Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014: a few books i read, part 1.

this was a really fun reading year for me, both in terms of what i read in my free time & what i read for those last remaining months of school. i thought i'd share a few of the highlights, plus the MOST IMPORTANT THING I LEARNED this year about the act of reading itself (note: most of these books are NOT new & i'm not pretending that i discovered them. if anything, they're books that have been around a long time & i should be embarrassed that i'm just barely getting my act together to read them. haha). also, i'm not a book reviewer by profession, so i'm going to try & slog through telling you why i enjoyed these books all while hoping it makes some sort of sense, & knowing deep down in my heart that i'm not very good at giving book reviews. 

let's get started! 

 the once and future king by t.h. white. nerd-ily (a word?) enough - & maybe i've mentioned this before - i actually found it pretty fun to research for & write my thesis. maybe that had something to do with the fact that i was able to draw from some cool source material like the once and future king. it tells the story of king arthur, with all the typical parts you've heard before (such as his tutelage as a boy under merlin, pulling a sword out of a stone, his romance [or was it...?] with guenever, etc.), but with anachronisms all over the place & modern perspective that's really interesting & refreshing. the narration & back-&-forth between characters is really readable & often hilarious. that being said, there are also incredible moments of sadness & poignancy, especially when king arthur is reaching the end of his life.

a quote: "The first time you do a thing, it is often exciting. To go alone in an airplane for the first time used to be so exciting that it nearly choked you. Lancelot had never ridden a serious joust before--and, although he had charged at hundreds of quintains and thousands of rings, he had never taken his life in his hands in earnest. In the first moment of the charge, he felt to himself: 'Well, now I am off. Nothing can help me now.'"

also this one at the end: "The old King felt refreshed, clear-headed, almost ready to begin again. There would be a day--there must be a day--when he would come back . . . to a new Round Table which had no corners, just as the world had none--a table without boundaries between the nations who would sit to feast there. The hope of making it would lie in culture. If people could be persuaded to read and write, not just to eat and make love, there was still a chance that they might come to reason."

animal, vegetable, miracle by barbara kingsolver. in which barbara kingsolver documents the year she & her family moved to a farm in virginia & ate home-grown and local food (except for olive oil, i think it was, & some grains). there is gardening, canning, livestock raising, & much eating of seasonably-appropriate food. it's a really interesting take on a memoir, & it made me want to move to the appalachians & make my own moot-zarella (...for a season, at least). some could find this book preachy or snobbish, i suppose, but i found barbara ("babs," if you will) writing as if she were, somewhat wryly, sharing all her awesome new discoveries about food & farms with friends.

a quote about their abundance of zucchini that grew in their garden in july: "But we did need something to dispatch all this zucchini--some useful purpose for the pyramid of excess vegetable biomass that was taking over our lives. My family knows I'm congenitally incapable of wasting food. I have not learned to throw perfectly good food in the garbage. Not even into the compost, unless it has truly gone bad. To me it feels like throwing away a Rolex watch or something. (I'm just guessing on that.) . . . Sometimes I just had to put down my knives and admire their extravagant success . . . I tried balancing them on their heads, on their sides: right here in the kitchen we had the beginnings of our own vegetable Stonehenge. Okay, yes, I was losing it. I could not stay ahead of this race . . . Could they design an automobile engine that runs on zucchini? It didn't help that other people were trying to give them to us. One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of them hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight . . . Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won't put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke."

women at church by neylan mcbaine. women at church begins, "this book is predicated on a single belief: that there is much more we can do to see, hear, and include women at church." mcbaine approaches the sometimes-tenuous relationship between the mormon church & women with fairness, patience, and, how shall i put it...a really soothing voice? no, reading this book really does feel like you're sitting face-to-face with neylan herself, quietly talking on a couch in the hallway after sacrament meeting (the ultimate & ideal chat-time). she understands your viewpoint both if you're a woman who's frustrated by the way some (or many) things are done in the church, the weird ways the church has possibly shaped your identity, & how you've only recently come to realize this AND SHE ALSO SYMPATHIZES WITH THOSE who are completely content with her (or his) place in the church & can't possibly understand why any woman ever would be unhappy with such a glorious institution. i.....will plead the fifth as to which way i lean. JUST READ THIS BOOK.

a quote: "The most disheartening comments I received after [a talk I gave on the pain some Mormon women feel at church] were those that tried to diminish the impact of women's issues on Church membership. Questioning the magnitude of the problem was, in my mind, the same as saying, "We don't want those women anyway. Why should we care if they're leaving?" My invitation to feel empathy for women in the Church who struggle was not an invitation to share in their critiques or draw the same conclusions from their experiences. It was not an invitation to start chewing on the complaints we might have about our humanly flawed Church community. It was merely an effort to remind us as a people that we leave the ninety and nine and go after the one. We do that. We mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort. And we have members of the body of Christ who feel cut off, as a hand is cut off from the body. It is our divine mandate to be one, or we are not His, to be a Zion people. Isn't this enough for us to stop and pay attention, even if we have not felt the same disconnect in our own lives?" amen, sister mc-b.

attachments by rainbow rowell. okay, so i'm a little embarrassed by this one, but then again, not really. which leads me to THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I LEARNED about reading this year: to not be embarrassed about the things that i read. maybe it was those semesters & years i spent in literature classes, & reading (& enjoying, don't get me wrong) all these intense works, & being surrounded by others who always seemed to be reading these intense works, but if i ever read anything other than that which was seen as challenging, deep, or intense, i would feel embarrassed about it & try to keep it secret. but! this year i became good friends with a few people who are successful in their careers, confident, incredibly intelligent, well-spoken...& totally owned the fact that not everything they read was deep & challenging. they were open about these books, they didn't try to give excuses or furtively hide the book they were reading from the public eye, & they recommended these books to others! it totally changed my sometimes-snobby approach to books & finally, this year, i've learned to not only have a little more fun with reading, but to not really care what anyone else thinks if i happen to be reading something my *old self* would have seen as silly.

but back to attachments - it's a different kind of love story, & i think that's why i found myself enjoying it so much. it takes place right when the internet & email were first getting started, & this guy is hired to monitor everyone's emails at this newspaper company to make sure people aren't abusing the newly found internet privilege. as he monitors these emails, he often comes across the fun, friendly exchanges between two women at the company & falls in love with one of them...even though he has never met her. it's a fun, quick read, & i even found myself re-reading a few of my favorite parts a few nights ago as i was scouring our bookshelves for the books i would feature in this post. 

a quote: "Maybe it was her. The girl. Beth. Maybe. Maybe this was the night, his night, to talk to her. On the eve of the eve of the new millennium. She'd smiled at him . . . Maybe it was her. His her. And maybe she'd be sitting at her desk tonight, and Lincoln would stop to say hello--the way men all over the world stop and say hello to women all the time. Wake up new, he told himself firmly, as the knot it his stomach tightened. He didn't get to Beth's cubicle."

is your teenager-at-heart heart quivering? tell the truth ;)

so i have a few more books i wanted to talk about, but as i started scrolling up through what i've written so far i realized this has gotten to be very long. so i'll keep this going in another post! soon.

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