Monday, October 11, 2010

September Reading

Books read in the month of September. Though the last two crept into October a bit...

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Extremely popular novel set during the early civil rights movement explores the relationships between white women and their servants in Jackson, Mississippi. A well-written and believable page-turner. The only objection I had was to spending so many hours in a world marked by so much injustice – almost felt like reading Dickens. The author’s first novel. Will be hard to top it!

The Yada Yada Prayer Group, by Neta Jackson. Novel tells of a group of diverse Chicago women who met at a Christian women’s conference and decided to continue their relationships. I thought the premise – and the way the characters claimed to think of each other as “sisters” so quickly – implausible. Also didn’t care for the main character. Yet there was some really good, true stuff in this one. I can understand why a friend recommended it and has read every one in the series.

Silver Birches, by Adrian Plass. Another Christian novel. This one felt different than the typical offerings, maybe because it was written by (and about) a man, and a British man to boot. It’s also structured around telling the stories of the lives of an ensemble cast, this time old acquaintances gathered for a somewhat awkward reunion after many years apart. “Sensitively” written, as the reviewers claimed.

Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity, by Sam Miller. Another off-beat travelogue with lots of interesting factoids and images but that tries a bit too hard to shock or amuse. It was of interest to me because I’ve spent some time in that remarkable and contradictory city, but otherwise I wouldn’t pick it up. I think I prefer travel books that aren’t described as being humorous. Most of the time the humor in such books is either too self-reflective or comes at the expense of the host culture.

The Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale and So You Want to Be a Wizard, by Diane Duane were two audiobooks in the kid-lit category. They came on a technology our library acquired a while back called “Playaway.” Each audio books comes preloaded on simple portable device. Plug in your own headphones, replace the AAA battery if necessary, and you’re good for hours. I think the library got a specially designated grant or gift for these: the vast majority of the titles in their collection are for young adults. Fine with me; I grabbed two for a road trip. Thumbs up on the award-winning Shannon Hale’s beautiful written fantasy novel. I wasn’t impressed with veteran-sci-fi-writer Diane Duane’s, which came with huge plot flaws. (Also: Eventually the two kids had to save the world – or New York City, anyway – but most of the time they were trying to get back the girl’s lucky pen? Lame.)

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, by Max Lucado. Good stuff, if not as revolutionary as the publishers claim. I got a free review copy from them, and wrote a whole post about it several weeks ago.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, by David Platt. What’s most amazing about this book is that it is getting such a wide reading. Or at least, that it’s selling so much. Maybe more people are buying it than talking about it, but I’m hearing some talk too. This slim volume explores – with a ‘we’re in this together’ tone – some of the many ways American Christianity is out of step with Christ. Compassion International’s Wess Stafford sums it up well: “David Platt challenges Christians to wake up, trade in false values rooted in the American dream, and embrace the notion that each of us is blessed by God for a global purpose.” It's very good, and I wrote about it previously. 

One Man’s Meat, by E.B. White. Looks like this gem of a book has stayed in print for the last 60 years but I had never heard of it - at least not until a friend cleaning house to move overseas placed a yellowed paperback copy in my hands, nicely gift wrapped. White was a columnist for Harper’s Magazine and wrote a column of the same name of the book. These meandering personal essays provide a beautiful commentary on the author’s life on a Maine coast farm, raising sheep and chickens – as well as the life of the nation and world, 1938-1943. I may have to throw some passages your way as days go on. Highly recommended.

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