Book Roundup #6

7 Mar

Big things happening here. Big changes in the works and due to stress and an insane to-do list, I haven’t been able to write. But I have found time to read, because I will always find time to read in the same way that I’ll always find an excuse to buy Oreos, it’s a part of who I am. And despite my former post going against reading challenges, my librarian sister convinced me to sign up for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge. So instead of aiming to read a certain amount of books, the challenge offers different types of books to be read. A biography, a book by a transgender person, a book about religion, etc. It’s been a great way to search out books that I might not normally read.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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A beautiful book written as a letter from Coates to his son about being black in America. It’s eloquent and heart-breaking. It pairs well with the Black Lives Matter movement and how frustrating it is to be a person of color in the 2010’s. As a white person, I don’t know how to talk about these issues. I support what black people are doing, but I also know that it is not my movement. It is not for me to claim it or to comment on it, because I can’t sympathize with the racism and discrimination they experience on a daily basis. But this book helped me understand it better, and for that I’m grateful.

“It was only after you that I understood this love, that I understood the grip of my mother’s hand. She knew that the galaxy itself could kill me, that all of me could be shattered and all of her legacy spilled upon the curb like bum wine. And no one would be brought to account for this destruction, because my death would not be the fault of any human but the fault of some unfortunate but immutable fact of ‘race,’ imposed upon an innocent country by the inscrutable judgement of invisible gods.”

Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw

This was for the play requirement of my Read Harder challenge. I’ve seen “My Fair Lady” dozens of times, but this is the first time I’ve ever read the play. And I think it’s the first play I’ve read outside of school. It’s a strange thing to read a play, to have access to dialogue and some descriptions, but having to plug in everything else. It’s the story of a poor flower girl (Eliza Doolittle) in turn of the century London who is taken in by a couple of linguists who wage a bet on whether or not they can turn her into a lady and pass her off at a royal ball. The play, more so than the movie, focuses on Eliza’s humanity. The linguists that teach her begin to see her as an object, since she is both poor and a woman. It’s an interesting study of society and how something as simple as how we speak can isolate us.

“I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself. Now you’ve made a lady of me I’m not fit to sell anything else.”

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

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This translated book is by a journalist who lived with a family in Kabul after the invasion and the expulsion of the Taliban. It follows the patriarch, Sultan Kahn, who owns one of the few bookstores in Afghanistan’s capital, and the lives of his family members. The book goes into detail about living in a post-Taliban Afghanistan, accessing education, the lives of his sons. But it is the lives of his wives and sisters that shines through. As much as I can sit and complain about the United States and my current place in the world, I’m quite blessed to be a woman who has had access to education and has been able to make my own decisions. The women of Afghanistan (at least the ones described in the book) live their lives almost as slaves. They have little choice about where their lives will go. The family decides who they marry and for what price, then their husband decides how she will lead her life. Some benevolent husbands allow their wives to pursue education and jobs, others force them to stay at home cooking and cleaning. I’m not sure how much has changed in the past decade since the book was written, but it made me grateful for what I have. For being able to make my own choices about relationships, about what I wear, the jobs I’ve worked, my access to books and school. It made me feel blessed.

Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America by Kati Marton

Dr G lent me this book, although I’m not entirely sure why. It’s written by a Hungarian immigrant whose parents were journalists in communist Hungary in the 1950’s. As an adult, Marton goes back to Hungary and reads through the state surveillance papers about her parents. She discovers unsavory things about her parents’ extramarital affairs, but also reads about their time in prison and how much they missed their children. Overall, the book was a little dry, often times reading like a book report. But it also felt like a story that has been told before, maybe because I studied in Prague and read about so many stories like this. I didn’t find anything remarkable about it. It made me want to rewatch “The Lives of Others” which is an incredible film about communist surveillance in Berlin. This book wasn’t bad, but I’ve seen it told better.

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

The premise of this book sounded so interesting. In Mississippi, a young boy is found hanged from a tree in his back yard in the middle of the day. His baby sister decides to investigate his murder 12-years-later as a young girl in a small town. I’ve also read “The Secret History” by Tartt, and I think both books are similar in their failings. An interesting plot, great characters, beautifully described setting, but so much superfluous information. Pages about inconsequential moments. This book took forever to finish, and there wasn’t any great payoff in finishing it either. I felt like I worked really hard to get through the book only to be disappointed with the ending. Tartt is famous for her book “Goldfinch” which I’ve wanted to read. But how many hours of my reading life can I possibly dedicate to this woman?

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