Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summer Vacation, Day 16: What I've Been Reading

Hello, everyone!

Those who know me IRL or follow my exploits online are well aware of the fact that I do not watch a lot of television.  There are shows that I like (e.g., Big Bang Theory, Antiques Roadshow) but I am not one to simply watch television in lieu of doing other, more productive things.  True to my Netherlander heritage, and despite my claims to laziness, I am pathologically industrious; television, by its very nature, is contrary to my the fiber of my being.  If I am going to do something, I want to do something that will accomplish a goal.  It's nuts, I know.

In any event, I find myself reading a lot of books, in quantities that, even for those who are voracious readers, are considered prodigious.  The average American reads about four books a year; in contrast, since the beginning of my summer vacation just over two weeks ago, I've already completed three.  Here are some of my thoughts on the texts that have graced my shelves recently.

My reviews are on a five ♥ scale.

♥♥♥♥♥ = Excellent; classic

♥♥♥♥= Really Great

♥♥♥= Good

♥♥= Not great; read if you have nothing else at your disposal

♥= Terrible

= Line a bird cage with it

= Poop

 

The BFG

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="240"] Image Via Wikipedia[/caption]

Though I read most of Dahl's books as a child, I hadn't read this one.  I distinctly remember beginning it at one point in elementary school but having to return it to the school library after illness made me turn it in past its due date (if you pay the fine, why can't you recheck a book, I say!).  Circumstances as they were, I didn't read the book in earnest until recently when I discovered that my pug, who will not go to bed without a bedtime story, LOVES the cadence of Dahl's work.  So, together we tackled this work of classic children's literature.

For those who aren't familiar with the book, the story is about Sophie an orphan who is kidnapped/ rescued from her dreary orphanage by the BFG, the Big Friendly Giant, who uses a gigantic trumpet to blow dreams into the windows of sleeping children.  What sets the BFG apart from other not-so-friendly giants is commitment to not eating humans, n stark contrast to his fellow giants who subsist entirely on a diet of human flesh.  With Sophie's help, the BFG tries to stop the murderous activities of his brethren.

This is a great book to read with children, nieces or nephews, or precocious pets.  In typical Dahl style, novel is clever, captivating, and seriously funny.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Rating: ♥♥♥

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Image via Tower Books[/caption]

Written at the close of World War II, while Brecht was in exile in America, The Caucasian Chalk Circle is an emotionally riveting play set in a politically unstable nation in the Caucus Mountains during the feudal era.  The play calls upon both the Biblical story of King Solomon as well as the Chinese tale of the Chalk Circle in its depictions of two mothers who lay claim to a child.  Who is a mother, the play asks: the woman who gave birth to a child, or the woman who raises and provides for that child?

Though I wouldn't say that this is the best play I have ever read, it is a thought provoking read and adds another layer of dimension to one's understanding of armed conflict and its effect on the human spirit.  So, if you are more inclined to spend your time at the beach in over-sized Jackie O glasses under a gigantic umbrella, give Brecht a chance.

 

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="369"] Image Via Wikipedia[/caption]

I. Love. This. Book.  I had encountered it shortly after its release 13 years ago (I was in high school at the time) and I remember I paid it fleeting attention.  Earlier this summer, under the gun to assign a summer reading book to one of my classes that didn't disrupt the flow of the curriculum, I selected this book.  The novel is frequently used by Advanced Placement teachers in the classroom and perfectly bridges the curriculum students would have encountered in their previous year of schooling; so, I selected it and decided to tuck into it again in earnest this summer.  Oh my goodness did I love the book.

The novel follows the lives of the five women of the Price family (a mother and her four daughters) across five decades as they go to Africa with their patriarch on a mission trip to the Belgian Congo that quickly goes off the rails.  This is an entirely simplistic summation of a highly nuanced novel that is both evocative and compelling.  In poetic language, Kingsolver manages to not only chart the lives of the Price women, but to paint a vivid portrait of the cognitive dissonance that has long gripped the Occidental world in relation to its eastern neighbors.  I don't want to give away too much about this book because I want you to read it.  It's lovely, touching, it's a must read.

What have you been reading this summer?  What's next in your book queue?  Share in the comments!

j.

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