Reading Roundup: September 2009

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

I didn't put the subtitle of this book on here because it's really long, but the book is about a cholera epidemic in London during the mid-nineteenth century and the men who figured out how the disease was spreading through the water system. It was a very readable, interesting book about a lot of related topics: epidemics, sociology, history, the development of cities, ecology, and sanitation. I felt that in some places his arguments were not convincing and I didn't agree with his decision in the final chapters to try and tie so many things together, but I generally enjoyed the book.

Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout

I really enjoyed reading Olive Kitteridge and so I thought I'd try some of Strout's earlier work. This book also had lovely writing, but I felt that story fell a little flat and I didn't like very many of the characters.

1959: The Year Everything Changed by Fred Kaplan

This is another book that had potential to be good but just didn't work for me. I had a hard time reading it and kept having to put it aside for a while. Some of the material was quite interesting, but his writing style just didn't work for me and I had a hard time believing some of his arguments. More than anything, the book felt really uneven, with some chapters obviously displaying a greater depth of understanding than others.

My Own Country: A Doctor's Story by Abraham Verghese

This is a book I did not expect to like as much as I did. It has the rare combination of a compelling, true story told by someone with a gift for writing. As a memoir it is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I also learned a lot more about the early days of AIDS in America and how it affected the lives of everyone who came in contact with it. There are also other, subtler issues that show up (like the life of a doctor and dealing with a young marriage) which make the book even more rich in detail. I would recommend this book to anyone, but be warned that he is fairly graphic in describing both the medical details and the personal lives of his patients.

Into Thin Air by John Krakauer

I've heard good things about this book for years but never got around to reading it until now. It was a little hard to get into at first, since I don't have much interest in mountain climbing and there are a lot of different characters in it. But, Krakauer really is a talented writer and I found myself unable to put down the book and finished the last half all in one sitting.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Yes, another Verghese book in the same month. This is his first novel, and I was impressed that it was just as enjoyable as his nonfiction is. It's a long saga of a book but it holds together well and I really loved reading it. A good book to curl up with and really sink your teeth into on a long afternoon.

Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball by Edward L. Kimball

I ended up reading this entire book in one day last week when I needed to be resting, and I will certainly give it credit for being readable and interesting. In the past I will confess to having a bit of a negative attitude towards President Kimball based on some of his writings and public statements. However, after reading this biography that manages to be both honest and sympathetic, I can now say that I really understand why so many people liked him so much (even if I don't like a few of the things he said). As I mentioned last month, I've started to really take an interest in twentieth-century Church history, and I think this book is vital reading for anyone interested in that topic. And for anyone interested in learning more about a complex man who really was great in so many ways. I also really like the decision that Deseret Book made to include a CD-Rom with additional materials, including all the footnotes from the book as well as other documentation with further information about many of the things mentioned in it. The book as it is published is very readable, but then you can spend more time really exploring some of the issues it raises in greater detail. I've enjoyed reading both this book and the book about President McKay and they have only confirmed my belief that it we really must not forget the past, even if it only happened thirty years ago.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This was our book group read for this month, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. I have been putting off reading it simply because of the fact that it has been so hyped up. Although it took a while to get into the book, I found myself really liking it. I even cried, and books rarely make me cry. This book is one of those rare ones that actually deserves the hype.

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

I had plans to write a much longer review of this one, but will probably not get a chance to. It's our bookclub read for next month, so maybe then I'll say more. I enjoyed it much more than I expected to and much more than Hale's last general fiction, but there are still some things I'm not sure about. Maybe I will get around to writing that longer review...

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Like the last Sophie Kinsella book I read this was a quick, fun read. I liked the story idea better than the last one and I really liked the main character.

Movies

C.R.A.Z.Y.
This movie was recommended to us by a friend, and since the cover was entirely in French we really weren't sure what it was about or whether it would be any good. Thankfully we were pleasantly surprised by how much we liked it. It's both funny and serious and just a nice portrait of growing up in a family with all the craziness that entails. It's not rated in the US, but we think it would probably be PG-13; I don't remember a lot of swearing, but there is plenty of talking about sex and drugs.

I've Loved You So Long
I checked out this movie because the plot intrigued me, but it turns out that the movie is really all about the acting. The movie does have a central mystery that is unraveled by the end in a satisfying way. That mystery is not as compelling as watching someone trying to reenter life after a long time away, especially her ambivalence towards her long-lost sister's attempts to reconnect with her.

Comments

Earth Sign Mama said…
A really good book I read when it first came out was "And the Band Played On"--it also is about the early years of AIDS in America.

I was, and am, a huge fan of Pres. Kimball and I'd like to read this book. He was, to me, the very ideal of humility--not a wimpy person; strong, but very aware that all he was, he owed to God.
FoxyJ said…
The book was really good and pretty easy to read. It was full of great stories about how he would go out of his way to greet people, really talk to them, give them hugs, etc. He would remember people years later and follow up with them to see how they were doing. If you buy the book, it comes with a CD with text of some of his talks as well as audio of some of them. When we were using the manual in RS a few years ago, the teacher played his announcement of the priesthood revelation for us and it was very powerful.

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