Monday Morning Mid-Month Book Check is a way for us to share what we are reading at the moment, no matter how brilliant, menial, or embarrassing.
I just finished Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m a bit late to the Jonathan Safran Foer party, but I’m immensely glad to have finally showed up. I read this book on recommendation from my cousin, and I sincerely thank him for his suggestion. Oskar Schell is nine years old. He has begun on an a secret mission to find the lock that matches a key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11. Along this journey, we see his mind working through his grief over the loss of his father in both very adult and childish ways as he meets people in the five boroughs of New York. His capacity for openness in reaching out to people and making connections while still protecting himself from the infinite pain and sadness of loss is incredibly moving. There is much more to the story line that I can’t divulge without giving away crucial plot elements, but the story is both realistic and fantastic, the characters are quirky but true to life, and the prose is approachable and precise. Hands down the best book I have read this year. Excuse me while I go and read it again.
I also just finished up a book, The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg. The protagonist, Portier, is the librarian at the Collegium, the only place where magic is taught. As a failed magician and distant cousin to the king, he’s pressed into service as a detective when crimes against the crown point to a magical mastermind. The novel reads very much like a whodunit. There are lots of twists and turns – I was unsure of who was responsible until very close to the end. The book leaves several plot threads incomplete in order to set up for another book. The plot does have some slow points, but I enjoyed it very much overall.
I am sometimes behind the time in my book reading, and only recently got my hands on Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. I’d heard of it, knew it was just the sort of book I would enjoy, and finally I have proven that correct. As a history student, I always advocated exploring subjects and learning the complexities of history, and have always asserted that the reason kids don’t like history class is because they’re not getting real history. Timelines do not come remotely close to giving real stories. What do we actually know of the past? Loewen does a great job of making the flaws of history education apparent, and even makes it seem possible to fix the system if we have a few teachers who care. I have only read half the book thus far, but look forward to its conclusion. Anyone interested in education, history, or the lack of accuracy in the mass-market world should definitely give this book a go. (I’m also still slowly chipping away at Decline and Fall, which I discussed last month).
I’ve been continuing on my tear of Young Adult fiction, reading The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card (of Ender’s Game fame). It’s the first in the Mithermages series about a young mage named Danny who discovers his true powers. It was fascinating for so many reasons, the mythology that Card explores could be compared to the Norse god mythology, but with a modern twist. I really enjoy the way Card throws you into a word and lets you explore the entire story without a lot of exposition, it allows you to discover the secrets of the world along with the character. The only unfortunate thing is that Card is really busy writing multiple book series, working on the Ender’s Game movie, and generally being an author-about-town, so it might be a while before we get the next book in this series.
I just started The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, which is really something I should have read a long time ago (especially considering I’ve read The Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as my obsession with The Hobbit movies and anything having to do with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman). So far, I’m about 40 pages in, I’m enjoying the lighter and easier tone of the book along with small snippets of history that make LotR a much richer story.