I read ten books in March and April for the #Read2017 challenge. Lest you think that’s all I did that past two months, be aware that many of them were short, quick reads. Only two were nonfiction, and each of those were short and easily skimmed through in about an hour. Of the remaining eight, half were under 150 pages and the other half kept me completely captivated — you know, the type that you don’t stop reading until 2 AM? 😉
Here’s what I read in March & April (contains affiliate links):
All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Category: Book on the bestseller list
I don’t usually read bestsellers, which is one reason I made a point to include that category in my yearly reading challenge. Many of them seem shallow or crude, and most of the topics simply don’t appeal to me. This book surprised me, however. It was fascinating to read about the war from the perspective of two (vastly different) teenagers — one who ends up reluctantly fighting for the Nazis, and the other who is blind and just trying to survive through the war in France. I’d love to tell you what happens in the end of the book, because it just brought the whole story together beautifully, but I don’t want to give away the surprise ending. The writing was lovely, the characters felt incredibly real, and the story-line kept me captivated the whole time. Definitely recommended if you enjoy historical novels, coming-of-age stories, or just want to learn a little more about WWII on the European front.
The Rent Collector, by Camron Wright
Category: General fiction novel
An interesting story based on real-life locations and people. It’s set mainly at a dump in Cambodia, where the main character (and dozens of others) live year-round — and make their living year-round too. Early in the book, the main character soon begins to discover the power of literature to change lives, even though she can’t read yet, and the story flows from there. It’s not a book I’d ordinarily pick up, but my library’s book club chose it for March, and I found it interesting to learn about a different way of life in a country I’ve never thought much about. I did give it a slightly lower rating because I didn’t enjoy the author’s writing style, but the story itself was good, and the version I read included photographs which really helped me understand the various scenes mentioned in the book.
Great Expectations: the Graphic Novel, by Charles Dickens
Category: Graphic novel
I was determined to give graphic novels a try after hearing so much about them in recent years. They’re mostly popular for superhero sagas, but they’ve also been coming out with a lot of other topics too — I saw everything from fables to biographies, classic novels, and even Shakespeare on the graphic novel shelf at our library. So I thought, why not give Dickens a try? The original novel is over 400 pages, so this was like the Cliff’s Notes version of the story — but with pictures. It’s not my favorite storyline (to be honest, I’m not really a fan of Dickens, other than The Christmas Carol), but it made a lot more sense distilled down to 140 pages! It retained the characters, original dialogue, and major events of Dickens’ novel, but cut out a lot of his rambling narratives. I think something like this would be helpful for a child who struggles to enjoy reading, or someone who is curious about the classics but doesn’t necessarily enjoy certain author’s styles. After all, who doesn’t like pictures?
The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict
Category: Book for Young Adults
This was a sort of biographical fiction about Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Marić. She was a genius scientist in her own right — and in fact, was one of the earliest women enrolled in a physics degree at prestigious university in Zurich. She and Einstein began collaborating on papers and theories, first as friends and later as husband and wife, and was rather heavily involved in forming his famous theory of relativity; yet she never received any recognition for her contributions. The storyline of the book was supposedly based on actual letters and historical records, but it just felt a bit too dramatized to be very accurate. On the other hand, the basic turn of events is entirely possible, especially when you consider Einstein’s personality and the view of women at the time. I usually enjoy behind-the-scenes glimpses of well-known characters, and Mileva’s life was certainly interesting, but it left a poor taste in my mind for Einstein and a general feel of being “not quite real,” so I’m not sure I’d recommend this particular book.
No Man’s Land, by Simon Tolkien
Category: Historical novel
I originally picked this book up because the name caught my eye — Simon is the grandson of the famous J.R.R. Tolkien — but I ended up deciding to read it because the topic piqued my interest. It was a five-star fictionalized account of Adam Raine, a poor London boy who loses his mother, moves to a small mining town, loses his father, falls in love, earns a scholarship to Oxford, and eventually faces the horrors of World War I. While fiction, it stayed true to the hard culture of coal-mining towns (of interest to me because I currently live in a small mining town) and gave a realistic account of the devastating Battle of the Somme, and I gained a lot of insight into both of those settings. If you enjoy reading about the World Wars, this should definitely be on your list — but do be aware that some of the details are rather graphic. Like his grandfather, Simon seems to be a master of language; and despite the tragedies which occur, the story is beautifully written. It will touch both your mind and heart!
