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Reading Lately – Winter Edition February 26, 2013

Posted by mjhoward in Books.
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I go through phases where I don’t feel like reading anything.  Then, all of a sudden, I can’t read enough and I start five books at once.  This winter was a “I don’t feel like reading anything” kind of season.  Part of that might have to do with my discovery of all five seasons of Alias on Amazon Prime Instant Streaming.  So I didn’t read many books during this season, but here is what I did read and what I thought:

Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

I have read A LOT of parenting books, trying to figure out how the heck to do this thing called parenting.  So when I heard about this amusing take on parenting, I thought I’d give it a go.  This isn’t so much a how-to as it is a memoir of the American author raising her children in Paris.  She lets us in on how the French raise their children, and how, apparently, it is very different from the American way of parenting.  They are strict about a few things, and then let their kids explore within these boundaries.  They teach their kids to wait — for snacks, for attention.  They aren’t so concerned with their kids getting ahead, but are more concerned with teaching their children how to enjoy life.  Enjoying life is also a big part of becoming a mother.  Motherhood should be balanced between work, home, and play — something their society makes easier by reduced-cost childcare, free preschool, and paid maternity leave.  I enjoyed reading about Pamela’s adventures in raising a Parisian child and found some similarities in how I view parenting.  There are some positive things I took away — especially the part about letting our children explore at their own rate and not flashcarding them to death.  But there are some aspects of French parenting that aren’t all its cracked up to be:  they don’t encourage breastfeeding and there is a lot of pressure to lose that baby weight.  But for the most part, this was just a fun read, seeing how a slightly different culture raises their kids.

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis and Beth Clark

This was a book club selection; otherwise, I probably would not have read it.  I’m glad I did though because it generated one of our best discussions.  We were all in tears at the end!  It’s about 19-year old Katie, who has some serious chutzpa, moving to Uganda, starting a non-profit, adopting a bunch of kids, and pretty much giving up her American life.  To be honest, I had a hard time with this book, mostly because I felt guilty the whole time that I hadn’t given up my American life to serve in Africa.  I know this book is meant to be inspiring, about how one person can do so much, but I just felt disheartened, knowing that I don’t have the faith she has to make the difference she is making.  She seems like such an unreal character, this nearly perfect person, with an overwhelming faith in God that my doubting heart just can’t connect with.  I would recommend it though for a book club.

O, Jerusalem by Laurie R. King

This is the fourth or fifth mystery novel in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, and I found this one to be a bit of a disappointment.  This was less a mystery than it was a traipse through pre-Israel Palestine in the disguise of Arabs, which was pretty enjoyable.  I do like me some historical fiction, especially about places and times I know almost nothing about.  Seeing Jerusalem before the nation of Israel was recreated after World War II was pretty darn interesting.  However, the mystery plot was severely lacking and I just didn’t care.  But the relationship between Russell and Holmes makes up for it — almost.

The Wonder Weeks by Hetty Van de Rijt and Frans Plooij

This is a baby book I have been working through since Henry was an infant, and finished at his one-year birthday.  I enjoyed this book because it helped me explain those unexplainable and frustrating fussy days (i.e. weeks, months) that Henry would have for no apparent reason.  The Wonder Weeks helps you identify what the baby is learning, some new concept or skill that is causing a certain fussy behavior around a certain time frame.  I found this to be true with Henry for each of their weeks.  The book also gives helpful ideas about games or other things to do to help your baby ease through this transition by practicing the new skills.  I’d recommend it, if only for the comfort that you are not alone.  Yes, every child does this.  And here is why.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I bought this book on my kindle a while ago because someone recommended it to me and it was a buck.  I kinda wish I had my buck back.  It is a story told through a dog’s eyes, and while I did enjoy this point of view, it left me distanced from the human main characters.  The racing metaphors were a bit heavy handed, and I could see all the plot points coming from a mile away.  I liked the character of Enzo the dog very much, but I felt like the story we saw through his eyes was uninteresting and, ultimately, corny.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

The subtitle gives a hint of what’s inside the cover of the book (a cute pic of Rachel sitting on a doll house, hair wrapped in a shawl):  “How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master.”  Just to stop you right there:  no, these are not the conclusions she came to after taking a serious look at “Biblical womanhood.”  Most of these actions in the subtitle are exagerrated stunts that highlight how we are all guilty of picking and choosing scripture to live by, and how complicated reading and living by the Bible can actually be.  She also highlights how we have used the Bible to silence, to box in.  I very much appreciated this thought-provoking look at how we often use the Bible to prescribe what a woman should be, when the results seem more politically and culturally motivated than exegetical.  A great read for furthering the discussion of women’s role in the church and in society.

Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card

This is the last novel in what is known as the Ender Quartet.  Though there are many more books about the Enderverse, this is the book that brings it most closely to an end.  If you haven’t read them, go out right now and buy Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead.  Ender’s Game is a children’s novel with some really big themes:  love, death, xenocide.  It’s pretty deep and really good.  Speaker for the Dead is even better.  As the books in the quartet go on, Card becomes more philosophical, which is okay, except that the philosophizing drags on and on.  I still enjoyed the novel, but the main conclusion we have been building to for the past three novels was anti-climactic (probably because it has been going on for three novels).  I do enjoy Card’s writing though.  I love how his characters read on the page and read each other.  He can also turn a great phrase, bringing you out of some sci-fi gobbledy-gook and into real emotion.  So though this wasn’t his best, it was still pretty darn good.

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