Monday, August 1, 2011

First, What are You Reading? Volume 12, August 2011 UPDATED

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list to read? 

As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

What are you reading?

I’m reading many, many books, which makes me happy.  Summer, especially with the hot days we’ve been having, is a great time for staying inside and reading .  Just a few of my recent favorites:

A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz. 

We’ve discovered a “new to us” children/young adult book author at our house:  Wendy Mass. We’ve been reading quite a few of her books, but my hands-down favorite has been Every Soul a Star.

What do you like best about them?

A Jane Austen Education is subtitled, How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship and the Things that Really Matter, and it is so enjoyable.  Deresiewicz is a professor and Austen scholar, who at first thinks Austen has nothing to teach him, arrogant graduate student that he was.  Over time, each of the Jane Austen novels teaches his something central and beautiful about life & maturity.  I especially loved his take on Emma, which teaches him to “pay attention to everyday things.”

I read an article about a older Franciscan friar who considered Jane Austen one of his favorite authors, and he said something like, “Reading Jane Austen makes you a better person.”  I hope that’s true for me, since I’ve read and re-read Jane Austen so much, and perhaps that’s why I like it.  There is something ennobling about reading Austen, and Deresiewicz distills that nicely in his own memoir.

Every Soul a Star is a beautifully written and emotionally insightful novel about the lives of three young teens and their summer growing-up, interwoven with an eclipse of the sun. 

I loved Every Soul a Star at “hello,” because a title like that is just wonderful, and the book does not disappoint.    The three teens mature in unexpected and sweet ways.  A bonus is that the book is not wrapped up perfectly, with everything resolved tidily; I’d love to read a sequel to this book to see how the characters lived out their next year.  A postscript of the book lists numerous books and websites about eclipses and other astronomy.   Our family has had fun exploring some of these resources and learning more about astronomy, which makes my stars-loving husband happy.

What do you like least?

Deresiewicz does fairly well with writing about Jane Austen novels and what they teach him, but the memoir part woven through doesn't always seem consistent.  I think I would find a memoir difficult to write, deciding what to share and what not to share, but it seemed to me Deresiewicz was holding some things back that might have helped us understand him and his transformation better.

UPDATE:  I take back nearly everything I said in the previous paragraph.  When I write "What Are You Reading?" I usually have finished the books I mini-review, but in this case I had not yet finished A Jane Austen Education.  Perhaps then my title is more accurate, because the book was actually what I was reading, but it didn't give me the chance to see the whole of Education up to the end.  I finished the book yesterday and now believe the narrative held together well.  The last two chapters, on true friends (Persuasion) and falling in love (Sense & Sensibility)  were especially insightful. I closed the book nearly as happy & refreshed as when I read a Jane Austen novel.  Well done.

There’s really nothing I don’t like about Every Soul a Star, and I’ve very much enjoyed the other books I’ve read by her, like 11 Birthdays (kind of like the movie "Groundhog Day" in book form for tweens, and just as fun as it sounds).  I didn’t care at all for Mass' Heaven Is A Lot Like the Mall, partially because of its content, which is a little more grown-up than her other work, but because the book is written in first-person poem form.  Unfortunately, that just doesn’t work in this context.

UPDATE:  Treasure Chest for Tweens has an interesting caution of some new-age content in Every Soul a Star here.  I'm grateful for the information and will definitely bring it up with my teen & tween who have read this book. 

What’s next on your list to read?

I’m reading and re-reading a number of 9/11 themed books for next month’s column.  

On my Kindle App, in addition to the very funny Felon Blames 1970s Church Architecture for Life of Crime (that I reviewed here). I’ve also been reading on my Kindle App some Lucy Maud Montgomery, including Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams.

What are you reading?  I’d love to hear all about it!

1 comment:

  1. I've actually been reading some Catholic books lately. The first I finished was Tatoos on the Heart by a priest who works with Hispanic gangs in LA. It was interesting to see how his perspective and approach has evolved throughout time as he discovered what was really helpful or not. It was very moving and beautiful. Plus, it is always humorous to me to hear priests and nuns cuss. Maybe it shouldn't make me laugh, but it does. The book made me want to help gang mambers. My life seems so simple and blessed in comparison.

    The second book also moved me similarly. It is called Streetwalking with Jesus, and it is written by a Catholic deacon whio lives in Chicago. He founded Emmaeus Ministries which is an outreach to male homosexual prostitutes. After reading it I wanted to go to Chicago and help too.

    Both of these books were good reminders to me of the needs and heartbreaks of others. While I know people who have had horrible struggles and abuses in their lives, my life is really very cozy. It is hard to move beyond fear into the world of a homeless person, to truly see that person and acknowledge them without the thought that they might kill me or rob me. I still don't think my husband will want me to pick up homeless people or hitchhikers (sp?), but who knows what else God will put before me.

    I am currently reading Say You're one of Them. It is a book of five fictional short stories about children in Africa. It is written by a priest. So far it is a little distrurbing; I've read two of the stories. I read it sort of cringing with knowing anticipation about what could possibly happen next. The sexual abuse/prostitution content is unnerving.

    Up next is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I have heard a great deal of positive comments about. So, we shall see if it lives up to the hype... Eat, Pray, Love, was not one of those for me.