses to call her eldest daughter first before calling emergency services, the granddaughter begins searching for the answer to “Why did she hesitate?” What unfolds is a tragic and haunting revealing of hidden truths and kept secrets.
Finally, Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau was another advance copy in exchange for review consideration. Slave Old Man tells of a slave in Martinique who one day, without explanation or any sort of warning, runs away. In pursuit is the master’s terrifying mastiff. The man’s struggle through the topography makes up the heart of this book, and it is compelling. When reality and dreams blur towards the end I found my attention waning, but the first two-thirds are captivating and the writing-style, though complex, is worth engaging and appreciating.
Finally, four books of non-fiction round out this list of ten. How To Teach Your Children Shakespeareby Ken Ludwig was excellent. I posted a full review here.
The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empireby Stephen Kinder was an impulse read. I had no idea what it was about, but the pairing of Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain in the title seemed destined to make for interesting history. Turns out, the book is about the U.S. struggle to be expansionist or not. Including Mark Twain in the title was a bit of a stretch since his involvement is only mentioned near the end. Nevertheless, the history itself is intriguing and Kinder presented the dynamics of the debate in fast-paced narrative. Good historical reading on a subject I would not have naturally considered though I did feel sheepish for being suckered in by the title alone.
Last but not least, two books on prayer. I’m pulling together a class to teach at church and wanted to get a few perspectives. Prayer by Tim Keller takes a big-picture view of prayer, putting it in historical and religious context before focusing on the Christian practice. Praying the Lord’s Prayer for Spiritual Breakthrough by Elmer Towns was useful for class preparation and as a line-by-line examination of the Lord’s Prayer. It has sections at the end of each chapter to reflect and engage more with the Bible that would be useful for someone wanting to use it as a workbook of sorts as well. The translations are not the most modern so if you’re interested in the book but are unfamiliar with King James English, consider having a more recent translation nearby.
There you have it! The first ten books that I’ve read in 2018. I’m having a hard time deciding whether to include Middle Grade reads in my count. I included The Phantom Tollbooth because the length and content were “grown-up” enough for me to justify it. I’m not sure how I would articulate any formal standards though. The important thing is that I’m still reading. Onward!
What books have you read so far? Any favorites yet?