Book Shelf: July 2017

Reading at Cabane Bambou in Saint Tropez

Reading at Cabane Bambou in Saint Tropez

Only a week late... we've been busy re-adjusting to life in Colorado, scheduling service providers, unpacking, socializing, and generally getting back into the swing of things at home (more on that in a separate post).  July marks my last month of traveling and I'll be interested to see if I can keep up my reading now that we are resuming "real life".  I'm determined to complete my Summer Reading (Without Walls) BINGO card, so in August I plan to tackle Franny & Zooey (a friend's favorite book), Madam Secretary (Madeline Albright's memoir), Wonder (middle grade), and Beloved (classic by an author of color).  As always, I want to know what you are reading and enjoying (or not) so I can add it to my ever-growing list.

A highlight of being home is that we have our local library back.  Before we returned, I requested a number of books that had been on our "to read" list for Blythe and we are all enjoying reading new books.  My current favorites are Up In the Garden, Down in the Dirt, The Wonderful Things You Will Be, Ada Twist, Scientist, and Should I Share My Ice Cream?  In any event, here are the books I read in July:

The Hate U Give - A fantastic and important read about life as an African-American in the inner-city, police brutality and racial profiling, and the Black Lives Matter movement.  The book is written from the perspective of a teenage girl who lives in a rough neighborhood reminiscent of scenes from The Wire.  It's juvenile fiction and a quick read. 

The Dog Stars - After reading Celine, I wanted to read another Peter Heller novel and Dog Stars did not disappoint.  It's completely different than Celine - it is set in post-apocalyptic Denver, Colorado where a terrible illness has killed off most humans on earth.  The main character, Hig, and his beloved dog, Jasper, survived and are attempting to stay alive against the odds.  The story is mostly about Hig's past and his relationship with Jasper and Bangley, his misanthropic neighbor.   I enjoyed Celine more, but continue to like Peter Heller's writing style and love that his books are often set in Colorado (where he lives). 

Men Without Women - I intended to read more Haruki Murakami while we were in Japan, but better late than never.  Each of the short stories in this collection deals with men who find themselves alone for various reasons.  The stories were more accessible than other works by Murakami that I have read and I really loved two of the stories (Kino and An Independent Organ) and find myself thinking of them weeks after finishing this book.  If you'd like a taste of the short stories before diving into the book, four were previously published in the New Yorker online: Yesterday, Kino, Scheherazade (my least favorite), and Samsa in Love.

El Deafo - The BookBar summer reading challenge that I wrote about last month includes a square for graphic novels.  I've never read one, but I listened to a podcast interview of the author, Cece Bell, about El Deafo last year and was intrigued.  This is short graphic novel about the author's experience after she contracted meningitis at a young age and lost her hearing as a result.  She tells the story of figuring out she is deaf, learning to use various hearing aids, making (and losing) friends, and generally the trials and tribulations of being a young child who is different from her peers.  The story is touching and taught me several things about being deaf, plus I had fun reading a new genre of book.

What We Lose - A novel about a young African-America woman coming of age and losing her mother to cancer, this was gripping, sad, and reflective, particularly because it is reflective of the author's own life, although not a memoir.  I particularly enjoyed the parts of What We Lose that are set in or discuss South Africa (where the author's family is from and still resides).  

In Praise of Messy Lives - This is another book I probably would not have picked up were it not for the BookBar summer reading challenge.  It falls into the category of literary criticism, but Katie Roiphe writes not only about various literary figures and books, but also Mad Men, Hillary Clinton,  Facebook, and her own life.  The essays are grouped by subject (Life and Times, Books, The Way We Live Now, and The Internet, Etc.) and Life and Times was my favorite section and I felt that she made insightful and accurate observations about modern culture, particularly about marriage and having children.  A passage that resonated with me was one about word choice as it relates to the author's choice to have a baby out of wedlock: "Such small word choices, you might say. How could they possibly matter to any halfway healthy person?  But it is in these choices, these causal remarks made while holding a glass of wine, these throwaway comments, these accidental bursts of honesty and flashes of discomfort, that we create a cultural climate; it's in the offhand that the judgments persist and reproduce themselves."  

More Elin Hilderbrand - We were at the beach for two weeks in July, so indulged in a beachy read between each more serious read.  I'm still devouring Elin Hilderbrand's books and this month read A Summer Affair, Silver GirlThe IdenticalsBeautiful Day, Nantucket Nights, and The Blue Bistro.  A dear friend shared an interview with Elin from NPR that I enjoyed reading, too.  I'm going to take a break from her books for awhile so that I still have a few to enjoy down the road.