I have what are probably considered eclectic tastes in reading material. I tend to jump around quite a bit, but a few recurring themes would be historical fiction; feminist themes and strong female or feminist characters; dystopia; foreign settings, characters, and writers; critical exploration of religion; food writing; and young adult fiction. Oh, and I really love re-tellings and parallel novels, a la Gregory Maguire.
Here’s a list of what I’ve read, in reverse chronological order, since I started keeping track a few years ago. Some things I’ve written a great deal about, some I haven’t. It just depends if I have a lot to say about that particular book or not. Scroll through to find recommendations, or search for a particular book if you want to see what I’ve written about it. If I haven’t written enough for you to decide if you want to read it or not, or if you want to participate in a virtual book club with no meetings, deadlines, or pressure, leave a comment.
The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I had a hard time starting this one, and there are a lot of things I don’t like about it. I think the writing is bad, and I had a hard time with the rather obnoxious hipster characters. But once I ignored the writing quality and started assuming that the author meant it to be satirical of hipsterism, it was a bit easier. And then I got into the mystery and wanted to know what happens. Sloan manages to give computers and the internet the credit they’re due while simultaneously pointing out that while we’re living in an age of vast technological change, we’re not the first people to do so, and probably won’t be the last. I did enjoy the quest, but it was little saccharine in the end. It reminded of taking my then 12-year-old sister to see the 2008 Indiana Jones film. After 90 minutes of action-packed treasure hunting, she felt cheated, exclaiming incredulously, “The treasure is knowledge?”
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
The second in a trilogy, I really enjoyed this one. Though the first book, A Discovery of Witches (listed below), was set in modern times, this one takes us to Elizabethan England with the help of a time-traveling witch. I’m still disturbed by her relationship with a typically controlling and dominating vampire, but the story is really good. Not the heaviest or most literary reading by a long shot, but certainly entertaining.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
I like Mindy Kaling. This was funny.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
I read this for book club, and it was wonderful. I finished it in about two days. I had kind of expected it to be chick lit fluff, a la Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but I thought it was way better. And when I picked it up, I thought I’d really hate the format — it’s told through a series of letters — but I ended up really liking it. I knew a decent amount about WW2 in Britain, like the blitzkreig and hiding in the Tube and sending your kids away and whatnot. But this story focuses on Guernsey, a somewhat autonomous (but not really) region in the Channel Islands that was completely occupied by German forces during the war. Quite a fascinating story. A film adaptation starring Kate Winslet is supposed to be coming soon. Read a review in The Guardian here.
The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism by Deborah Baker
This true story is about a young Jewish woman who leaves her family in New York, converts to Islam, moves to Pakistan, changes her name, and makes her living writing books and pamphlets condemning the West. From Lorraine Adams in the NYT book review: “Baker not only makes us care about this disturbed woman and her hectoring prose, she has succeeded in composing a mesmerizing book on one of the more curious East-West encounters…. Sexual secrets? Suspense? Drama? Reversals? They’re all here.”
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
I picked this one for book club when it was my turn to host. I have been told many times that I would love Allende, and I finally read her stuff. This being my first of her novels, I undoubtedly will read more. Her books contain many of my favorite things: historical fiction, feminism, various cultures coming together (especially South American), magical realism (though not in this one), and more. Daughter of Fortune is a great place to start, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Portrait in Sepia, which follows the life of the protagonist’s granddaughter.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
This one is like Twilight for adults. Needless to say, I loved it. The heroine actually has a personality and skills and abilities. She’s not just sitting around waiting for her handsome man to rescue her. (Though he does many times, of course.) There are still a few problematic pieces, particularly when it comes to sex and relationships (What is the deal with women being attracted to men who struggle with wanting to kill them? That’s not healthy!), but it’s way better than in your average vampire story. Long story short: it’s not a classic, but I will be reading the rest of the trilogy.
Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists, teamed up with his wife to write a children’s novel. Between my love for The Decemberists and my love for children’s and young adult novels, I thought I’d check it out. I thought the story and the writing were both pretty good. But also I thought it was a little long and slow in some parts to hold a kid’s attention. Overall, good book, but not a classic.
Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott by Louisa May Alcott
A friend lent this one to me. I saw her reading it at work and was amused by the fact that Alcott, author of the ultimate vanilla Little Women, wrote thriller stories. Apparently it was how she earned a living. The book contains 4 novelettes. Some were decent, some were good. They all did that annoying thing where instead of slowly realizing the answer to the mystery at the end, she’s like, ‘Oh, and here’s what happened!” Like how the bad guy in an action movie talks too much right before he dies and tells you all the secrets. It’s a bit lazy and unimaginative. But, it was still an interesting read, especially considering it’s Louisa May Alcott, of all people.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
We read this for book club. I liked it. The story itself was decent, and the characters decent. I think what I really liked was how well the period was set. The story takes place in the 1930s, and the author did a great job of building the ’30s environment for the reader. See the NYT book review here.
The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan
Not as on-the-edge-of-your-seat captivating as other food writing I’ve read, but still very interesting. McMillan goes undercover in the food industry a la Barbara Ehrenreich. She divides her year, spending a few months picking produce in the fields of California, another stint in a Detroit Walmart produce department, and a last section as a food prep worker for an Applebee’s in Brooklyn. In each section, she reports her own experience within the food industry while sharing a wealth of well-researched information about that area. With statistics on farm workers, the massive food distribution center that is Walmart, and the way food is “cooked” in restaurants, her account is very illuminating. Throughout it all, she also weaves in her personal relationship with food when she’s living off minimum wage or below minimum wage earnings, talking about how we have much to change if we want to improve America’s way of eating. Read more at the Times.
