Sunday, May 15, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

We're just finishing up the first of two moves this summer (we'll be moving to a permanent place in August) so I've gotten pretty behind on reading. After finishing the audiobooks I'd been working on for a while, I picked up a handful of short reads just to feel like I finished something this past month! Here's what I've been reading.

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow: This fictionalized look at early 20th century New York was interesting to read on the heels of reading about this same time period in the (non-fiction) book below. Doctorow weaves together a number of stories around a central story involving an unspecified upper middle class family, peppered by real historical figures and culminating in a story of injustice and terrorism. I found it disjointed but ultimately engaging, though there was a blanket of melancholy over how every character experienced life that I thought was a tad pessimistic.

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn: It took me several attempts to get into this book, as I'm not naturally that interested in history, but getting it on audio helped. Zinn does an admirable job of achieving what he set out to do — namely, tell the history of the United States from 1492 to the present through the lens of what the common American experienced at each stage in history. I definitely think this is worth a read for every United States citizen, and even for anyone outside the United States looking for a comprehensive history of the country.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce: I picked this up thinking it would be a "fun" book based on the title and premise, so my disappointment with it is partly my own fault. It is the opposite of a fun book. The main character experiences physical setbacks throughout his journey, and he's also left alone to contemplate his horrible childhood, his cold marriage, and his nonexistent relationship with his son. The ending is, at best, bittersweet. A lot of people loved this one, so maybe if you know what you're getting into you'll enjoy it more than I did.

The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church by Pope Francis: This compilation of some of Pope Francis' speeches (and some writings) in his first year as pope covers a broad range of topics. Some of his advice is practical, though much of it is pretty overarching, which is not surprising since these were all relatively short speeches or writings. I don't recommend it on audio, as it's worth reading slowly and taking time to digest it. He's much more concerned with how we live day to day, how we pray, and how we care for those most in need than any aspect of the "culture wars" American Christianity seems to spend so much energy on.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary: My gauge for what books children will enjoy is off by about two decades (and my son's not old enough yet), but this seemed to be a good classic Cleary book that hits the mark for kids. It has adventure and danger, problem-solving, and discussions of maturity and responsibility. Certainly it's a bit dated in some ways, but that's OK. I found it to be sweet and definitely one I would reread again with my kids.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park: I liked almost everything about this book; I just wished it wasn't so short. It's based on the true story of Salva Dut, his experience as a Sudanese refugee, and his mission to give back to the place he came from. It's interspersed with a present-day fictionalized story of a Sudanese girl whose village receives a well; these portions are very brief, which can make the book feel unbalanced at times. If you don't know a lot about the Second Sudanese Civil War and the Lost Boys of Sudan, this is a good introduction.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: This is one of those rare books that I wish I could make required reading for everyone. Gawande takes us from nursing homes to hospitals to show how modern medicine's triumphs in extending life have made it harder and harder for us to accept the true end of life when it approaches. We focus on safety and longevity over quality of life. This is an especially important book for medical professionals, but ultimately is valuable for everyone who will one day face death.

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron: This was such a sweet book! It's told from a perspective of a dog who is reborn multiple times, always bringing along the lessons and memories from past lives. We also get a glimpse into the wide range of ways that people treat dogs, and the many ways that dogs can be valuable companions to humans. Definitely recommended for dog lovers.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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