Have you read any good books lately?
I love asking people that question because 1) it gives me good ideas on what to add onto my reading list, 2) it tells me a lot about the person I’m asking, and 3) it usually leads to an interesting conversation.
Here are a few of the books I’ve read this spring, if you’re looking for something new to read (listed in order of how much I liked them):
SCARY CLOSE by Donald Miller: This was such a good read! I forced myself to ration it out because each chapter was so challenging and thought-provoking. Donald Miller, (who is one of my favorite authors) talks about relationships, and the core reasons why they’re so difficult for us – why we’re afraid to be vulnerable, why we cling to identities we think are socially acceptable instead of just relating to others, and why we confuse impressiveness with love.
- “The stuff it takes to be intimate is authenticity, vulnerability, and a belief that other people are about as good and bad as we are.”
- “When the story of earth is told, all that will be remembered is the truth we exchanged. The vulnerable moments. The terrifying risk of love and the care we took to cultivate it. And all the rest, the distracting noises of insecurity and the flattery and the flashbulbs will flicker out like a turned-off television.”
THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON by Adam Johnson: This was such an interesting and unexpected novel. It follows the story of a North Korean orphan who travels through every imaginable layer of North Korean society. It’s dream-like, and epic, and gives you such a taste for the tragedy and absurdity of what life in North Korea must really be like. It’s like a literary North Korean Gone With the Wind. Also, the writing is beautiful. I read an interview with the author of the book, and he said that most of the events in the novel were based on things that had actually happened, which makes it even more fascinating. High recommendations. (P.S., it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction!)
- “Over the Tsushima Basin, they could hear the powerful clicks, like punches to the chest, of sperm whales hunting below, and nearing the island of Dogo, granite spires rose sudden from the sea, white up top from bird guano and orange below from great gatherings of starfish. Jun Do stared up toward the island’s north promontory, volcanic black, limned in dwarf spruce. This was a world wrought for its own sake, without message or point, a landscape that would make no testimony for one great leader over another.”
- “In Prison 33, little by little, you relinquished everything, starting with your tomorrows and all that might be. Next went your past, and suddenly it was inconceivable that your head had ever touched a pillow, that you’d once used a spoon or a toilet, that your mouth had once known flavors and your eyes had beheld colors beyond gray and brown and the shade of black that blood took on. Before you relinquished yourself—Ga had felt it starting, like the numb of cold limbs—you let go of all the others, each person you’d once known. “
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M. L. Stedman : I’d heard a lot of people recommend this book, and it was a good read. It’s the story of a husband and wife who adopt a little girl who washes up in a boat to an island they’re living on, and then decide to pass her off as their own. It was full of scenes from places far from my everyday (lighthouse-manned islands off the coast of Australia), as well as moments that seemed timeless and familiar (descriptions of the relationship between a husband and wife, and of a mother watching her child). The story, with its fascinating moral dilemmas and tension really drew me in. Great read.
- “Just like the mercury that made the light go around, Isabel was – mysterious. Able to cure and to poison; able to bear the whole weight of the light but capable of fracturing into a thousand uncatchable particles, running off in all directions, escaping from itself.”
- “…he had become accustomed to her gurgles, to her silent, sleeping presence in her cot, which seemed to waft through the cottage like the smell of baking or flowers.”
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr: I’ve seen this book in so many people’s reserve queue at the library. It’s been very popular. It won the Pulitzer for fiction. But, while it was of course good, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the others. I just didn’t get as into it. I loved the blind narrator (who used smell and sound and touch to describe things – so interesting!), and the fact that the two main characters, who were into such unusual things, managed to lend me an appreciation for things like mollusks, and engineering. Have you read it? Did you like it?
- “Every morning he ties his shoes, packs newspaper inside his coat as insulation against the cold, and begins interrogating the world. He captures snowflakes, tadpoles, hibernating frogs; he coaxes bread from bakers with none to sell; he regularly appears in the kitchen with fresh milk for the babies. He makes things too: paper boxes, crude biplanes, toy boats with working rudders.”
- “To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.”
REDEPLOYMENT by Phil Kay: I loved the sense of immediacy this book gave me. It’s a collection of short stories by a former marine that takes readers to the front lines of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As with most good short story writers, I found myself amazed that he could so accurately describe the feelings, and experiences of such varied people. I enjoyed some stories better than others, which is why I didn’t rate this book as high as the others, but it was still really good, and definitely worth the read.
- “The weird thing with being a veteran, at least for me, is that you do feel better than most people. You risked your life for something bigger than yourself. How many people can say that? You chose to serve. Maybe you didn’t understand American foreign policy or why we were at war. Maybe you never will. But it doesn’t matter. You held up your hand and said, “I’m willing to die for these worthless civilians.” At the same time, though, you feel somehow less. What happened, what I was a part of, maybe it was the right thing. We were fighting very bad people. But it was an ugly thing.”
- “The problem is, your thoughts don’t come out in any kind of straight order. You don’t think, Oh, I did A, then B, then C, then D. You try to think about home, then you’re in the torture house. You see the body parts in the locker and the retarded guy in the cage. He squawked like a chicken. His head was shrunk down to a coconut. It takes you a while to remember Doc saying they’d shot mercury into his skull, and then it still doesn’t make any sense. You see the things you saw the times you nearly died. The broken television and the hajji corpse. Eicholtz covered in blood. The lieutenant on the radio. You see the little girl, the photographs Curtis found in a desk. First had a beautiful Iraqi kid, maybe seven or eight years old, in bare feet and a pretty white dress like it’s First Communion. Next she’s in a red dress, high heels, heavy makeup. Next photo, same dress, but her face is smudged and she’s holding a gun to her head.”
What about you? Any good book recommendations?
P.S. I keep track of my reading lists on Pinterest and on my ebook wishlist at my library’s website.
PPS. book photo by James Tarbotton found here