Books I read in January

February 11, 2018

I’m doing the PopSugar Reading Challenge again this year. The 2018 Reading Challenge has forty books on the basic list, and another ten on the advanced list. Since I read over a hundred books a year, reading these fifty shouldn’t be too hard. Though there is one category that may be a challenge – a book that was being read by a stranger in a public place. If I had occasion to take a trip I might well see someone reading in an airport or on a bus or train, but in my daily life, the only people I see reading books are family and co-workers.

Still, I’m making good progress with the books I’ve read so far.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Buchanan – this was for our book club, but it also fits for “a novel based on a real person.” Two real people, actually, sisters Marie and Antoinette van Goethem (and their little sister Charlotte, though she plays a lesser role in the novel). I generally enjoy historical fiction, but this one didn’t interest me as much. Perhaps it was the setting, late nineteenth-century Paris (I tend to read novels set in the British Isles), perhaps just that I didn’t much like Antoinette, and as the book went on I didn’t care so much for Marie either. Interesting, but not all that enjoyable.

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – this retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello just sounded interesting, plus I realized as I read that it fit for “a book about a villain or antihero.” I’m not sure how believable the whole story is, but it is interesting just to see how Chevalier adapted the play (even though I have never seen or read Othello).

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston – another book that I selected just because it sounded interesting (alternate history, science fiction) and discovered as I read that it fit for “a book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist.” I haven’t read a lot of books set in Canada, so it was interesting to get that perspective, and Johnston has created an interesting alternate history where the British Empire remained a world power by valuing all the peoples and cultures of its far-flung domains, encouraging intermarriage among different ethnicities, even (especially) in the royal family. Again, I’m not sure how realistic a picture it paints, but it’s an interesting perspective.

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan – I would have read this anyway because I enjoy the series (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard), but it was handy that it also fit “a book set at sea.” Sometimes the sea isn’t in our world (hard to explain that if you haven’t read the series), but it’s still sea (except when they have adventures on land, but then they get back on the ship again).

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – this was the first book I set about intentionally reading for the Reading Challenge, for “a childhood classic you’ve never read.” I’m not sure if I just never happened to read it, or chose not to. I would not have liked Anne much as a girl, though as an adult I can appreciate her somewhat more. (Though unlike Matthew, I think I would find her ceaseless talking would annoy me after a while.)

Three other books I had started in 2017 but finished in January, An Irish Country Courtship by Patrick Taylor (continuing a series I have been enjoying on audiobook during my commute), Political Correctness edited by Rachel Bozek (a book I found in the college library that sounded interesting, as I like books that present two sides of a controversy), and State of Fear by Michael Crichton (an audiobook on MP3 that I listened to while riding my exercise bike, and although I found the storyline stretched belief and the “message” of the book overshadowed the storyline, it did get me through several hours – over several weeks – of biking).

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Books I read in 2017

December 31, 2017

When I started the 2017 Reading Challenge, I decided to keep track of all the books I read, not just the ones for the Reading Challenge. In 2017, I have read 116 books. Most were fiction, though about twenty were non-fiction (mostly about science, history, the Christian faith, and current issues). Twenty are historical fiction, several are science fiction/fantasy (it’s hard to decide in some cases – does the presence of a ghost make it fantasy? does the prevalence of androids make it science fiction if the science is never discussed?), and  twenty-five are mysteries.

I had never quite finished the 2016 Reading Challenge because there were a few categories I had trouble with. So I started earlier this year working at fitting specific categories that I wasn’t as likely to read in the normal course of things. Most categories I did find were very easy, and in several cases I read a book just because it was interesting and then discovered it fit a category I had been wondering how I would find an example of (such as a book with an unreliable narrator and a book by an author who uses a pseudonym).

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Books: Levittown

October 14, 2017

As I have nearly finished the 2017 Reading Challenge (I still have to decide on a book with more than 800 pages, and find one from a genre/subgenre I’ve never heard of), I decided to add a few of my own ideas. The first was to read a book that was set in a town/city where I have lived.

I wasn’t sure just what I’d be able to find, at least for the towns I’ve lived in this country. (I know I’d have no trouble finding books set in Valencia or Madrid, the two cities in Spain where I lived while getting my B.A. and M.A. in Spanish.) But in addition to several books about the pearl button industry in Muscatine, Iowa and a murder mystery set in Houghton Lake, Michigan, I found Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America’s Legendary Suburb.

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Books: Beyond the Abortion Wars

September 16, 2017

As I explained in my previous post about Willie Parker’s Life’s Work, I wanted to read a book that dealt with both sides of the abortion argument. Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation by Charles Camosy at least attempts to do this, though he generally expresses his own understanding of the arguments on both sides, rather than letting the “pro-choice” side speak for itself.

Camosy’s premise is that most people in our country, whether they generally identify as “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” do want both legal protection for abortions in some cases and legal prohibition of it in others. His goal is to show that there is enough common ground to propose a new public policy that will significantly reduce the number of abortions performed while leaving it open as an option in certain cases.

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Books: Life’s Work

September 1, 2017

My first impulse when I came across Life’s Work in the New Books section of the college library was to put it back on the shelf. Why would I want to read a book with the subtitle “A Moral Argument for Choice”? But it’s good to sometimes read arguments we disagree with, to better understand them and be sure we’re disagreeing with their real position and not just what we’ve been told (often by those whose ideas we agree with) our opponents think.

Mostly Willie Parker’s argues his case by telling stories. He tells how he became a doctor, how he came to specialize as an ob-gyn, then how he because convinced of his moral duty to provide abortions. And he tells stories of women who come to him for abortions, the dreams they have and the courage he sees in them.

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Books: The Last Templar

August 26, 2017

I haven’t been writing posts lately about most of the popular fiction I read. I read mostly for enjoyment, and in the case of the audiobooks, to occupy my mind while driving. There’s not a lot to say, really, about a book like The Last Templar in terms of plot or characterization. It’s interesting, and I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book (while being grateful that it wasn’t as graphic about the tortures inflicted on the Templar leader, Jacques de Molay, as one of the books I read a year or two ago) as well as the mystery and adventure of the present-day story.

But it is the thematic aspects of the book that I reacted strongly to. At the center of the action is the quest to find (or prevent from being found, depending on which side a character is on) a valuable object hidden by the Templars before the destruction of their order. (Note: the rest of this post discusses the object and its significance, which aren’t revealed until the latter part of the novel, so don’t continue reading if you don’t want to know what it is.)

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Books: Thinking in Pictures

August 19, 2017

Having watched the movie Temple Grandin with my younger son a couple of years ago, I had been meaning to read one of the books actually written by Temple Grandin. When I was looking for something on my 2017 Reading Challenge list that would be “a book by written someone you admire,” reading something by Grandin suddenly seemed the obvious choice.

I chose Thinking in Pictures. I had expected it to be primarily about herself, but Grandin also discusses different types of autism and what life is like for autistic people in general (to the extent that it can be generalized, considered the broad spectrum of the disorder).

For someone with an interest in autism and the perspective of the autistic person, it is a fascinating view into a very different way of thinking and perceiving life. I read a good deal about autism when my son was younger and struggling a lot more with school and with social interactions than he does today, but what I had read was mostly about people with autism. Actually reading something by someone with autism assures the reader that the writer really knows what she is talking about!

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