Each month I share books that I am reading as part of my Goals for 2017. I am trying to read 100 books this year, so I am always looking for recommendations!
A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear
Last year I became a huge fan of the Maisie Dobbs series! Maisie is a young, independent detective living in post-World War I England. She uses her intellect, empathy, intuition, and understanding of people in order to solve cases. A Dangerous Place is the ninth book in the series, so I would definitely recommend starting with the first book (called Maisie Dobbs) if you are just starting out. A word of warning, though, once you start you may not be able to stop until you’ve read all of the books! A Dangerous Place is set in Gibraltar during the Spanish Civil War. While interesting, I wasn’t as drawn into the story as many of the others in the series.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Snow Child may just end up being one of my favorite books of 2017. It is that good. Jack and Mabel are a childless middle-aged couple who move to Alaska in the 1920s as a way of escaping the happy, child-full families around them. Once they settle in to life in Alaska, the coldness and barrenness of the place mirrors the emptiness of their relationship. One night, however, the couple makes a snowgirl out of the first snow of the year, and the next day a strange girl appears in their yard. Where did she come from? Who is she? Slowly through their interactions with the girl they begin to rediscover the joy in their marriage, to find the beauty in their new home, and to forge a brave new life for themselves. I listened to the audio version of this book (which I highly recommend), and couldn’t wait to get back into the car to hear more. The Snow Child has now become THE book that I am recommending to all of my friends!
Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson
I enjoyed reading this light, fun, and funny book. Set in rural England in the 1930s, the story depicts life reflecting art, reflecting life, reflecting art. Miss Buncle is a middle-aged woman who decides to write a book in order to earn some money (after all, she really doesn’t want to raise chickens). Having no experience whatsoever, she begins to write a story about her village and places all of her friends and neighbors into it. Though she changes their names, they are instantly recognizable to anyone who knows them. Once the book is published under a pseudonym it becomes an instant bestseller. However, can Miss Buncle deal with the aftermath? Will her neighbors discover who actually wrote it? Very easy, enjoyable reading.
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
I placed a hold on this book after hearing a segment on NPR discussing it. Apparently MANY other people had the same idea, because it took months for me to get it! The Good Girls Revolt tells the story of a group of women who worked at Newsweek during the 1970s and the lawsuit they brought against the magazine for the overt sexism and discrimination that they faced. As a woman who has always taken my ability to work and succeed for granted, it was eye-opening to read about the barriers that existed only a few years ago. The prose wasn’t the most compelling, but I did learn a lot from the book.
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
This book came highly recommended from several bloggers that I follow, so I was eager to read it. Present Over Perfect is a memoir of the transformation the author experienced when she decided to “leave behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living.” While there were some good points in the book, overall I was not impressed. I found the writing quite repetitive (I think it could have been cut by a good 100 pages), and the prose just wasn’t a style that I appreciate. In addition, the book definitely is written from a Protestant perspective, and I can’t endorse it for Orthodox audiences.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Deep Work may be one of the books that has impacted me most this month. It is by no means an easy read, but the ideas within it are incredibly helpful. The basic premise is simple: deep work (work that requires intense focus and concentration to do well and master) is a skill that is highly valuable in the work world; however, it is also a skill that is becoming more and more rare in a society that values distraction. Therefore, people who are able to cultivate deep work will become more valuable in their careers. Over the course of the book, Newport provides examples of people who have developed the practice of deep work and gives practical solutions and ideas to help the reader develop that skill.
Young Adult Fiction
Sway by Kat Spears
Sway is one of the books selected for the High School Virginia Reader’s Choice books this year. Since I am a middle school English teacher, I read all of the books on both the middle school and the high school lists each year. Sway is a modern twist on the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story. A boy, “Sway”, tries to woo a girl for a member of the football team–who is paying him for this service. Only, along the way, Sway falls for her himself. The overall story is good, but I had a hard time getting past all of the language, unnecessary sexual references, and drug use. I would certainly not recommend the book for middle schoolers and only for high schoolers who were mature enough to read a book with those features.
Breakaway by Kat Spears
I was intrigued enough by Kat Spears’s writing style and story creation to read another of her books: Breakaway. I ended up liking it much better. Breakaway tells of four high school boys who have been friends since early childhood and play soccer together. Over the course of the book, we see them drift away from each other as various life issues weigh them down and lead them in different directions. Once again there was quite a bit of language and some drug use (though not as much as Sway), but I found the story much more original and engaging.
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Finally, I originally checked out Goodbye Stranger as an audiobook and had to grab a print version because I couldn’t wait to hear what came next in the story! Rebecca Stead is a Newbery Award winning author who is one of my favorites. Her characterization and storytelling engage readers both young and old. Goodbye Stranger tells of a group of middle school friends, the challenges that they face, and the both the individual and group strength that they possess. I highly, highly recommend the book for middle schoolers, though I think that teenagers and adults would also enjoy it.
What have you been reading lately? Leave a comment and let me know!
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