Another Thing to Fall

I got so excited about posting about Northanger Abbey, that I forgot to write about the book that I had finished the night before. Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman is the 10th book in the Tess Monagham series, which is probably my favorite mystery series at the moment. The books are all set in Baltimore which is a city with a lot of character and also a city with which I am somewhat familiar. It’s always interesting to read about a place that you know. Like her protagonist, Lippman was formerly a reporter for a Baltimore newspaper and she’s uses her knowledge of the city well.

Having been disappointed by my last mystery, I was happy to see that I still like Lippman and this series, even after 10 years (the first book was published in 1997, and I read it not long after – it’s good to have librarians in the family who pass books along!). Lippman has also published several really good, standalone mysteries, if you want to try her out without getting sucked into a series.

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Another Thing to Fall

Northanger Abbey

The first book completed in my 1% Well Read Challenge (which I am mostly ignoring to read other things)! I had never read Jane Austen before, and I picked this particular title, simply because it was available on DailyLit. (I love DailyLit. I am always reading a book from there.)

Let me just say, I don’t know what took me so long. I love Jane Austen. She is just so brilliantly scathing, skewering people so nicely that you almost don’t notice her total contempt for them. Films clearly do not do her justice, because they have never interested me too much. I cannot wait to read more of her. As in, some other book may get kicked off my 1% Well Read list to make room. I know we have a copy of Emma in the house.

What other really good “classics” have I missed out on over the years?

Northanger Abbey

Monique and the Mango Rains

Monique and the Mango Rains is my fourth (!) book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. And to think that I once dispaired to get a single book. I feel positively spoiled now (but don’t stop sending them publishers!). I was excited that I got selected for this particular title because Amazon has been recommending it to me for a while now, and I was curious to see what it was all about.

Monique and the Mango Rains is subtitled “Two Years with a Midwife in Mali”, which gives you a pretty good idea of what the books about. The author, Kris Holloway, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali in 1989/90. She was in a small village and her host was the village midwife (and the Monique in the title). Kris and Monique had a great friendship, which really comes through in the book. She also does a good job of giving a basic overview of Mali’s history, village life, and a clear idea of what childbirth is like in Mali (and one would imagine other impoverished areas without extensive medical care). The book really shows the troubles of this area without being preachy or condescending. I really enjoyed it. (And it was a quick read! I finished it in a day and a half.) Recommended.

Monique and the Mango Rains

Golden Arches East

Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia is edited by James L. Watson with articles by a handful of authors regarding McDonald’s influence in five different Asian communities (Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea). It’s an academic book and the authors are all anthopologists with lots of experience in the communities they write about. It’s a very interesting look at how Western companies interact with non-Western communities and the way that they both influence the other. The book was written in the mid-90s and I am curious how things have changed in the last decade plus. One thing that I thought was really interesting about the book was that pretty much all the authors said that McDonald’s has become “local” in East Asia, and isn’t really seen or treated as “foreign” – even though it is providing decidedly non-local types of food (whose ingredients are usually bought locally). I read a photo essay book a year or so ago that made a great visual point about the globalization of food products – Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. Also definitely worth taking a look at if you are interested in this topic. (Or just curious about other people’s lives, like me).

Golden Arches East

My Father’s Paradise

My Father’s Paradise by Ariel Sabar is the third book I’ve received from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer‘s program, and my favorite so far. A journalist by trade, Sabar attempts to track his father’s life story from his early childhood in a small town in Iraqi Kurdistan, to his family’s emigration to Israel in the 1950s, to his pursuit of advanced studies and eventual settlement in the United States. Sabar’s father eventually becomes a professor of Aramaic (the native language of the Jews of Kurdistan – and the language spoken by Jesus) at UCLA.

It’s interesting to watch Sabar shift from a kid embarassed by his weird immigrant father to someone at first intrigued by and then passionate about exploring his family’s history. It’s also an amazing look at how much the world can change in just one lifetime – and how quickly a culture and a language can die out.

The fact that Sabar is a writer by trade definitely helps this story, although I found his search for a missing family member towards the end of the book to be a discordant note. I do however think that it’s realistic – life really never follows the path of a story book and not every piece fits together perfectly.

Another great book in which the author traces part of their family’s history is The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn, in which Mendelsohn attempts to discover what happened to his relatives who remained behind in Poland during the Holocaust. It’s a much longer book, but I would definitely recommend it, if you like My Father’s Paradise.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and will definitely keep an eye out for anything else Sabar may write.

My Father’s Paradise

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

So I got to the last Harry Potter almost exactly a year late… at least I got there. And I think I enjoyed it more than I would have last summer. I think my expectations had been tempered by those who read before me (plus I was in a better reading place). So that by the time I dug in Sunday before last (on my big weekend of reading), I was able to slip right into that happy, do-nothing-but-read-Harry-Potter-and-finish-in-less-than-a-day place. I did in fact start the book last summer, and was about 100 pages in, but not really feeling it, when my apartment burned down and took (my full set of) Harry Potter with it. But I thought I should finish the series and so when I was at the library last, I picked it up. I won’t make any comments on the plot (either it’s known because it’s already been read) or totally uninteresting (because it’s never going to be read), but, for me, it was a great finish to a series that was both totally enjoyable on a personal level and really highlighted the joy of reading on a macro level.

Now I wait for the next big reading phenomena.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

This Common Secret

I finished this book a week and a half ago, but I’m just now getting around to writing about it. The last weekend in June was was a hot and sticky one, best suited to reading. I’ve already written about Friday’s reading selection. On Saturday, I finished This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Susan Wicklund. I first read about the book on Salon and I thought it sounded interesting, so when it showed up on the “New Books” shelf of my local library, I picked it up.

This Common Secret follows Wicklund’s unlikely path to become a doctor and then her struggles to provide compassionate and complete care to women seeking abortions, in part inspired by her own horrible abortion experience in the immediate aftermatch of Roe vs. Wade. Wicklund does an excellent job putting a human face on abortion providers and also at highlighting the many complexities that lead a woman to seek an abortion. The title refers to the fact that so many women have been touched by abortion – by having one, by knowing a friend who has had one – and yet no one talks about it. Abortion is common (and was common, if much more deadly, before it was legal) – and we would do well to acknowledge that. 

I think this book is a must read for any one who has the power to legislate abortion, because it does a really good job of showing how this is such a personal decision, best made by a woman and her doctor. This is an issue that has so much gray and attempts to paint it as black and white help no one.

Another book to read, if you liked this one is The Girls Who Went Away, which is about the women who were sent “away” and forced to give up their babies for adoption in the years before Roe vs. Wade. What happened to those women was devastating (and not specifically because abortion wasn’t an option, but because many of them wanted to keep their babies and were not allowed to). Women deserve choice. To make their own decisions with ALL the options available. And these two books make powerful arguments for that.

This Common Secret