I feel like I haven’t written about books forever, and it appears that, in fact, I haven’t. And I’m not really in the mood to do so now, so we’ll just see how this goes.
Exterminate all the Brutes by Sven Lindqvist : I think I may have written about this before, but I can’t remember. It was Excellent. And I do mean Excellent with a capital e. Lindqvist traces the roots of the Jewish Holocaust back through the history of European colonization (specifically in Africa) and sheds light on a long, bloody tradition of genocide. Reading it, you can see the environment that made such a ghastly idea (the Holocaust) make sense- not just to a warped mind like Hitler’s, but to a country full of people. They were “just” doing the same thing that had been done many times before, and it was “acceptable” all the other times; it just hadn’t been smack dab in the middle of Europe before…. It was fascinating to think about how we classify some events as horrific and others as just parts of history, depending on where they took place and to whom. This would have been a great book to have discussed in college, but back then I hated colonization theory, and probably wouldn’t have paid attention.
Horns by Joe Hill : This is the 3rd book by Hill and it exceeds his previous work by about a mile and a half. His previous work showed a lot of promise- this gets really close to fulfilling that promise. It’s the story of a man who wakes up one morning, after visiting the site of his girlfriend’s gruesome murder (a crime which everyone assumes he committed, but he didn’t), with horns growing out of his head and the ability to make people speak the truth. He decides to use that ability to solve the mystery of her death, and learns all kinds of things he didn’t want to know in the process.
Hill is the son of Stephen King, and I can’t help but wonder if his writing is reflective of what his father’s would have been without the copious drugs and alcohol. The horror elements, the sense of the fantastic is there, just as in King’s books, but there’s a measure of control that King’s earlier books lack. As such, King’s books have an edge, a feeling of being just …this close… from careening out of control, which lends an excitement to the reading. But Hill’s craft is dead on, and if his horror scenes are missing a touch of the “icky icky icky, but the book down now!!” (yes, that’s a technical term), he more than makes up for it in his depictions of interpersonal relationships. I kept having flashes of Jamie S. Rich’s books as I read Horns – the young romance, the relationship between brothers – to a degree, this book is Have You Seen the Horizon Lately gone horribly, horribly awry. (And that’s a huge compliment- Rich sets the benchmark for believably written romance as far as I’m concerned.)
Overall, I highly enjoyed it. I’d recommend it very conditionally to some- lots of language and the gruesomeness you’d expect in a horror novel about a man with horns growing out of his head.
The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis : I read this for book club, and goodness, why hadn’t I read this before? It’s seriously so good. I marked up a good 95% of the book; honestly, it would have been easier to just mark the things that didn’t stand out.
Writing Motherhood by Lisa Garrigues: This is also excellent. It’s basically a writing course in a book – about writing about motherhood. Full of really insightful ideas and prompts, it makes me want to get out a notebook and start writing every day. Not that I’ve done that, but it’s coming.
We Never Talk about My Brother by Peter S. Beagle: This is a collection of really solid short stories. The first, Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel is absolutely breathtaking. It’s the story of an artist who is visited by an angel, sent to be his muse, as told by the artist’s young nephew. It is such a gorgeous story of forgiveness and forgiving oneself. Without giving things away, I’ll just say that the following quote comes after one of the characters says that the cold someone felt after touching them is the result of the (literal) hell they have been inhabiting.
“I touched you. I touched your shame and your grief- as raw today, I know, as on the day your love died. But the cold..the cold is yours. The loneliness, the endless guilt over what you should have done, the endless turning to and fro in empty darkness… none of that comes from God. You must believe me, my friend.”
Goodness, I love it. The rest of the stories are excellent as well.
The Remarkable Soul of Women by Dieter Uchtdorf : This is really just a printed version of Pres. Uchtdorf’s awesome conference talk about creation and compassion, and as such it’s only about 45 pages, but it’s awesome. The book design is lovely, and it’s one of my favorite talks ever.
Calm and Compassionate Children by Susan Usha Dermond : I love this book passionately. Really, I do. It’s full of great ideas about how to help kids learn to be calm and relaxed (even in the midst of strenuous activity) and how to teach them compassion. It’s so much more than just a parenting philosophy book – inspiring but ultimately hard to put into practice- Dermond provides concrete, practical steps to incorporating these concepts into every day life. We’ve already tried some of them, and at least today, saw a drastic change (in whininess levels, fit throwing, overall negative attitude) . I can’t help but think that will continue. I HIGHLY recommend this one.
I keep thinking I’ve missed a book, but I can’t figure out what it could be. I think it’s because I’m STILL reading Positive Discipline, I may be reading it until I die. Anyway, this brings me up to 17 books this year, which is further ahead than I need to be on my way to my 50 books goal. I have at least 5 anxiously awaiting my attention, as well as a book club book, so I need to get reading!
Tell me, what are you reading?