May has brought about many changes for Anthony and I (the cats too, I guess). We have come upon the one year anniversary of the news that we were (probably) moving back to Oregon! And now here we are! We just moved into a new house, picked appliances (the fridge comes Friday and Washer and Dryer on Sunday), and next on the list is painting our front door (because the brown it is now is just not working for me). I will soon be finishing up the school year; transiting from teacher mode to curriculum planning and policy writing mode. Exciting things are upon us! I am surprised that I managed to read 6 books this month, which gives me hope for my reading in the busy weeks to come.
This month I was doing what I like to call “spring cleaning reading.” This month I dedicated myself to head back to my kindle to read a few books that have been stored on it for awhile. I also vowed to finish the stack of library books I have been renewing for weeks. So to me, reading books I have been neglecting is my version of spring cleaning reading. Here is what I managed to finish this month.
1. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
I continued to read the Chronicles of Narnia to my students this month. My students enjoyed this story because it was yet another adventure story. I liked it, but not as much as The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In this book the young English children that journey to Narnia are given a quest directly from Aslan. They have to rescue the king’s son who has been missing for ten years. Aslan gives one child the exact instructions she needs in order to rescue the prince. Of course, as the adventure begins the young rescuers are more caught up in the things happening to them and forget the instructions. I loved this. I was also geeking out a little when I noticed some parallels between this story and Dante’s Divine Comedy. So good. Overall this was a fun read and I am looking forward to finishing the books with my students before school is out!
2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
This book has been on my “to read” list since a fellow teacher mentioned it a few years back. I really enjoyed reading this book but I picked up another novel to read at the same time. It wasn’t because this book was boring, but because this book deserves to be savored and not rushed through. This is the type of book that wants to be read a little at a time. I took tons of notes while reading this book. The “story” takes place in the pages of a journal. The narrator is a man in his 70’s that is writing to his young son on his death bed. He (the narrator) is a preacher and is trying to leave behind some of his family history and to impart any wisdom he can. He writes, “As I write I am aware that my memory has made much of very little.” I thought this was so beautiful and so true of my own experiences in life. While this man is coming face to face with death the nuggets he shares are profound. One particular favorite of mine was:
“I’m not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so you would make honest use of it. I’m saying you must make sure that the doubts and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happen to be the fashion of any particular moment.”
There are many references to the Bible (he is a preacher) and I think this would be a great book to read in a high school English class at a Christian school. This is a great read if you want to take your time and savor life.
3. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
This is the story of a family who is confronted with their past and haunted by their future, when the middle child of the family is found dead. This is not a murder mystery, although the mystery of the death does inform the plot (readers find out what happened, the family never does). You come to know how the family came to be by getting glimpses of the past and descriptions from the present. You learn that the parents are trying very hard to “help” their children (the one who died in particular) live the lives they wished they had. The youngest child is almost invisible in the family. The oldest has never lived up to his dad’s expectations; even when he gets into Harvard it is not enough. It is a heartbreaking story of how wanting a better life for your kids can put an unseen amount of pressure on them. It gives you insight into the lengths kids will go to make their parents happy at the expense of their own desires. This book was good. It doesn’t have the greatest ending but it is worth picking it up to discover the way family dynamics are developed.
4. War Brides by Helen Bryan
I am so glad I finally read this! It is a fun historical fiction novel about a group of women and their roles in their small English village during WWII. I love books about war, especially when they highlight (with accuracy) what life might have been like for the people living through them. I also love historical fiction! The women this story centers around are very busy in the war effort; taking in children from the city, helping with farming, delivering babies and spying. The characters are realistic and come from different places only to come together to try and survive the war. The characters include an American that eloped with a British officer for reasons other than love, a poor girl from London, a native of the small village, a socialite banished to the village because of her wild life and a Austrian Jew who escaped not a moment too soon. The story is set in motion when the women are called back to the village to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the war’s end. The ending was unsettling for me, but I loved the stories before it. I think this would make a great summer read!
5. A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
One of my reading goals for May was to read for fun. After slogging through City on Fire last month I needed some shorter, easier reads. This book fit the bill. I read the first book in this series (The Inspector Gamache series) a few months back and enjoyed it. I keep hearing people rave about the series and I am still warming up to it. All of the books are set in the same town with a returning cast of characters. This one was set in the time around Christmas and a disliked newcomer to town is murdered at the traditional Boxing Day curling match. The murder itself was interesting and creative; electrocution out in an open sporting arena. But, there is a story-line developing around Inspector Gamache that might become interesting but was not furthered as much as I would have liked. I love getting to know characters better with each book and this is an eclectic bunch. Even though this wasn’t my favorite I will keep going with the series because they are fun to read!
6. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Say hello to the book that has been on my “to read” list since 8th grade. Since I visited the Gettysburg Battlefield as a 14 year old I knew I wanted to read this. It is a work of historical fiction that is rooted heavily in fact. It chronicles the Battle of Gettysburg and follows the major players as they try to survive the bloodiest 4 days in our nation’s history. It is safe to say I loved this book. I loved gaining insight into the perspective of both northern and southern men as they fought for what they believed to be right. I loved learning a bit more about England’s interest in our Civil War. Mostly, I loved the expression of American values and pride. This quote really stuck out, “If men are free here, they are free everywhere and there are no foreigners as long as there is freedom.” I think this is a very American view and it has played out in our foreign policy in different ways over the years. Heck, it is still playing a part in our current foreign policy. I think everyone should read this book (or listen to it on audible, the voices are great!)
That’s a wrap for Book Banter this month! Have you read any of these titles? Are there any you might want to read? We are headed into summer reading season, what should I read next?
Until next time,
I love you more than family dynamics and historical fiction fanatics,