I learned to read when I was four years old and I haven't stopped reading since. Of course, I toned down my pleasure reading considerably during the eight years I was in high school and college, but since graduation I have started reading for fun again.
I love book recommendations and hearing what others are reading, so I thought I'd start sharing what I've been reading each month. I enjoy reading lots of different kinds of books, but I'm most drawn to interesting novels, creative non-fiction and writings about food or cuisine.
I enjoy reading fluffy books or chick lit most on the beach. I read a lot of these "junk food for the mind" books in college since my brain couldn't handle anything denser, so now I tend to not read them as often.
Other criteria? Well, I definitely judge books by their cover. Anything with an interesting design will get me to at least read the inner jacket, if not the entire book. Also, I do almost all of my reading exclusively on the subway, so books that are too long or large or just seem like they would be uncomfortable to hold with one hand I pass by.
So, what have I been reading this month?
Cheri: The Last of Cheri by Colette
Honestly, I'm not sure why I bothered finishing this book. I was bored the entire time I was reading it and, also, a little bit sickened. I was intrigued in the library by the fact that the edition I read had the original French text printed on the left-hand pages with the English translation on the right.
The plot centers on an aging courtesan and her young lover who is getting married. Honestly, not much happens and the characters are so grossly self-centered that it is infuriating. I suppose if you were intrigued by the way of life of aristocratic Parisians pre-WWI then it might be a good read. I was glad that it was short.
Skylark Farm by Antonia Arslan
This was a very difficult book to read. It is a semi-autobiographical work about the author's family during the Armenian genocide. It is not graphic, but, rather, deeply poetic and the humiliation and despair of the family is portrayed so vividly that I cried every day on the subway as I read it.
I suppose it wasn't helped by the fact that I know a number of Armenians from my time at AUBG and I was reading the book during the anniversary of the death marches, but it was almost painful to read this book. Also, one of the characters is named Garo (what my nieces call my Daddy) and he's described:
"The sexton is named Garo and he is a simple man of God. Indeed, he speaks with God every day and is surprised that others don't do the same." (Skylark Farm, p. 54)
In short, while incredibly difficult to read, I loved this book. I highly recommend that you read it if you are not afraid of shedding a tear or two where you are reading. The resilence of the human spirit makes for a beautiful story.
The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop and Table Hop Like a Pro (Almost) by Adam D. Roberts
When I picked this book up, I had no idea that Adam Roberts writes a highly successful blog called The Amateur Gourmet. I suppose it was an interesting enough book, but it wasn't wow-ing. I really enjoyed reading about his experiences at nice restaurants in New York City, but I don't consider myself to be a gourmet, so he sort of lost me there. I guess what I'm saying is: it wasn't him, it was me.
The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World edited by Heather Zydek
Well, this book knocked my socks off. I started reading this prepared to have many of my life choices affirmed and expecting to end the book feeling pretty good about myself. Instead, almost immediately this collection of 12 essays about Relevant Magazine's ideas of the biggest issues facing our world knocked the air out of me. This was another book that stirred me to cry on the subway.
Here is what is great about the collection though--each essay centers around on what you--as a human, as a Christian, as a privileged member of our society--can do to help. Each problem has suggestions that anyone can do (pray) and that most people can do (donate time or money). Resources are spelled out clearly and the takeaway of the book is not that all hope is lost and that we should give up because of the problems overwhelming our world, but rather than hope is to be found around every corner and that change is possible in our lifetimes.
I highly recommend the essays to anyone who feels overwhelmed by the many problems of our world and to Christians who feel a call to do something, but especially to Christians who are content NOT thinking about all of the things we need to be doing. The book certainly challenged me with the chapters on gang violence and poverty--two things that I realized many of my fellow subway riders were probably dealing with, but that I, in my safe neighborhood and comfortable apartment, gave little thought to.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Nathan read this book in the seventh grade and was surprised when I picked it up that I had never read it. Apparently, 7th grade Nathan hated this book and I can see why--it's subtly weightly. I thought the book was beautiful and enjoyed reading it immensely. The plots focuses on a Chinese farmer living in a time of great tumult: pre-revolutionary China. True to life, however, these major events are given only a passing glance--the real story for the farmer is about his wife and children and father and land. The story seems so simple until you really start to think about it and you realize the point of the book is about self-absorbtion and the quiet beauty and horror of the mundane and regular. The ending could be seen as terribly sad, but also as a natural part of the cycle of life. I'll pull a Levar Burton and tell you to read it to see what you think.
Well, that's it for this month. What have you been reading?