Tales of the Perilous Realm, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Category: Book by a favorite author
Speaking of Tolkien . . . I may have added a new category to my list to give me a good excuse to read this book (not that I ever need an excuse to read something by him!). This book contains several of his short stories, none of which correlate to the famous Lord of the Rings saga, but all of which are delightful and thought-provoking. Farmer Giles of Ham is like a fairy-tale about a man and a dragon; Roverandom is a wonderful children’s story about a little dog who goes to the moon; and Smith of Wootton Major reveals Tolkien’s view of fairy-land, which lends understanding to the elves of Middle-Earth. However, Leaf by Niggle was my absolute favorite, as it gave a glimpse of how Tolkien might have approached his many writing projects. If you’ve never read anything by the author, this would be a great book to start with. And if you have, then you probably don’t need me to tell you how good they are — just read it for yourself!
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Category: Book of poetry
This was actually included in the version of Tales from the Perilous Realm that I read, but it’s also sold as a standalone book of poetry, so I figured it would count as its own entry for this year’s challenge. Although Tom Bombadil (a character in Lord of the Rings) is named in the title, only a few of the poems are actually about him. There’s also a few -type poems, others that are later attributed to Bilbo or Sam Gamgee, and a few that LOTR fans would recognize from some of the songs in the movies. I loved all of them! There’s sixteen entries in all, so it’s rather short — you could read through it in about an hour, unless (like me) you want to savor each one by itself. Some are fun, others are sad; but they’re all delightful examples of Tolkien’s mastery of language and depth of imagination!
Leaders Made Here, by Mark Miller
Category: Book about business/leadership
Outside my work with a digital marketing agency, I’ve had little interaction with the corporate world. I was born into a ministry family, studied ministry and counseling in college, married a pastor, and have served in church ministry my entire life. There are a lot of differences between business and ministry, but one area that is critical to both is leadership. Creating and maintaining an effective leadership culture matters whether you’re part of a business, church, sports team, social committee, town hall, or something else. This book explains what that involves and how to create it — with ideas like defining, training, practicing, and measuring. Even though I do not currently hold any formal leadership titles within the corporate world, I still gleaned some lessons that relate to my roles as a consultant, member of the community, and leader in the church. It has a wide range of applicability! (P.S. We just launched this book at Weaving Influence!)
Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy
Category: Book about personal development
This was another book that Weaving Influence recently launched, and I was intrigued enough to request my own copy. It was a short, fast read (only 119 pages!) but filled with practical time-tested tips to fight procrastination and increase productivity, performance, value, and output. It was helpful, though I find myself more interested in the “why’s” of productivity then the “how-to’s” of getting things done faster. But it’s definitely a book I will return to in the future as life changes and evolves to include new responsibility and longer task lists. I’d recommend it especially for those who work at home or at a desk job . . . but it might also be helpful for parents of younger children (because we all know your work never ends) or those caring for elderly/infirm loved ones.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, by Vonda McIntyre
Category: Book related to a tv show or movie
Why yes, I am a Trekkie . . . and particularly, a big fan of Spock, whom I consider my alter ego. I happened to find this book at a thrift store for 25 cents, along with three other book-adaptations of the first three (original) Star Trek movies. This particular one happens to by my favorite, and the book did not disappoint! In fact, it gave a lot of helpful background on the travelling probe, answered some lingering questions I had about Saavik, gave further explanation about Spock and McCoy’s recovery from fal-tor-pan, and stayed true to the classic lines from the various San Francisco scenes (although sadly, it did not include Chekov’s line about “nuclear wes-sels”). I’m not sure I’d say this particular book was better than the movie, but it was definitely just as good!
What is the best book you’ve read lately?
PS. Find me on Goodreads to share your favorite titles and discover what else I’m exploring for #Read2017.