Gold by Chris Cleave
This is the first book I read for my new book club! How exciting. It was a decent book. I thought the plot was interesting but the characters were a flat. Having read Cleave’s Little Bee, I was a little disappointed in this one. I keep looking for book reviews to sum up what I feel about it, and I can’t find any. Actually, most of those I found are pretty bland: Yeah, it was good… Pretty entertaining… And then since there’s nothing to be said about extremely stereotypical characters stuck in a highly dramatic/implausible soap opera, they end up with a short synopsis of the story. So maybe the fact that there is such a lack of real reviews shows how exciting but completely vapid this book is. Also, I thought the whole thing was basically another installment in our cultural Mommy Wars, and I was equally annoyed that a male author would weigh so heavily in on that and surprised that none of the reviews brought this up. Maybe everyone was so distracted by the soap opera drama (Olympics! Secrets! Leukemia! Intrigue! Plot twist! More secrets! Ermagerd!) that they failed to notice the tiny bit of substance hiding in there, even if it was commentary on how women with children should behave.
Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives by Katie Hickman
I technically still haven’t finished this book, but I pick it up to randomly read another chapter every now and then. Sometimes I’m in the mood for it, sometimes not. It’s a little dense, but filled with interesting stories about the lives of the women who traveled with British ambassadors. Her stories span a few centuries, and it’s interesting to see where the women’s lives are similar and where they’re different over time.
The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs
I enjoyed this humorous exploration of religion and spirituality. Jacobs is a nonfiction writer living in New York who decided to explore his spirituality and his family’s cultural background by living as close as possible to biblical writings for one year. He spends a lot of time consulting scholars, trying to figure out the true meanings of various commandments. For example, ‘an eye for an eye’ cannot be followed literally both because of modern criminal statutes and because that was written as a metaphor. So while he literally follows some commandments, like growing out a beard and wearing white clothing, he also tries to figure out and follow the meaning is behind metaphorical commandments. Divided between the Old Testament and the New, I thought it was really interesting. He’s a good writer.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Another fun young adult book. This one retells the story of Alice in Wonderland, changing it around so Alyss is actually from Wonderland and lost in England, finally returning to Wonderland to fight the evil Queen of Hearts and reclaim her right to the throne.
Leaving Tangier by Tahar Ben Jelloun
Good, easy read about Moroccans hoping to emigrate to Europe. I liked it. Born in Morocco, Ben Jelloun is one of France’s best-known novelists as well as a trained psychotherapist. Read more from WaPo and The Guardian.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
I’ve been thinking lately that considering my love of ridiculous genre novels, I really should start reading classic sci fi. I read Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as a teen, and all I remember about it is that I liked it. So I picked up The Martian Chronicles at a bookstore while on vacation, and I finished it before I got home. Loved it!
Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore
A quick, funny read to keep me entertained on a long flight. I get too tired traveling to read anything serious.
Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig
I love a good memoir, especially funny ones about messed up brains. Jennifer Traig writes about growing up with obsessive compulsive disorder at a time when doctors didn’t know what OCD was. Very interesting, very funny. The only problem is, I’m something of a hypochondriac, and now I’m convinced I also have OCD.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Friends have been telling me to read this for years, and I finally did. I LOVED IT. Historical fiction, check. Religious exploration, check. Parallel story, check. Feminist ladies, check. If you read my intro paragraph, you’d know that that about covers everything on my best-of list. Diamant reimagines the story of Dinah (pronounced DEE-nuh) from the Bible. All we know about Dinah from book of Genesis was that she was raped and her brothers took vengeance by slaying all the men in her assailant’s city. Diamant turns the story on its head, taking an entirely different approach: one not of sexual violence, but of love and brotherly betrayal. I was spellbound by the first half, really loving the scene and the description of daily life. And of course the Big Action scene was gripping. I was less impressed by the second half. Once the setting changed, it was a little too depressing for my taste. I understand that’s how life is sometimes, but if I have to read about it, at least don’t drag it out so long. Regardless, it was an excellent book, and I highly recommend it. Check out a review here.
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
I thought this was excellent, thought that’s coming from me about a piece of historical fiction with a religious and feminist bent to it. So for me that’s like saying ‘the chocolate was excellent.’ Well, no duh. Brooks tells the story of a preacher’s daughter on Martha’s Vineyard and her relationship with a boy who goes on to become the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. As Bethia’s father struggles to convert the native Wampanoag they share the island with, Bethia struggles with her religious convictions. Caleb teaches her about his spiritual beliefs, which she is fascinated and disturbed by. Bethia also struggles against her family and her place in the world as a woman, yearning for the education she is not allowed to have. Not my favorite Brooks novel, but that may be just because her other works are so amazing. Here’s a review from the New York Times, one from NPR, and one from WaPo. Also, side note – Geraldine Brooks came to our local bookstore where I heard her speak and got my book signed! She wrote DEAR ALYSON in it! I was in such awe that I could only manage a “Thank you for coming!” It is not a lie that I have given a symbolic middle finger to a rock star, and yet, in Ms. Brooks’ presence, I’m stunned into silence. I’m such a nerd.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I’d read this so long ago I couldn’t really remember it, but the movie is coming out in September and it stars the BF’s favorite hottie, Hermione Granger. And honestly, it was a slim little book, so it fit well into my cram-packed carry-on for my trip to New York. This is a classic coming-of-age story with a twist at the end. Though because the only thing I remembered about it was the end, it was interesting to read it a second time and catch all the foreshadowing. I thought the story was told very well and very respectfully — not a bunch of gratuitous violence just to be scintillating. Trigger warning: includes sexual violence.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
This is way outside my normal reading. I picked it up on recommendation from our local bookshop owner. Considering it’s not my taste at all, it was pretty good. It took me a long time to get through it. Very philosophical. I mean, it’s French. Check out the New York Times review.
