Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reading Recommendations

I haven't done any book evaluations for awhile, but since reading outside is one of my favorite things about this time of year, here are some books to consider:

I loved Gilbert's humorous voice in Eat, Pray, Love and that same tone comes through in her latest book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. Part autobiography, part sociology, Gilbert delves into history, culture and religion to determine what, exactly, marriage is all about. As a sociologist/historian, I found her observations to be fascinating, and I had a hard time putting the book down. That said, it's not for everyone. She makes a strong argument for same-sex marriage that conservatives may want to skip over and she calls into question several marital traditions. In the end, she does come down in favor of marriage. I found it hopeful, insightful and downright funny.

I'm not a fan of science-fiction, but I really, really enjoyed Ender's Game. A very young Ender is pushed through militaristic training to prepare him to combat the "buggers" who threaten to destroy humankind. What I enjoyed was the emphasis on the mental aspects of his training. It was first published in 1977, but don't let that deter you. I would highly recommend this one. The book is certainly self-contained, but there are two other books that star Ender as the main character. I've already ordered them.

If Twilight were to merge with Bewitched and take place in the deep South, you would have Beautiful Creatures. It's the same type of star-crossed, young love, chock-full of angst. That said, I liked Beautiful Creatures better than Twilight. Less silliness and less hype. This certainly isn't great literature, but if you liked Twilight, I'm pretty sure you'll really enjoy Beautiful Creatures. It's a great, light, summer read.

I have always enjoyed Mitch Albom's books. They may be a bit folksy, but I really love the warmth and wisdom that permeates his stories. Have a Little Faith compares two religious men: a rabbi and a reformed drug dealer, turned inner-city minister. The best part about Faith was being exposed to a different spin on the religious ideals and stories I have heard my whole life. I liked it so much I'm hosting it for Book Club next month.

My nephew has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. House Rules follows a teenage boy with Asperger's who is accused of murder. The plot was fine enough (although I figured out the "twist" pretty early on,) but what I found riveting was Picoult's description of what it's like to be in a family dominated by autism. I learned a lot. I have much more respect and empathy for my brother, his wife and their children.

Another Picoult book, Plain Truth follows the investigation of an infant's murder in Amish Pennsylvania. It was an insightful look at the Amish community and the story pulled me along. It's a quick, lighter read - typical Picoult.

Hailed as a book of philosophy, the Alchemist is a simple story full of symbolism. A shepherd, Santiago, goes on a quest to learn wisdom from the famous Alchemist. It's not long, and has been purported to change lives. I found The Alchemist not exactly captivating, but interesting enough with some great tidbits.

This autobiography is by a woman who lived during China's Cultural Revolution. As a wealthy, educated woman she was quickly targeted by the revolutionaries. It was crazy to learn about what happened to her and her family. It was good, but I found Red Scarf Girl to provide comparable insight in a quicker and more captivating way.

A woman in our book club knows the author of Return to Honor, so we read it last month. It tells the story of a young German solider during World War II. It was published independently, so it might be hard to find.

I just finished The Warrior Heir. It's pretty much Harry Potter meets Hunger Games. A teenager finds out he's magic, goes into training, and ends up in a fight to the death which takes place for the amusement/politics of the wizard community. I'm getting a little bored with all the magic/vampire/otherworldly teenagers, but it wasn't a bad read. I took it on vacation with me, and it was great for that kind of thing. That said, I'm really starting to crave something meatier. Any suggestions?

So, my favorites from this batch? Committed, Ender's Game and Beautiful Creatures. Enjoy!


Kari said...

Thanks for your updates on books. I am always looking for something new to read!!

Jennifer said...

Thanks for sharing! I always love to refer back to your blog when I am at a lost for what to read next.

Julie Ramsay said...

The reviews about the Alchemist always crack me up...yes its okay but life changing...whatever. I haven't read any others so thanks for the tips!

The Morey Family from Rochester said...

I second the opinion about the Alchemist. We read it for book group, and there was certainly a lot of hype about it. For me, meh.

Jenni said...

You read Beautiful Creatures! I thought it was fun fluff too, though not better than Twilight... It's always vampires for me. Ender's Game is Adrian's favorite book and he keeps trying to get me to read it. Maybe one of these days I will. Glad you liked it!