Tuesday, August 2, 2011

reading recap: july.

I spent most of my time last month slowly wading through L'Engle's Walking on Water, but in the meantime, here are some other books I've been reading.

Book: A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther
Finished: Early July

This Christian novel is probably not one I'd typically read, but my aunt -- who also happens to be a voracious reader -- sometimes passes along books she's read and planning to put in the church library, so I gave it a try. I love the story of Esther in Scripture, and I thought Joan Wolf did a fine job of fictionalizing the account, though I struggled to buy her kinder version of King Ahasuerus. I know it was necessary to make the book more romantic in nature, but it was just so different from the historical and Scriptural accounts of the king that I found it difficult to look past. I enjoyed, though, hearing some of the history behind the story (and based on a Bible study I was in at the same time, it looks like Wolf was pretty accurate in her retelling), and I loved seeing Esther "come to life" -- though I think the Old Testament writer does a pretty great job of that, too. It was also a really light read, perfect for a day on vacation, which is when I happened to finish my copy. I'd probably recommend it if you need an "easy" read, and if you typically enjoy Christian or historical fiction.


Finished: Mid-July

This was our book club's pick for the month, and I'll admit: It wasn't my first choice. To be honest, I've been a little bit babied out. I'm one of those who gets a little queasy during TLC's A Baby Story, so the past few months as I watched some of my dear friends endure their first pregnancies, I took copious notes while also trying to tune out any and all gory details. I survived -- so did my friends, who are now the mommies to some pretty adorable little ones -- but I wasn't keen on re-entering that world anytime soon, even in fiction format. Little Earthquakes covered the stories of four mommies-to-be, and although this wasn't my favorite book ever (even in terms of "chick lit"), I did think Jennifer Weiner did a nice job of flushing out her characters and each of their individual story lines. (In fairness, the book was a lot longer than I thought it would be, giving Weiner plenty of time to wrap up loose ends and complete some rather extensive character development.) The consensus by our club was that Little Earthquakes was a fine read, and -- according to the mothers in our midst -- pretty accurate in its portrayal of life after little ones (which is more than I can say for Get Lucky, reviewed here). If you're a fellow book clubber, you'll be pleased to know that the discussion questions provided in the back of the book actually fostered some pretty good conversation on women and friendships and working-at-home versus working-away moms.


Book: My Sweet Life in Paris
Finished: Late July

After some light fiction and rather slow-going and heavy non-fiction, I was ready for a memoir. I picked this one up purely on a whim (I got the hardback copy from Borders for $3.99!), and I kind of loved it. My Sweet Life in Paris tells the story of American pastry chef David Lebovitz and his decision to move to France to explore the culinary culture there. Lebovitz was an entertaining narrator, describing the romantic aspects of the city but also uncovering some of the frustrations that come with being an American in a foreign town. He’s clearly in love with his new home, but balances that admiration with a biting wit and a more realistic portrayal of the city than we romantic Americans are accustomed to seeing. If you're a cook, you'll also enjoy the recipes Lebovitz intersperses throughout the book. Despite not really being a huge cook myself, I am fast falling in love with the "food memoir" genre. Next on my list? Waiter Rant.


Book: Walking on Water
Finished: Late July

It took me a couple of months to finally finish Walking on Water, and now that I have, I don't quite know what to say about it. It's covered in pen marks, filled with writing in the margins. I've quoted it to my husband, mentioned it in small group meetings, and reveled in its pages, relieved to find someone who believes we belong to an imaginative creator, someone who argues that inside each of us is an artist waiting to be let loose. L'Engle relishes, rather than shies away from, the mystical aspects of the divine. She -- like Chesterton -- believes in the power of the fairy tale, in the truth buried in myth. I think in her, I have found a kindred spirit, and now part of me wants to introduce her to everyone I know, while the other part wants to keep her safe and secure with me. (Not every believer, I'm sure we all know, is a proponent of creativity and the imagination.) Just as I did with The Supper of the Lamb, I believe Walking on Water deserves a place among the Great Books, the ones that mark us and challenge us and make us who we are. Read it and report back.


Staley Mc said...

I read My Sweet Life in Paris and loved it! I may have to check out some of these other books!

Four Flights said...

Okay so I got an excerpt for my Kindle on the Sweet Life in Paris and while I enjoyed it (I read probably the first 25 pages), I felt like he was sort of making fun of Americans a lot, or perhaps he is slightly embarrassed to be one? I don't know, maybe I'm being overly sensitive but I went ahead and chose Gods In Alabama instead. I think I'll check it out from the library though because it did intrigue me and seemed like an overall fun read.

HazelandMare said...

I love food memoirs, that is like my new favorite genre. I am excited to read it! And relive the beauty of Paris, perhaps. These sound like a very interesting selection! Have you ever read Many Waters by L'Engle? I read it a long time ago but it has stayed with me. It's very mesmerizing. :)

Laken said...

Sweet Life in Paris is on my list.. and I'm just about dying to read Walking on Water. First, I have to finish Traveling Mercies and The Help.

Ps. Moving is such a hassle -- sending you a reply email soon :)

Lauren said...

I'm SO glad that you loved "Walking on Water". It definitely belongs on the list of Great Books. It is amazing!