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
I enjoyed reading this memoir. Gabrielle Hamilton is something of a badass, and her stories about her childhood, her romances, and making in the restaurant business are pretty entertaining. Some of her writing is a bit convoluted, but overall, a good read.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
I read this because the BF was hosting an event at his work for the author and his agent to come visit. Seeing as the book had a lot of hype and I might glimpse the author, I decided to add his debut novel to my list. A lot of people are put off by what they think is a “baseball book.” And there is a lot of baseball in the novel, but it’s not about baseball. It’s really more about college, growing up, and becoming an adult. The plot was good, if a bit slow, and the characters were very interesting. All of them were deeply flawed though, which was difficult for me. I prefer reading about an idealized hero. But I guess these days, unlikable characters are what makes it literature. At any rate, it was a good book. Pick your poison: reviews from The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Guardian.
The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits by Emma Donaghue
Absolutely loved this. I usually am not a fan of short stories, but these are so great, I got over it. Donaghue based each story on some snippet of actual history, and after each story, she gives you the known history. I love creating back stories for unknown history. The stories all have female protagonists, some are politicized, some are light, some are sad, some are funny. Together they create a fantastic collection. Check out a review from Salon here.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
I liked this book a lot. It was written in the first person by self-described Indian “entrepreneur” as an open letter to the Prime Minister of China. Good exploration of class structure in contemporary India while still having an interesting, readable plot line.
Dead End Gene Pool: A Memoir by Wendy Burden
Really funny read. Not sure I got much out of it, but definitely entertaining. Good beach read.
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
Classic. I liked it.
Food Matters by Mark Bittman
Simple intro to contemporary food issues. Not a lot of detail, so if you’re looking for information about the food industry, there are better options. But if you want a simple overview, a simple diet, and a lot of great recipes, this is a good place to turn to.
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
I thought this was a really interesting story, but there were a few reasons I didn’t fall in love with this as much as everyone else seemed to. First, I’m sick and tired of men writing about strong male characters dominating weak female characters. And even when women are strong characters, they are inevitably raped, abused, or generally treated poorly. It disgusts me that authors either (1) want to see women in subjugated positions or (2) have so little imagination that they can’t write women into positions of power even in a fantasy novel taking place in an alternate reality. C’mon, really? And second, I hate it when authors kill off a main character. A guy at a party explained to me that he loved this series because the author is constantly changing perspective of who are the important major characters. But that’s precisely why I hated the end of this book. If I am invested in a character, I will not be happy if they die. And why would I be invested in your series if I’m not invested in your characters? So, long story short, I’m glad I read this so I can talk about it to the millions of people who are really into A Song of Ice and Fire, but I won’t be reading any further into the series.
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
I liked this. If you’re into the court scene parts of Law & Order, you’d probably like it too. I recently got really into the concept of midwifery and home birth and all that stuff (I have a couple friends who are studying to be doulas or midwives), so I was excited to read about that part of the story. And that was in there, but more so, this was the story of the criminal trial of a midwife who was charged with manslaughter after one of her patients dies in childbirth. And it’s told from her teenage daughter’s perspective. This would be a great pick for a book club, especially if you also researched and talked about midwifery laws and restrictions in your state.
I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
Fun, easy read. Nothing much to take away, but it was entertaining.
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
This was an easy and fascinating read. I borrowed it from a friend and finished it in a couple days. But also, I’m generally fascinated by behavioral science.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
A literary zombie novel? I’m in. I loved this. I have a strange obsession with zombies, and it was nice to read a zombie novel with substance. Whitehead fills his novel with commentary on the post-apocalyptic world, and therefore, smart insights into our current world. Read reviews from NPR and the NY Times. (Though the Times review explains the novel well, it may be the most pretentious piece of writing I’ve ever read, and that’s saying something.)
March by Geraldine Brooks
One of my favorite books ever. But I could say that about any of Brooks’ works. I love historical fiction (and I highly recommend her People of the Book). But the reason this one really takes the cake is because not only is it historical fiction, but it’s also a re-write, which I also love. March re-tells the story of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, but from the father’s perspective. He’s away, serving as a minister during the Civil War. A lot of his story is gruesome and difficult to handle, especially compared to the fluff in Little Women. But it’s such an excellent re-telling. Very moving, brilliant writing. Highly recommended.
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert
I guess this didn’t impress me much because I don’t remember a ton about it. But I do remember liking it. It has a lot of my favorite elements: strong female characters, historical fiction, interweaving stories. She tells the stories of multiple women in one family over the generations. Cool concept, and the stories were great, but I did think it jumped around a bit. Check out the Times’ review here – they loved it.
The Leftovers by Tom Perotta
Story about something that might have been The Rapture. I liked it. From the NYT review by Stephen King: “Perrotta suggests that in times of real trouble, extremism trumps logic and dialogue becomes meaningless. Read as a metaphor for the social and political splintering of American society after 9/11, it’s a chillingly accurate diagnosis.”
