Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Reviews

So, yo, I'm supposed to be doing dishes, folding laundry, and paying bills, but I haven't posted in a while, so I'm going to rebel for a minute and review some books.


Gravity vs. the Girl
by Riley Noehren

My darling friend Holly, whose blog I would link you to except that it's one of those gosh-awful secrety ones, loaned me this book. It was actually authored by one of her former college-roommates, which makes me feel all famous somehow, particularly since it was a good book: well-written, well-crafted, funny, insightful. Gravity vs. the Girl is the story of Samantha Green, a young, attractive, single attorney who, after quitting her job and spending a lonely year wearing PJs in her Seattle condo, is awakened by the ghost of her six-year-old self, who makes her get out of bed. The six-year-old is soon joined by more ghosts: Samantha the teen, Samantha the college student, and Samantha the attorney, who follow around the living, breathing Samantha and, between their own quibbles with each other, help her find her footing again. It sounds weird, but I promise...it's a sheer delight.

How Children Learn
by John Holt

John Holt, in case you didn't know, was an educational philosopher whose ideas and thinking help support the concept of "unschooling." Holt was a brilliant individual who cared deeply about learning and children. After teaching in private schools for many years, Holt began working to reform the contemporary educational system. Holt ultimately decided that schools couldn't be reformed into the places of learning he had once imagined and, during his later years, he began putting his energies into encouraging child-directed homeschooling. But anyway, How Children Learn is one of Holt's earlier works, and it is a charming book-- describing, in a sweetly simple way, his observations of children learning and growing. Because I had already been doing quite a bit of reading about "unschooling" philosophy, this book didn't take me by storm the way I've heard it's done for some people; however, I do intend to read more of his works. Next on my list: Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better.

The Lilac Bus
by Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy is like an Irish Anne Tyler: her writing highlights the drama in simple, everyday lives in a very charming way. The Lilac Bus tells the story of several people who travel every weekend from Dublin to their small hometown on the same lilac-colored minibus. Each chapter is an exploration of the lives and feelings and experiences of each individual on the bus. Each section is crafted enough to stand alone as a short story-- but putting them together adds another layer of delight, because it is fun to observe how the others' perceptions of each other differ from reality, how everyone's dramas run quietly parallel while they share such close quarters, and how the stories connect in unexpected places. A lovely read.

Nineteen Minutes
by Jodi Picoult

This isn't my favorite Jodi Picoult novel. It was uber-depressing, the story of a small town that's turned upside-down when an angry kid shoots up the local high school and kills a bunch of students. As is protocol with Jodi Picoult's books, the story was told from the perspective of a variety of people involved with the shooting: a shooting survivor, the defense attorney, a judge, the detective, one of the survivors' mothers, the offender's parents. I didn't particularly like the book, but I read it from start to finish because the way she writes books (kind of backwards, in a way-- starting at the end and then slowly unfolding the back story) keeps me interested. I wanted to know what had happened to motivate the kid to do such a horrible thing. And I knew that there would be some sort of twist-- and I wanted to know what the twist was. So I read it all. And there was a good twist. But I don't know that I would recommend it. It contained a lot of fairly graphic teen sexuality and some pretty foul language. I'm not usually too terribly prudish when it comes to these things, but a lot of the content of the book make me a little uncomfortable. Try another of her novels before you pick up this one.

Princess
by Jean Sasson

This, however, I would recommend. Princess is the memoir of a Saudi-Arabian princess, as shared with an American friend in the early nineteen nineties. By sharing the story of her life, Sultana (her pseudonym) provides a glimpse into the struggles and experiences of women who live within a culture where females are often devalued and exploited. There are a lot of heart-sickening anecdotes describing the ways in which wives, daughters, and servants are abused and misused by the men who have been given power over them. Reading this book made me so grateful to be an American-- and also made me want to go fight for women's rights in the Middle and Near East.

7 comments:

heidi said...

Wow! Encountering this was so cool. I want to read "Gravity vs. the Girl" this minute. And, M. Binchy's like an Irish Anne Tyler? I must investigate. (When Kay was here I tried to think which Tyler book to recommend to her as a First Read. D'you have a pick for her?)

Fun reviews. I'm so impressed you found time for them!

XO--H.

Rachel said...

My first Anne Tyler was Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, so I will ever have a fondness for it. I also really enjoyed Searching for Caleb, though.

collette said...

Love the book reviews; keep 'em comin'!

Holly said...

Those dern secrety blogs. We should abolish them all. Glad you enjoyed the book!

Peggy said...

Rachel,

You would love Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. It's a bio of his activities in building schools and promoting education for girls in Pakistan. A definite read is "Reading Loita in Tehran." It too is a true story but written with a command of the language and intrically woven into a wonderful, reflective story.

Rachel said...

Peggy! Thanks so much for commenting. I own Three Cups of Tea but have been putting off reading it. I'll have to move it up higher on my reading queue.

Karen said...

Hmmm... I thought I posted a comment on this one already. Maybe I just THOUGHT about a comment :D

Anyway, I just recently finished "A Thousand Splendid Suns" which is an historical fiction about 2 women and their experiences in Afghanistan during the last 30 years. It sounds like it has some of the same themes as the Princess book. I think you would like it.

Also, Three Cups of Tea was good. Surprisingly better than I thought it would be after judging the cover. (I know I know, but judging the cover works sometimes).

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