Monday, July 25, 2016

What I'm reading this week (7/25/16)

Last week I finished:

Considering how many hours I watched the RNC last week, it's amazing I got any night reading done at all, but I did finish three books.

Waylon! One Awesome Thing was a great middle-grade reader. Pennypacker's Clementine series and this book are similar in that she deals with real-kid issues like exclusion and "picking teams" and learning to work together. They're not preachy, though, and she strikes a fine balance without being saccharine, judgmental, or otherwise heavy-handed. I just feel good when I finish one of her books. My rating: 4 stars

I'm sad to have finished 50 Paintings You Should Know. Not only did a learn about paintings I was familiar with, but I found some gems I'd never encountered before. A sampling of the more famous works discussed: Girl with a Pearl Earring, American Gothic, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (aka Whistler’s Mother), Campbell’s Soup Cans, Mona Lisa, The Creation of Adam, Night Hawks, The Birth of Venus, The Starry Night, The Skating Minister, The Scream, The Kiss, etc. The collection is arranged chronologically with a timeline at the top of each page to put the artwork in societal context. I can't speak for the choices made, not being a student of art, but from the casual observer of art, I believe it was a good representation of the different eras, styles, and artists of the world. More famous artists would have an extra piece or two in addition to the featured piece. I found the short expository page explaining each painting informative and even-handed in the discussion not only of technique and mastery but also interpretation of the meaning behind the pieces that weren't straightforward (like Dali). My one gripe (other than the tiny font and several typographical errors) is that there was no introduction, index, or postscript explaining the credentials of those who chose the 50 paintings, the criteria for choosing the pieces they did, or the process of putting the book together. It just started and ended, and that was that. Still, a fine collection that I thoroughly enjoyed. My rating: 4.5 stars

With the violence, pain, and uncertainty in a world that at present seems to be falling down around our ears, this is not the time to be reading about presidential assassination, yet I've read about the assassination of Lincoln, Kennedy (twice), and the attempted assassination of Reagan in the last seven months. With the completion of Killing Reagan, I'm closing the door on assassination stories for awhile. I did come away from my re-read with a better understanding of the things that complicated his presidency, but I still have reservations about the book's motive. Still, well-written and engaging. My rating: 4 stars

What I finished this weekend:

Last week, Modern Mrs. Darcy presented a list of 25 books to read when you feel like the world is falling apart. And Gone with the Wind was on that list. The world falls apart slowly and over and over again in this book, and after 959 pages and several weeks, coming up for air only to hear the news of more police officers gunned down, more terrorism abroad, and another government coup, plus my own migraines and my husband's back injury, I'm drained of every emotion. I'm a limp dishrag of a reader, completely spent.

   But I digress. What did I think of this classic, award-winning tome? First, as I said last week, I was fascinated at how it was put together. I was amazed that I could want to stay with a book whose main characters were so violently unlikeable. I feel like it's been a long time since I've encountered such complex characters and such sweeping plot. I'd say Middlemarch was the last book with such wonderfully complicated characters. (Even Scarlett's shallowness was complicated!) I love books that take you deep into the setting and history of the time, and this is something Gone with the Wind does brilliantly. You are in Atlanta, you feel the soil of Tara, you cannot escape the Civil War and starvation and desperation and grief anymore than Scarlett and Melanie can. I loved that.
   I didn't love that the book didn't end well. I'm not convinced that Scarlett grew at all as a person, and that's disappointing after so much emotional investment. Rhett ends up being some kind of tragic love hero, but I don't buy it. His behavior and words throughout the book don't sinc up with his assertions at the end of the book. Also, my favorite character dies.
   The book, in the end is about how people deal with tragedy, adversity, change. Some fall apart and can't seem to make a life in a new world (such as post-Civil War Georgia). Some grow fearless and lose a great deal of their humanity (Scarlett). Some cut a bewildered pathway and build a life (many of the Atlanta women Scarlett knows). Some hold steadfastly to the charms of the past and are unable to navigate the future that way (Ashley). Some take advantage of the misfortune of others and become greedy and closed off (Rhett). I wish Margaret Mitchell herself would have written a sequel (the way it ends seems to me to beg for a sequel), because the book as well as Scarlett don't seem finished. My rating: 4 stars   

I've thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Young's Dear Darkness. It was a nice companion to Gone with the Wind in that he writes a lot of poems about his people, Southern blacks. He writes a lot of odes to southern foods, lots of blues poems (which would likely be much better heard than read), and there's a strong sense of connectedness and hopefulness and fun to his poems. Like I said before, they are accessible and relatable (even to a white Northern girl). Although I didn't find many poems or individual lines to mark, the collection as a whole is very enjoyable. My rating: 4 stars

And my love affair with For the Love will come to an end this week as well. Like most Christian women, I'm often guarded about books by Christian women because they can miss their mark in so very many ways. I need a way out of my guilt, not another 200 pages of it. Also, I don't want to read a mushy love-letter to God, because, to be honest, that's not where I am right now. Plus, reading other people's love letters feels too intimate and creepy. But this book, this book spoke to me. By the time I got to the last section of the book about church and church people, I was already hooked, and this section put me over the top. As you may know from previous posts, my relationship with church has been complicated in the last couple of years, and I'm still struggling through the hard feelings and emotions of church and church people. There are so many reasons to quit church (Hatmaker says the church loses 50,000 people each week!), and there are so many reasons to stay. The bottom line is that when church is the place where the spiritual does its battle, things are bound to be messy. And hard. And occasionally heartbreaking. Hatmaker, a church worker for most all her life, knows this better than anyone, and she writes openly about how churches are failing their people and what people need to do to strengthen their churches. I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with faith or womanhood or motherhood. There's a lot here to uplift and encourage. Plus, she can be funny as heck. My rating: 4.5 stars
Last week I started:

I don't know what I was thinking deciding to read Farmer Boy with all the other books I am reading this month. Where did I think I was going to find the time?! I didn't start it until now, and I'm having trouble finding time to pick it up. I think I'm finding Wilder's books just too simple for my tastes. Much has changed in the world of children's lit since this was written in 1933! I'll continue with it and hopefully finish it by August, but I'm not sure I'll continue with the series.

I was at a loss as to what audio to pick up next. I'd intended to listen to Tarzan of the Apes this month, but with the new Tarzan movie, there's not a copy to be found in my whole library system. And my hard copy has such small print, I'm loathe to begin it. So I've put it off, and I picked up Death Comes to Pemberley instead. This is a "continuation" of the Elizabeth Bennett/Mr. Darcy story from Pride and Prejudice. I thought a nice British-y book would sound soothing, but I'm finding it a bit more of a mental exercise than I'd hoped for. I'm not far into it, but I don't feel it has anywhere near the heart of Jane Austen's work. Still, I have hopes that once I get reacquainted with all the characters and the plot unfurls, I'll be sucked in.

Whew, that was a lot of words. I think I'll go and work on my August reading list now, filling it with all the uplifting, girly, yummy fare I can find.



  1. Nice book selection. I want to read "Killing Reagan." I really like history, and I read a book last year about Reagan that I really enjoyed.
    ~Aidyl from Noveltea

    1. I also enjoyed their previous books about presidential assassinations, "Killing Lincoln", and "Killing Kennedy".

      I'd love to know which Reagan book you read! I read his autobiography, "An American Life", a couple years ago, and it was very good.