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
One of my many forays into youth literature, I picked this one up at a used bookstore. It was a good story, especially for teens or pre-teens. The whole point is that the main character, Stargirl, is a weirdo, and everyone treats her bad because of it. And shouldn’t we just all get along? But frankly, I thought that though many elements of Stargirl’s character were endearing, quite a few were just downright annoying. So I’m not sure Spinelli would actually make his case to a bunch of kids.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I read this partly because I had never actually read it before and partly because I really wanted to know the whole story before I read Geraldine Brooks’ March. As many people warned me, I found the book to be incredibly condescending and simplistic. I guess that’s what I get for reading a children’s book. And it probably wasn’t necessary to read the whole thing in order to enjoy Brooks. If you’re interested in refreshing your memory before taking on March, just rent the movie version with Winona Ryder and Christian Bale. Far better use of your time.
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
This is the first book of the Alex Rider children’s series. Alex is kind of a junior James Bond. I picked it up at the library because I had heard so much about it. I had even read an author bio praising the series. But frankly, it was crap. Don’t even let your kids read it. It was pure plot with absolutely nothing of value in it. It’s the children’s book equivalent of watching a formulaic action movie. The only way this could possibly be worthwhile would be if your kid refuses to read anything at all and you need something one step above comic books to entice them. But even then, try to find a book that explores even one theme at a minimum level.
Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks
The BF is a little in love with David Brooks, and I read this on his recommendation. I enjoyed it, though probably not as much as he did. I do always enjoy a bit of social science theorizing without having to read the boring case studies, so that was cool. If you want a better review than this, check out Kurt Andersen and Janet Maslin.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
This book had two strong female characters and involved two foreign places. Sounds like something I’d like, right? And I did like it! Little Bee is a Nigerian refugee in England. Other than that, I can’t tell you much without giving away key plot twists. It’s a great book, though emotionally difficult to read, especially if you’re aware enough of current events to realize that this work of fiction is not at all unrealistic. Check out the Times’ review here, and then go read this book.
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
This young adult novel dealt frankly with a really important topic: date rape. Alex is a high school student at an elite boarding school who is raped by an acquaintance. I had mixed feelings about it. For one, the portrayal of the rape itself and how the main character copes with being victimized is pretty accurate, which makes sense considering that Whitney drew upon her personal experience of being raped in college. But the entire concept of a student-run justice system that handles trials and sets punishments is extremely unrealistic and possibly even irresponsible of Whitney. I think teens should be encouraged to talk to adults and report crimes to the police. This entire story took place sans adult supervision. And maybe that’s realistic – most victims, teens or adults, don’t report sexual violence, and many don’t tell anyone at all. But that’s not a great message to send to teenage readers. We should be encouraging more people to report. I didn’t find many reviews other than from a few bloggers, which you can read here and here.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Absolutely loved it. I highly recommend anything by Geraldine Brooks. The central protagonist in People of the Book is actually a book. A book conservator finds a centuries-old Hebrew codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. As she analyzes the book and finds different pieces of it, the story jumps back to talk about other people who have come across this particular book. You get the book conservator’s story as she examines the book in Sarajevo in 1996. When the conservator finds an insect wing, Brooks takes you back in time to Sarajevo in World War II, and you find out more about the book and how the wing got there. When the conservator notes that the silver clasps are out of place, the story jumps to inquisition-era Venice, and you learn more there. A few other jumps, and the story of The Book is complete. It’s a fascinating, well-written story that weaves important themes over the centuries. And more of my favorite things: historical fiction, strong women, and an interesting view of religion (and in this case, that means Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam). Read this! And read the NYT review here.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Eating Animals is my number-one recommendation for anyone looking to get into food writing or learn more about the modern industrial food industry. Foer is of course a fantastic novelist, so I found his book a little easier to digest than some other food writers. And he did a lot of research, so there’s just as much useful information packed in there. I like his perspective, and I like that he talks about multiple issues while always returning to the same central thesis. Pretty difficult to do for this topic, considering all the intertwining issues you could address when it comes to the food industry. I think this should be required reading for every American. It’s time we learn about what it actually means to buy the groceries that we buy and eat the food we eat. Read reviews from the New York Times and the New Yorker.
Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable by Nicola Davies
I read through this in a library one day, but this 64-page illustrated non-fiction book about poop would definitely entertain some elementary and middle schoolers for at least a few days. The author profiles the pooping habits of a whole bunch of different animals and explains some really cool info about them. She also focuses on the importance of poop to the ecosystem and explains how it all ties into the circle of life. I think it’s really interesting stuff for kids, but admittedly, I am also obsessed with Animal Planet.
The Tent by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, but I had a hard time with this one. It’s just not my style. I don’t usually do short stories anyway, and I never do poetry, and there was a lot of that mixed in here. I know people who love this, and you might, but it’s just not my jam.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tina Fey is my idol. She’s awesome. And her book is awesome. It’s really funny – duh. But she also delves into some women-in-the-workplace issues – women in leadership, female ambition, sexism, et cetera. But what I like about her is that she writes it all from a genuine place of experience, without any academic speak about ‘patriarchy’ and stuff like that. Worth a read.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I’m not even going to write much here because if I start, I will go on forever. The Hunger Games series is amazing, and everyone should read it. Period. I had mixed feelings about the ending, but I’m still glad I read the whole trilogy.
Food, Inc. Edited by Karl Weber
This collection of essays highlights the major issues brought up in the Food, Inc. documentary. I didn’t see the movie, but I thought this book was pretty great. It was my intro to food writing and the factory food industry, and I was caught hook, line, and sinker. I like that the essays covered such a broad range of issues that anyone could find something they cared about – the environment, animal welfare, personal health and nutrition, workers’ rights, and more. All of these things are incredibly intertwined with the food industry, and Americans need to know about it. I definitely recommend this book. If it’s to dense to get through, read a random essay every now and then.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
I really enjoyed this book. I think I actually finished it in a day. I was having a lazy day around the house, and I didn’t have anything else to do, so I ended up finishing the entire thing. And it’s not short. It’s a pretty good story though, about a teenage boy who checks himself into the psych ward after contemplating suicide. Written for a young adult audience, it deals with some pretty hefty issues, though somewhat superficially. The whole concept is based on the author’s week-long stay in a psych ward as a teenager, so that’s interesting. And they recently made a movie out of it, which I’d really like to see.
