Having completed about two-thirds of the 2018 Reading Challenge, I’m having to do more searching to find books to fill the remaining categories, and more of my reading is books that just look interesting for one reason or another and can’t by any stretch fit in one of the challenge categories. But I have crossed three more off my list, and read some very interesting books in the process. And of course I kept reading other books as well.
Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal Al-Sharif – this was my choice for a book by an author of a different ethnicity than you. It was just after the news that women had finally been granted the legal right to drive in Saudi Arabia, so when I found this book in the library it was an obvious choice. I had not realized just how much not being able to drive would constrict women’s lives (since my only experiences of living outside the U.S. were in European cities with good public transportation), but that is just one of many restraints on women’s freedom in that country. It is eye-opening how modernity co-exists with such entrenched traditions, traditions which unfortunately have become closely identified with Islam in the eyes of many. Al-Sharif herself was, for a time during her teenage years, persuaded by the fundamentalist preaching that was all she heard in school. College broadened her horizons, and later an opportunity to spend time in the U.S. showed her very different ways of thinking and living. Back in her homeland, she became an activist, and even spent time in prison for “driving while female.”
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was a book I wanted to read anyway, because I had previously read I am the Messenger and found Zusak’s writing style refreshingly different. When I found it on a list of books about death or grief, I got a copy of the audiobook from the library. I had imagined a book about a “book thief” to have a lot more to do with books and stealing, maybe someone making a living off selling stolen books. The Book Thief does have books that play an important role, but the “thief” is a girl living in Nazi Germany, and it is words more than books per se that are keys. Words aren’t just spoken in Zusak’s novel – they are thrown, dropped, hurled, wrung out. Sometimes they lean up against people. And they motivate. To love, or hate, or fear, or hope. It seems even Death (the narrator) can be moved by them.
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell – I had read and enjoy some of Mankell’s novels, particular his Kurt Wallender series. So when I found out that his novels would fit the category of “Nordic noir” in the reading challenge, I decided to read the first Kurt Wallender novel (usually I try to read series in order, but sometimes, especially with audiobooks – where the library has only one or two by an author – it doesn’t happen that way). It was reasonably good, I guess, but I am glad I read some of the later novels first, as I’m not sure I would have been as impressed reading this one first. (One reason I try to read series in order is that not only does the storyline make more sense that way, but the writing generally improves over time, and reading a first novel after reading one written much later is often disappointing.) Read the rest of this entry »