This summer has been a book-reading bonanza for me. Book reading and exercise prevention. The fog of a tough homeschooling year has faded and I bathe my battle scars in a sea of literature. I am halfway through my book club reading list and still going strong. Here are some of the ones that stand out, for better or for worse.
1491 and 1493 by Charles Mann: First a caveat about these two books. I didn’t technically read them. I listened to them. I know someone of you will consider this cheating. Sorry. But these books were my faithful and welcomed companions on my weekly Saturday escape to the recycling center and grocery store. I never thought that two historical non-fiction books would have me chuckling to myself down the cereal aisle but both had me spellbound. As the title dates would suggest, they are explorations of the state of North America before Columbus’ journey in 1492 and then how the world was impacted (economically, ecologically, culturally, etc.) by the “Columbian exchange.” Mann’s presentation of the issues is balanced enough to irritate both sides of various debates such as regarding when people first arrived in the Americas, whether Europeans responsible for the biological fallout of their journeys westward, and how we should approach the Amazon rainforest. I consider these must-reads.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut: I wanted to read something by Vonnegut and now I can say I have. Other than that, I don’t have a lot to say about this book. Maybe it is one better read in a group, where discussion and a variety of perspectives can bring out more from the text than when you read it alone. So it goes.
Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas: I greatly enjoyed Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer so when I saw this book I was naturally curious. Metaxas has chosen seven men whom he feels have impacted our world deeply. He gives a brief biography and examination of their “greatness.” Some were familiar to me: George Washington, William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson. Some I thought I knew but was surprised to learn some unexpected details or aspects of their lives: Eric Liddell, Pope John Paul II, Chuck Colson. The book was interesting but rather short. Definitely a good read for my kids as they search for role models. I would say Metaxas achieved his goal in leaving me wanting to know more about these uniquely humble and self-sacrificial men.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: This was a book club selection and a very interesting read. Anything having to do with Jane Eyre has me at hello. One of a series, Fforde has created an alternative reality to our own, where time travel is possible as involves transporting oneself into the classics and potentially altering the endings of both history and fiction. A literature junkie’s dream come true, quite a few of the literary references went over my head but it made for a good sunny afternoon read.
Honorable Mentions: The Host by Stephenie Meyer (Meyer, author of the Twilight Series if you have been living under a rock for the last several years, continues her tradition of creating an interesting story that is poorly written.) The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin (Another book club selection. Its very interesting to learn more about the lives of Charles and Anne Lindbergh, but I felt uncomfortable with the mixture of fiction and history. Think I would rather have read a biography.) The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (Loved the movie. Loved the book more.)
Hi, Amy. This might be regarded as seditious or blasphemous in the eyes of those who are much more familiar with Vonnegut’s work, but I’d suggest picking up either “Cat’s Cradle” or “Timequake” if you want a better, purer, more sublime taste of his remarkable genius. Of the Vonnegut books I’ve read, “Slaughterhouse Five” is very different from those. If you’re interested–because I want you to enjoy the delight of laughing aloud so hard that the book literally falls out of your hands–I’ll put every Vonnegut book I have in mail and send them to you right now. Just say the words (and email me your address). 🙂
well that’s just great, marc. just when i had checked him off my list now you say i can’t do so. fine then, i will put these on my library list and try again. maybe my winter book blurbs will reveal a change of heart 🙂