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
Russell’s short stories are , in a word, crazy. From wolf-girls taught by nuns to be human, to a family of minotaurs crossing the country to settle out west, these stories are weird. But they are also incredibly moving. As this review in Orion Magazine says, “Russell uses non-realist situations to pursue a realist goal: illumining the human heart.”
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
I think most people read this because they wanted to find out what happened next. Did she stay with her Brazilian lover? Did they get married!? I read it mostly because I like her writing style, even if I do occasionally find her to be somewhat annoying. I liked that throughout her personal memoir, she worked in a bit about the social history of marriage. I thought that was really interesting. But also, I’m a nerd.
The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther
Great story about foreign characters in foreign places – one of my favorite things. Here’s a summary from bookbrowse.com: “…Crowther paints a magnificent portrait of betrayal and retribution set against a backdrop of Iran’s tumultuous history, dramatic landscapes, and cultural beauty. The story begins on a blustery day in London, when Maryam Mazar’s dark secrets and troubled past surface violently with tragic consequences for her pregnant daughter, Sara. Burdened by guilt, Maryam leaves her comfortable English home for the remote village in Iran where she was raised and disowned by her father. When Sara decides to follow her she learns the price that her mother had to pay for her freedom and of the love she left behind. Poetic, haunting, and brilliantly crafted…” Though this may qualify as a spoiler, I will warn potential readers that this book does include sexual violence.
Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore
Funny story, but not one of Moore’s best.
The Wishbones by Tom Perrotta
Good story, but Perrotta’s done better since then.
Nursery Crimes by Ayelet Waldman
I’m a big fan of Waldman and her husband, Michael Chabon. But this book wasn’t fantastic. I guess I’ve read a lot of their nonfiction essays, which are cool. I wasn’t expecting her book to be so… chick lit. But if you’re expecting that, then I guess it’s good on those terms. Good for the beach.
One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead
I highly recommend this book for anyone who thinks they might ever get married. Mead delves into how out of control the wedding industry has gotten, and how they trick/guilt/manipulate women into thinking they need to pay tens of thousands of dollars for one day. For example, the figures for the average amount that is spent on a wedding (which currently is upwards of $26,000), is actually released by the wedding industry itself. They have a vested interest in bloating that number as much as possible by including things that most people wouldn’t include (engagement ring, honeymoon, wedding gifts not paid for by the couple) so that when a couple spends “only” $18,000, they self-satisfyingly claim the title of a “budget wedding” or “budget bride.” But really, only $18,000? That’s a lot of money for one day. Mead is a staff writer for the New Yorker, and she interweaves multiple themes and details about weddings and marriage over time. This is a great sociology book that offers much for people planning a wedding (sooner or later) to think about. Here’s the NYT review.
Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
I thought this was pretty good but very weird. It’s set in a somewhat alternate reality. It’s one of those that is perfectly realistic until some magic happens. It’s mostly the story of a domestic drama, a young couple attempting to live their lives with a crazy mother-in-law. Not exactly an original story, but perhaps through an original lens. The Washington Post offers less of a review and more of a summary.
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
I finished this novella in a single car ride back from the beach. It’s slim, easy reading. But also really good. It combines themes from Chabon’s other works (fallout from the Holocaust, separation of families) with a Sherlock Holmes detective story. Read a review from The Guardian here.
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This is the first real graphic novel I’ve read. (I’m not really going to count the one about zombies – that’s just on a totally different plane.) I didn’t think I’d be into it, but I really liked it. Satrapi tells an amazing story of a girl growing up during the Iranian revolution.
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Oh. Em. Gee. Read this series. I can’t write much more about my feelings on this final installment of The Hunger Games trilogy without resorting to some serious spoilers.
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
I picked this up at a bargain book sale, and I thought it was pretty good. Another work of historical fiction with a strong female character, so maybe it’s a given that I would like it. It’s the story of witch trials in a small New England town, and how the narrator’s mother, Martha Carrier, stood up for herself. There were a few haunting moments that still disturb me today if I accidentally think about them. The most disturbing part being that this fiction isn’t far from the truth. The Guardian’s review mentions that the author is actually a descendant of the real Martha Carrier.
Bite Me by Christopher Moore
Part 3 of his hilarious vampire trilogy. Fun reading for a break.
You Suck by Christopher Moore
Part 2 of his hilarious vampire trilogy. Look, it was Christmas break, okay? I wasn’t trying to do any heavy reading. It’s a vacation.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I knew the story, but I had never actually read it, so I did. It was good.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
I know a lot of people raved about this, but I thought it was meh. I didn’t like any of the characters, and it was unnecessarily long. Click for book reviews from NPR and the NY Times.
Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry For Your… Brains by Ryan Mecum
I didn’t admit this in my intro to this page, but I am slightly obsessed with zombies. I find them fascinating, and I especially like funny zombies, like Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland. I also have a weird thing about haikus, as in, I occasionally compose them, sometimes in the middle of conversation, for no reason other than my personal entertainment. This little book isn’t long by any means, but the entire story is told through haiku, which I find to be impressive. I read it while standing in a bookstore waiting for the BF to finish up. If I remember correctly, it also had a lot of comic-book style illustrations. In my opinion, something in haiku about zombies with comics should be funny. I found most of it to just be creepy and scary. But I guess some people go for that.
