I learned some stuff this month, y’all. The first book I read in March was probably also my favorite, and it was nonfiction! I found myself thinking and talking about Jennifer Ackerman’s book with several different people. I realized I was doing the same thing with Hillbilly Elegy later in the month. Both inspired me to pay attention to the world around me and make connections with what I read. Successes, in my book.
- Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body, Jennifer Ackerman, nonfiction
This book was fascinating. Jennifer Ackerman is not a scientist, but calls herself a science writer. This book starts with waking up in the morning and goes through a 24 hour period explaining many different biological processes going on in daily activities. We study the human body in my class, so some of the things I learned are things I can share with my kids. I couldn’t stop reading things aloud to David every time I came upon something interesting (which was quite frequently). It was published ten years ago, so I wonder if any of the information is now outdated. I would love to read more books like this and learn more in an appealing way.
- Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin, fiction
There were aspects of this novel that I loved. The writing was beautiful and some descriptions delightful. I enjoyed the writing far more than the actual story. This book was long. I do not have a problem with long books in general. I have read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix probably ten times. I have a problem with books that are longer than they need to be (*cough* Great Expectations and The Goldfinch *cough*). This felt incredibly long and it was a struggle to finish. The story of Peter Lake and Beverly Penn encased in just part one would have been sufficient. When I was trying to identify what bothered me about this book, I heard my friend Shannon Lacy’s words bouncing around in my head. She reviewed her 2016 books in this blog post, and her review of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was very similar to my feelings about Winter’s Tale. I felt like it was trying desperately to search for meaning and it never got there, which is disappointing after such a long and arduous journey.
- You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott, fiction
This was a suspenseful not-quite-mystery, not-quite-psychological-thriller that I read to reward myself after getting through Winter’s Tale. I love books that keep me on the edge of my seat, and this did. It delves into the world of competitive gymnastics and the lives of one family very deep into that universe. Most of the story is centered around a crime that occurs and the unraveling of the community and family afterward. It’s told in third person, but from the viewpoint of the mom, who at times seems to be losing her grip on reality. There are lots of parallels and double meanings. It’s taut and compelling, and I enjoyed both the writing and the story.
- Before Green Gables, Budge Wilson, fiction
I knew I should not have read this. Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter are my very favorite book series, and both are very dear to my heart. I have read all 8 books in the Anne series more times than I can count. I saw this prequel promoted somewhere and my curiosity was piqued. It’s essentially fan fiction, starting in Walter and Bertha Shirley’s early days of marriage and ending with Anne’s arrival at the Bright River station. Of course, Anne’s life before Green Gables was dreary at best and marked by tragedy, so I knew this wouldn’t be a cheerful read. I did not have high expectations, but was still disappointed. This was not the Anne I know and love, and it made me want to pick up any LM Montgomery book to read instead.
- Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J.D. Vance, memoir
I was so excited to read this book, and it did not disappoint. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it and didn’t know his reason for writing. The bulk of the story focuses on Vance’s own life, his family history, and how he got where he is now. His story, unfortunately a common one, is heartbreaking and told in a way that lets the events speak for themselves. This book shines a light into dark corners that are often overlooked when discussing our current culture, even though people are asking more questions now trying to understand the Trump phenomenon. This was fascinating for me to read as someone who grew up in a rural Ohio town, although not in the Appalachian region. I recognize many of the characters in his story under different names and with variations in detail. I recognize the manner of speech, the destructive family life, the sense of hopelessness and pessimism. Vance’s conclusion seems to be that the working class needs to simply pull itself up by its bootstraps. He ends with a challenge to his fellow “hillbillies” to do just that. I agree with him that change won’t occur mainly through governmental policy and that it needs to start within individual families. As a Christian, my perspective is different on what will enable families to start making those changes – the freedom from sin nature and brokenness that is available only through Jesus, rather than asking people to just look in the mirror and pull themselves out of cycles that have held their families captive for generations. I read an article written by Vance a few days ago saying that he is moving back to Columbus and “founding an organization to combat Ohio’s opioid epidemic.” I have a lot of respect for him for returning home and pushing back on some of the darkness that characterized his childhood.
- El aire que respira, Brittainy C. Cherry, translated by Claudia Casanova, fiction
This was my second attempt at maintaining my Spanish through reading, and it was much more successful than the first go-round. I was trying to find books that were written originally in Spanish, but I stumbled on this on the library website and it was available immediately, so I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I could understand it. I’m curious if it’s because it was translated from English or just because of the different subject matter and difficulty level. The story was interesting, although very sad and at times a little too predictable and cliché. A man and woman meet after she nearly runs over his dog, then discover that they have similar tragic histories, then discover they’re neighbors, then of course fall in love. I was more interested in the Spanish than the story itself. There was some wordplay in Spanish, and it made me wonder what the translations were in English, and if the wordplay worked better in one language than the other. I’m not curious enough to actually read it in English, so if any of y’all read it you can let me know. 🙂
Reading Challenge Progress: 18/50 books completed.