Books I read in June

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan – I chose this audiobook because it sounded reasonably interesting, and only after listening for a while did I realize it could also count for the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge, as a book about feminism. Set in Britain during World War II, it describes life in a village where most of the men are gone due to the war, and women have to do all sorts of things they didn’t used to. The village choir has disbanded due to a lack of tenors and basses, and when someone suggests a ladies-only choir, some aren’t sure it’s proper. The choir turns out to be quite a success, not just as a singing group but as a way that the women can come together, support one another, and encourage not only each other but other people with a message of solidarity and hope.

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough – this was my choice for a microhistory. I enjoy reading history, and as I remembered next to nothing of the little I had learned about the Panama Canal in some long-ago history class, it seemed a good choice, if a good deal longer than I might have liked. Parts of it are fairly interesting, but it was slow reading even on the most interesting parts, and other times I found myself nodding off over it (in the middle of my lunch hour). I learned a great deal from it, about not just the actual building of the canal but the financing, the politics, the struggle to control yellow fever and malaria, and the role egos play in making far-reaching decisions.

The Pyramid by William Golding – I had trouble deciding what to pick for an allegory, as I had previously read a number of the books more commonly recommended in this category. When browsing in the college library, I happened to notice a book about allegory in the novels of William Golding, and since I had read The Lord of the Flies in high school, but had never even heard of The Pyramid before, I decided to read it. It’s easy enough to read, but harder to figure out what the point of the book is. After reading some reviews and analysis (after I read the book), I have a bit more appreciation for it, but frankly I prefer books with more of a plot, or else more likable characters.

As usual, I already read several books that didn’t fit any categories in the reading challenge. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland appealed to me just from looking at the cover, and when I discovered that it involved both time travel and magic, I just had to read it. It’s fairly long, but it was lots of fun to read, and as I was on vacation I had lots of time for reading. As a matter of fact, I finished it in about four days, and still had time left in the vacation to also read The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan, which is the third book in a series that the whole family has been enjoying. Personally I think it’s the best of the series so far.

Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder was moderately interesting, and served its purpose of keeping my attention while driving to and from work. But far more interesting was The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz, which we all listened to driving to and from vacation in Branson, MO. I have liked most of what I have read by Koontz, and introduced my husband and older son to his work with Odd Thomas, which they liked well enough to read the whole series. We’re now in the middle of reading the sequel to this novel (actually I’m listening to it on audiobook; they’re reading the print version).

Other books I read to learn rather than just to enjoy – though I also consider learning to be a prime source of enjoyment (just not as entertaining, usually). Four Views on Christian Spirituality, edited by Bruce A. Demarest, interested me because I am always interested in the many different ways that Christianity is understood and practiced, what I can learn from other traditions, and how to explain some of the differences (one of those things I get asked about, as a pastor’s wife). The book does not compare the four views of spirituality quite as directly as I would have hoped based on the title, but it does give a good idea of the thinking as well as the practice of these four traditions (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, progressive Protestant, and Evangelical).

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus was the local library book club’s selection for the month. It was interesting but not as well written as I might have thought based on it being a book club selection. I had to push myself to finish it in time to discuss it at our monthly meeting. I was glad to find out I wasn’t the only one there who didn’t think Fergus was very effective at portraying a woman’s thoughts and feelings. It was interesting for what it told of a period of history and the life of the Cheyenne, but due to the way that particular history played out, it makes for reading that is more sobering than entertaining.

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