The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
Memoir from a woman with breast cancer. Good read. Not much to write home about. Oprah liked it.
The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
Loved this book! A memoir from an amazing woman who served as a nurse/midwife to the poorest of the poor in the East End of London in the 1950s. Her stories are absolutely amazing. I’m also really interested in the medicalization of childbirth, especially as a function of patriarchal male dominance, which was really starting to pick up in the ’50s. If you’re not interested as much in that, don’t be turned off by my feminist speak. There’s still a great story here. Worth actually wrote a trilogy: Call the Midwife (released as The Midwife in the United States), Shadows of the Workhouse, and Farewell to the East End. She passed away in July 2007, and you can read her obituary in The Guardian, which tells a lot about her, her work, and her writing.
Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
Hurricane Hazel in the Carolinas by Jay Barnes
Just a little coffee table book.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS, GO READ THIS NOW. STOP READING MY BLOG AND GO READ THE HUNGER GAMES. For serious, y’all. This may be the best young adult book I have ever read. It’s like a teen version of 1984. Except it’s better. I was very impressed with not just an action-packed, thrilling plot, but also exploration of major themes. Couldn’t put it down.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
I enjoyed this, but it really made me wish I knew more about British history. I think if I knew more, I would have enjoyed it more.
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
I read this in a couple trips to the bookstore while waiting for the BF to finish up. A short novella, not much to write home about. But I had read the Twilight series, so it was interesting enough to keep me entertained while waiting.
Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo
Interesting. The story of a white woman (Jennifer Thompson-Cannino) who mis-identified a black man (Ronald Cotton) as her rapist, so an innocent man went to prison. After realizing her mistake and helping him get released, they have toured the country together speaking out against using eyewitness testimonies in court. While it is a true story, it does bother me to draw so much attention to the idea that women falsely accuse men of rape and that men who are accused of rape probably didn’t do it. Except for rare instances like this, that mostly doesn’t happen. According to the FBI, rape is falsely reported less than 2% of the time, which is a rate on par with any other violent crime. So considering that this story is very rare but that many people believe the myth that women falsely accuse men, I thought it was pretty irresponsible for UNC to pick this as their summer reading selection in 2010. Especially since college-aged women are at the highest risk for sexual violence. Okay, off my soapbox now.
A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
The third in the Wicked series. Pretty good, but it really started to get dense and confusing by the end.
Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
The first in his vampire comedy series. Hilarious, but not really, um, literary.
Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert
Fiction from the lady who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. Decent.
Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
The second in the Wicked series. Liked it.
No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley
Funny. Not as good as Boomsday.
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Loved this book! Set in the 17th century, a small village willingly isolates itself after the plague shows up. Like Brooks’ other work, she explores some of my favorite themes. Strong female characters, religion (Christianity, Islam, witchcraft), and more. Really great story. Wasn’t too sure about the ending though.
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors. Her stories tend to be dystopian post-apocalyptic type stuff. I like that she weaves in a lot of different themes. All of them include feminism and violence against women. She also throws in religion, technology, food industry, genetic modification, and more. Pretty interesting stuff. This one is a parallel novel to Oryx and Crake, telling the story of the end times from two different perspectives, so definitely read them both. I think these two are her best.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Hilarious, scary, and awesome. Read it. I annoyed the crap out of the BF by telling him all sorts of things I “learned” about Abraham Lincoln before he caught on and realized I was talking about a vampire novel. Super excited for the movie coming out in June 2012.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling
I read this because I was jonesin’ for some Harry Potter. The end of an era just makes me so sad. These tales were cute.
Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire
I like Gregory Maguire. He re-writes fairy tales from a different characters point of view, giving you the ‘true story’ of what really happened. His re-imaginings are often way better than the original. I thought Mirror Mirror was pretty good, but I liked Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister better.
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
David Sedaris = Hilarious. Here is a true story: A friend of mine received a copy of one of Sedaris’ books for Christmas. The gift-giver had waited in line at a book signing to get it autographed. Mr. Sedaris asked him who the book was for, and the gift-giver replied, “My friend, Jesse. He lives in Chapel Hill.” Mr. Sedaris, who spent some of his young adult years in Chapel Hill, said, “Oh, so he’s gay, too?” The gift-giver replied, “Um, actually, yeah.” Mr. Sedaris said okay, and signed the book: “To Jesse: You’re such a fag. Love, David Sedaris.” And the f had little candy cane lines drawn into it. Jesse loved his gift.
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
The classic story to scare teens away from drug use. I had never read it before, so I picked it up. It was more than a little crazy.
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore
I think Christopher Moore is pretty funny, so I pick up his books when I’m in the mood for light humor reading. This was funny but not his best.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Loved this. Go read this and then The Year of the Flood. And then all the rest of her works.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
As I’ve mentioned, I love Gregory Maguire. The first of the Wicked series was probably the best. After that, it got a little dense and convoluted. I liked Wicked a lot though. Now that the fourth and final installment has been released, I’m trying to decide if I want to re-read the series, but that seems like a lot of work. They’re not so easy to get through. Also, if you saw the musical (which is also amazing) be warned that the book is very different. But good different.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
People are amazed that I’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz. I know it’s a classic, alright, geez. But my family was more into blockbuster new releases. As in, we went to Blockbuster and picked out a video from the New Releases shelf. The only Wizard of Oz I’ve ever seen are the snippets they show in other movies. I did read this as a kid, but I decided to go back and read it again to prepare for reading Maguire’s Wicked. Probably unnecessary, but enjoyable.
