Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Five

Last Friday I wrote about books for middle graders. How about some summer reading for Mom and Dad?

Five Great Books I've Read Recently:

1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations . . . One School at a Time. To say I enjoyed this book would be selling it short. It's a book that both touches your heart and engages your mind, blowing your stereotypes and your notions of what can and cannot be done. You start to realize that the media's portrayal of our relationship with Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan is quite superficial, and you can't help but admire a man who's fearless enough to move among our "enemies" out of a passion for their children's education and to eat things and sleep in places that most us simply would not tolerate. Amazing. A must-read. Recommended to me and sent as a birthday gift by my brother Paul, even though I told him not to buy me anything. That rebel.

2. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World
This book is to healthcare for the world's poor what Three Cups of Tea is to education. Again, a charismatic hero -- Dr. Paul Farmer, who works primarily among the ultra poor of Haiti -- who refuses to give up, in the face of overwhelming odds, who keeps doing hard things even when naysayers abound. One difference is that this book's author, Tracy Kidder, inserts himself more into the story, describing his complex reaction to Dr. Farmer's personality and methods. I tell you what, after you read this one, you'll laugh at yourself when you think you have problems, especially of the financial genre. We can't afford a new flat-screen TV or a schmancy pair of shoes. They can't afford a second daily meal for their kids or basic meds for tuberculosis.

3. Austenland: A Novel
Very different from the first two, of course. Sort of a glorious fantasy for Jane Austen lovers. If you've ever seen the A&E version of P&P, with Colin Firth, you have to read this one. Lighter, more fun perhaps ... but not trashy. I promise. And I love it when a book takes your trite predictions and turns them upside down.

4.The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
Father and daughter alternate chapters, telling the story of how their family's reality and future changed instantly when the father was shot, on purpose, in the line of duty as a police officer on Cape Cod. The perpetrator was never charged, due to corruption on the force, but the family suddenly had to live with constant surveillance and fear, ultimately choosing to move far from family and friends to start over on a farm in Tennessee. The daughter, now grown, is a writer by trade, and was able to eventually make something new of herself while never completely shaking free of that past. I'm not sure that the father ever completely let go of his anger, although his acknowledgements at the end hint at some sort of resolution and peace.

Okay, not to be completely lazy, but the kids are chomping at the bit for me to come help them decorate their bikes for the neighborhood parade tomorrow, so I'll just say that I made it through this book, but it wasn't one I couldn't put down. The language was lovely and lyrical, but I found that some of the imagery rang a little false, and found it overall haunting and poetic, but also a bit depressing and not terribly accessible. But maybe I'm a heretic because the author won a Pulitzer Prize for another book. The end.

I know what I'm reading next, but then I need some more ideas. What's keeping you with your nose in a book lately? Send 'em my way, people!


Eclectic Mama said...

You made me want to read the first two. Now I have to see if the library has them, since I'm too cheap to buy them. :)

I recently read Stiff, by Mary Roach. I fun, easy read (well, actually I listened to it, but it still counts). I'm currently reading her Spook, but I'm not as impressed with it.

Tamara said...

Thanks for your reviews--I definitely want to check out the first one! I have two recommendations:

1) O Jerusalem, by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. And in depth look at Isreal's struggle to became a nation in 1948, giving step by step narrative of individuals, politics and military actions. It's written quite engagingly.

2)The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Great book!

Vanessa said...

#4 sounds gooood. Try reading Falling Leaves or the Glass Castle. Those are two of my faves.