To the joy and delight of my husband and myself, Free Little Libraries are all over our city. As we found more around our neighborhood, we started routing our evening walks so we could stop at each of them and look at the titles, take a book, or drop off a few books, ourselves. We’ve found some great novels, and one of them was even used for my book club. Here are the seven books I collected in 2016 that sat on my bookshelf waiting for my other book lists to run their course, presented in order of preference.
The Martian, by Andy Weir
The movie version came out two years ago, and I’d wanted to read the book, first. What a wild ride! There was a lot of science that I couldn’t understand but accepted with good humor because it was presented so reasonably and backed up with calculations that I wouldn’t have been able to dispute if my life depended on it. It was good for main character Mark Watney that he did know all of these calculations, because his life did indeed depend on it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it while I was away from the book, and just wanted to get home every day to find out how he was faring in his struggle to survive on Mars. Several of my dreams in the interval had me growing potatoes on the red planet. In the final few chapters my baby started kicking frantically in the womb, responding (I believe) to the frantic pounding of my own heart.
City of Thieves, by David Benioff
I’ve read several non-fiction books that take place during the Siege of Leningrad, plus many fiction books about World War II. I was expecting this one to be in the same vein and prepared myself for a repeat of what I’ve read before, but it pleasantly surprised me with its freshness, wit, humor, sorrow, horror and coming-of-age poignancy.
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
In my high school, we read quite a few books that are commonly challenged or banned, but I don’t think this one would have been permitted. This book had a bit too much of child rape, incest, adultery, homosexuality, child abuse, spousal abuse, profanity, and vulgarity to fly in our small town. That being said, it was an incredibly powerful book and compellingly written. It was an emotional and poignant novel.
The Girl from the Garden, by Parnaz Foroutan
The book I found was an advanced copy for editing, so I don’t know if there were significant changes made from what I read to what has since been published. There were a few transitions from present day to the past that didn’t run smoothly. I very much enjoyed the author’s way of slowly presenting new information to build a final tableau at the end, but it still left me with a lot of questions. Mahboubeh is the ‘main’ character who is reflecting on the intricate history of her family, yet she is also the character we know the least. On the whole I enjoyed it and found it to be a quick read, but it could also be that childbirth and child-rearing in old Persia was especially interesting to me at this moment.
The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
This is a book that I’ve been meaning to read since high school, so I was glad to stumble upon it in a Little Library. The timing was good, as living in China for a year gave me different perceptions than if I had read it 15 years ago. I read this book more as if it were a collection of short stories rather than an ongoing history of four Chinese women and their four Chinese-American daughters. I couldn’t ever remember which history went with each woman, especially as it went back and forth between generations. I did enjoy the writing style, and it was interesting to read about the traditions and adjustments that are made when one immigrates to a new country.
Straight Talk to Men and their Wives, by Dr. James Dobson
This was the only non-fiction book on my list, making it harder to place as far as my enjoyment in the reading of it went. The most interesting thing for me is that the battleground over gender was heavily described from this book written in the 1970s, and the issues he’s describing are even more relevant today. It was a good refresher to read about communication with your husband/wife before my own husband and I embark on our newest adventure; parenthood.
Shield of Three Lions, by Pamela Kaufman
I started out enjoying it – I love medieval tales, especially with real-life kings and queens. Then I enjoyed it less and less until I was dragging myself through the text and just wishing it was over. I complained to my husband that a description of a Crusades battle with the slaughter of 3000 people shouldn’t be boring to read. In addition to not connecting with the plot or characters, there was just so much vulgarity and crassness. This book has a sequel. I won’t be wasting my time.