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
This may be my favorite Gregory Maguire novel. I do really love Wicked so much, but it’s hard to tell if that’s love for the novel or if that’s getting all entangled with my love for musicals. At any rate, this one is really good. It tells the story of Cinderella from a stepsister’s point of view, and it really changes the whole story. I loved it.
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen
I really liked this memoir, but then it turned out that none of it is true. Bummer.
Lamb by Christopher Moore
Moore’s best book, by a wide margin. Lamb is The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. It’s absolutely hilarious, telling the story of Jesus Christ as he lived and died from Biff’s point of view. Jesus isn’t allowed to do anything bad, because he’s Christ and all, so Biff does the little everyday wrong things for him, like tell white lies, and also a few big wrong things too. What I really loved about this was that aside from the surface “bad” things, like using a lot of swear words, he wrote a novel that was hysterically funny without really being offensive. Well, if you have a problem with the word “fuckstick,” then you’ll be offended. But aside from that, Moore doesn’t mock religion or Christianity. He actually deals with a lot of big things, like faith, humanity, and morality. There were a few times that the story went a little off the rails and a few plot points that could have been left out. But overall, I really liked this one.
Summer of Secrets by Paul Langan
A book for tweens and teens. Part of the Bluford High series, designed to engage reluctant readers or non-readers. Meh. It wasn’t very good, but if your kid won’t read, it’s a good start. At least it deals with some real issues and themes.
Amplified, Edited by Julie Schaper and Steven Horwitz
A collection of short stories written by alt-country, indie rock, blues, and folk musicians. Authors include Patty Larkin, Rhett Miller, and my favorite, Laura Veirs. (She autographed my copy!) The stories were pretty good and pretty weird, as expected.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
My aunt left this for me after Christmas. I wasn’t so sure about it because it’s not really my style, but I really liked it. I even took the time to copy down a two-page passage that really spoke to me. I think this could be one of those books that you periodically re-read to remind yourself of the message.
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
I really liked this one. I might have developed a slight crush on Michael Chabon. Or his wife, Ayelet Waldman. Not sure, but either way, this book comes highly recommended by yours truly. Read NPR’s review here.
Fight Like a Girl: How to Be a Fearless Feminist by Megan Seely
Meh. I’m not even sure if I actually finished this one.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
Yuck. And now they’re making a movie out of it? Unnecessary. Though honestly, watching the movie would have been better than reading it since that would waste only 2 hours instead of 5.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I thought this was good. Overrated though. Mostly I found Elizabeth Gilbert to be kind of annoying. Or maybe I found Julia Roberts to be kind of annoying. Either way, I liked this enough that I did end up reading Committed, so I guess I can’t complain too much.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
This was kind of hard to read because I thought it was pretty sexist. But I also remember reading something by Chabon (maybe one of the stories in Manhood for Amateurs or maybe an article, I can’t remember) where he talks about growing up and learning not to be a sexist jerk. So after reading him talking about that, it was really interesting to read his earliest work and then follow it up with his (at the time) newest release. It certainly showed that he did a lot of growing up from his early 20s to his late 40s.
When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women, From 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins
I’m a big Gail Collins fan – her columns are hilarious. I thought her book was pretty good. I honestly don’t remember it all that well.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
I never read this as a kid, so I gave it a try. I liked it.
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters and Jane Austen
Meh. I might have liked it more if I better remembered Sense and Sensibility.
The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks
This is the graphic novel version of the “Recorded Attacks” appendix in Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide. I read it while waiting for the BF in a book store.
Ya-Yas in Bloom by Rebecca Wells
Beat the Reaper by Josh Brazell
I read this because it was recommended if you liked A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. I thought it was funny, but I also thought it was a little too graphic, and in many parts, sexist.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
One of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read. This husband and wife team names the oppression of women worldwide as the defining issue of the 21st century. They discuss sex trafficking, maternal mortality, sexual violence, microfinance, and girls’ education. They both are excellent journalists, so it’s filled with incredibly moving stories from women they actually spoke to. Their website is here, Kristof’s columns are here, and a review of the book is here. And good news: PBS is working on a Half the Sky documentary to be released in October 2012.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
Hilarious. Awesome. And illustrated.
Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis
Instead of writing about the Revolution chronologically, Ellis focuses each chapter on a different historical character. I really enjoyed it, and apparently others did too. He won a Pulitzer in 2001.
The Night of the Gun by David Carr
Memoir from journalist David Carr about his history with addiction and recovery.
Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
A must-read for everyone concerned about surviving the impending zombie ‘pocalypse.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Classic. I liked it. I even read the 90-page essay that most people skip. I have a lot to say about Objectivism and its merits and shortcomings, but that’s a longer conversation than is necessary for a book review. I suggest reading this whether you agree with her or not, just because it’s a good point of reference since people are always talking about it.
Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
I liked it. He’s a good writer.
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
I liked the His Dark Materials series. Heavy stuff disguised as a young adult book, my favorite. Read more under Golden Compass below.
Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faïza Guène
Here’s a review from the Times.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Liked it. But I am a little fascinated with stories about people with autism or Asperger’s. Good story!
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
Hilarious. But still, his best is Lamb.
Boomsday by Christopher Buckley
Hilarious. One of my favorite books. This really put into one cohesive argument my frustration with the Boomers. I’ve given a few copies of this to friends. I also gave a copy to my Dad. I hope he doesn’t think that I want him to kill himself. Read the NYT review here.
