All four of us on the couch, until I was too hot
I've been reading a lot this month, and although I'm really close to finishing other books, because I've been reading them slowly, they'll be in the August post. Here's what I read in July:
*The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion- This was my first Didion book and looking back I can't believe I found this memoir at the Salvation Army for $1. This book was so beautifully written, so painful and vulnerable, that I can't imagine not passing it on to someone else, instead of just donating it like your old, plastic hangers. I first noticed it because it won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2005, and I really resonate with the winners of that particular award (nonfiction and fiction categories). I almost always love the books that win that award in those genres, so I (obviously) paid the $1 for it. It's a book about Didion's first year without her husband after his passing, and during that year her only child (adult then) spent over half the year in hospitals deathly ill. It's, admittedly, not for everyone, but this book might just be a bit of salve during a numb time following the death of a family member, or someone going through seasons of serious self-reflection. Not agreeing with the author's worldview made it painfully tough to read at times, but it's a beautiful book worth reading.
*True Spirit: The True Story of a 16 year-old Austrailian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World by Jessica Watson -- I'd wanted to read this memoir for about a year, when I first heard about the incredible story of a teenager sailing around the world by herself. It's a pretty lofty goal, but Watson recants again and again that it was achievable because of a lot of hard work and planning. A lot of this book included her blog posts that she wrote from the boat while she was sailing, but since I never followed along it was all new info to me. Being real, there are a lot of boring parts to this book, especially the first 50-100 pages of just explaining the prepartion that went into planning, buying, fixing the boat, etc. I found the following 200+ pages much more entertaining to read, and I definitely learned a lot about sailing through reading. It's a pretty amazing story of how this young, homeschooled girl achieved her dream of sailing around the world by herself, in just under a year!
*Missoula: Rape and Justice in a College Town by Jon Krakauer -- Not a pleasant topic, this book is not for everyone, but if you love nonfiction, or a good thriller, this is an absolutely fantastic and interesting book. I honestly couldn't put it down. (As of writing this in advance, I have about 80 pages left and absolutely no qualms about saying I'll finish it in the next two days.) The reader is taken through numerous accounts of sexual assaults and what the city, university, and justice system in Montana did for these victims. The statistics I learned are incredible. For example, 90+% of men who commit rape once are serial rapists and they have no idea that thier sexual exploits are considered taboo and/or rape. My mouth was hanging wide open in disbelief and shock many, many times while reading this journalistic report of college-town scandal. Even when the evidence was overwhelmingly in favor of the women who were raped, the town and even police would practically throw the case out because of who was getting accused (i.e. the beloved football players of the local university team). I highly recommend a number of his books--I've read at least half of them because they are true-story mysteries, even with chapters are left with cliff-hangers, and everything is explained in the end. An important book, that's for sure. I'd very much recommend reading this book if I were in highschool and/or college, with an emphasis on self-control with alcohol and drug use.
Read-Alouds with the kids:
*Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson- The final book in the Grandma's Attic series was probably my least favorite of the four. The book is actually written differently (there are no 'intros' or 'outros' to each story like the other three) than the others, and it feels disconnected a bit to the others. This could be because the main character is much older in this group of stories, but we finished it, my kids loved it, and I enjoyed reading it aloud. The writing is great and the lessons are still just as great as the other three.
*A to Z Mysteries: The Absent Author by Ron Roy -- My book-loving kids are not reading chapter books on their own (aside from the Mercy Watson series), and my thought was with this book was that I'd introduce the first of the mystery series, in the hopes that my son would take to them like a duck in water (he loves mysteries), and gain a level of reading currently hanging above him in confidence only, not ability. My kids loved this book and were always making 'who-dunnit' guesses, but I did not enjoy the writing. It was very generic and simple, but it did pique my son's interest, though I have yet to see him handle a book at this level.
*The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo- I am unabashedly a massive Kate DiCamillo fan. I like to say my affection runs deep; if I believed in such things she'd be my spirit animal. She is the best children's and YA author in our generation, in my humble opinion. That's why it pains me to say, I didn't overly love this novel of hers. It was a National Book Award finalist, and it was very well-written, but I thought the description lacked DiCamillo's gift of metaphor and nostalgia. My kids enjoyed this book (hey, it does include a real tiger in a cage in the middle of the woods), but it was too old for them. There were a lot of topics in the book that were way over their head, and that they didn't catch on to. Perhaps that's why my impression was soiled a bit, but of all of her books, I'd have to place this one last.