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
Second installment in the His Dark Materials series. Like most trilogies, the first book was best, though I’m glad I read the whole thing.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Short story collection about the Vietnam War. It’s good.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Loved this trilogy. I do find it highly entertaining that they made this into a movie, and viewers didn’t realize that the entire His Dark Materials series is essentially an anti-church treatise. But overall, I thought the book was really well written. And I love reading novels that can be children’s books on their surface level (the plot and characters are great) and can have so much more for adults once you delve into them.
Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
I think I liked this, but honestly, I don’t really remember it.
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Okay, yes, I read the Twilight series. How could I not? I started off reading the first one on the grounds that I wanted to know what people were talking about, especially since I had read a lot of articles offering a feminist critique. And frankly, I got hooked. It was an addiction, in every sense of the word. I knew it was crap, and I just wanted more. And the BF was an enabler, buying the next book as soon as I finished one. I could go on and on about all the awful things that Stephenie Meyer is teaching this generation of girls (such as Bella’s lack of personality, will, or free choice; Edward’s abusive and controlling tendencies; or Bella’s self-harming and suicidal behaviors upon losing Edward) or you could read this critique. In short, I would absolutely not allow my tween or teen daughters to read this series without a very lengthy discussion about healthy relationships and red flags. Because the truth is, men who act the way Edward acts are abusers.
Push by Sapphire
I don’t even know what to say about this. I can’t honestly recommend reading it, for the simple fact that there are scenes of sexual violence from this novel that unfortunately are still stuck in my head that I occasionally can’t stop thinking about. Even though it’s fiction, it’s stuck with me in probably an unhealthy way. After reading this, I did not watch the movie, but I’ve heard that the movie wasn’t as difficult or graphic. Either way, too much for me, and I kind of wish I hadn’t read it. You can read more from NPR.
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
Yikes, I read this so long ago that I don’t really remember it. But I do remember that I liked it. He explores similar themes as he does in The Leftovers. Check out the NYT review.
Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought, Edited by Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Read this collection of essays for school. It was decent.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
SPOILER ALERT: I am so sick of the surprise twist being that a woman was raped. It’s like every fiction writer ever thinking, ‘Oh, I know what will show that this is a Serious Novel: sexual violence.’ I would like to make it through one drama with a central female character without it turning out that someone was assaulted. Geez. Okay, if you can get over that, this was good. Very dramatic.
I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
HILARIOUS. The BF and I took this on road trips, and while he drove, I read it aloud. Highly amusing for both of us. I’m pretty good at reading aloud, but I’m pretty terrible at accents, so that made for fun times.
The Condition by Jennifer Haigh
Fiction about a girl living with Turner Syndrome. I found it really interesting because it’s the first time I’d seen TS in the media, and I know a lot about it since my little sister has it. Good story, good book. I talked to a lot of people who had mixed feelings about it, but regardless, it made for good conversations. I think it would make a good book club choice.
The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America by Ruth Rosen
I loved this! Rosen is an excellent writer. This is a great choice if you’d like to start at the beginning in learning about the history of women’s rights. It’s a huge book, but it moves quickly. I thought it was fascinating, but I also knew very little about the women’s movement beforehand.
Foreign Bodies by Hwee Hwee Tan
I picked this up because it was set in Singapore and written by a Singaporean author. I studied abroad there in college, so a couple years later, I was looking to reminisce. I don’t remember much of it, but I think I liked it.
Modern Latin America, Edited by Thomas E. Skidmore
Read this for class. Meh – it’s a textbook.
The Assertive Woman by Stanlee Phelps and Nancy Austin
I found a copy of this from the ’80s at a library book sale, and I spent the car ride home reading it. I thought it was fantastic. It’s more or less a self-help book that explores how to be appropriately assertive and stand up for yourself. I found it very entertaining because they create characters to explain common ways that women approach interpersonal relationships: Indirect Iris, the master of passive-aggressive behavior, Aggressive Agatha, the mean B, and a couple others. It was also pretty entertaining to read examples that were written 30 years ago – a little out of date. But they have realized updated versions, and this is a great gift for young women. I periodically re-read it when I need a refresher.
A Man Named Dave by David J. Pelzer
The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine
I thought this was interesting but I certainly don’t know enough about science to offer a real critique.
Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement, Edited by Rosalyn Fraad Baxandall
Primary sources from the women’s movement. Very cool.
A Land on Fire: The Environmental Consequences of the Southeast Asian Boom by James David Fahn
Considering this was assigned school reading, I actually thought it was pretty interesting. Well written – not extremely dry like most assignments.
Sex and Revolution: Women in Socialist Cuba by Lois M. Smith and Alfred Padula
Interesting. One of the only books out there about women in Cuba.
Proud Shoes by Pauli Murray
Good book, and she was from Durham, so it was cool to be able to recognize some of the places the book discussed.
Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution by Thomas G. Paterson
The Lost Boy by David J. Pelzer
A Child Called “It” by David J. Pelzer
This was incredibly depressing, and I’m not really sure why I read all 3 books in this trilogy. Path dependence, I guess. Pelzer tells the story of the extreme abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother (very triggering). I personally thought he focused a little too much on plot (i.e. instances of abuse) and not enough on exploring issues behind that. Also, a few years later, I heard accusations that he made up a lot of what he wrote. Who knows? Seems like no memoir is true these days.
The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy by Marifeli Pérez-Stable
The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered by Samuel Farber
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
This story about a child soldier in Sierra Leone was depressing and riveting. I have since read nonfiction about how the system works, but at the time, I knew very little about child soldiers. Very illuminating. A good but difficult read.