Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Saints, by Gene Leung Yang

BTW: at the National book Festival a couple of weeks ago, I found out that Gene Leung Lang a) is a Middle School teacher, and b) just got a MacArthur Prize! Cool!

All of Gene Leung Lang's books that I have read so far are complicated, a little confusing, and in the end-- for me-- utterly uplifting. His American Born Chinese got a Printz award, and is also pretty amazing, so go check that out, too. Saints focuses on a fictional heroine living in China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, who begins seeing visions of Joan of Arc, eventually converts to Christianity, and in the end gets caught between the warring factions in her region. There are no easy heroes in this story, but there are utterly real characters who make me want to be a better Christian myself-- without (I think) being didactic or preachy or manipulative. Read it yourself, and tell me what you think.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling

This book was lovely. All the stuff I had felt frustrated about with Harry Potter, especially in the later books-- all addressed.

Not everyone will love it. That's OK. I will say that it's the kind of book I would like to write. As in, not necessarily spectacular, but truly lovely in its own way, well worth owning (in my opinion). Or, at the very least, putting yourself in the hold queue for.

Also, I have a new all-time favorite J.K. Rowling character, but I will wait to tell you until we see each other in person; you can ask then. (If you've read this story, you can probably figure it out.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bad Island, by Doug TenNapel

A story in which we get adventure AND parents get to live AND be involved? Indeed, this rare sort of book does not come along often, and I very much enjoyed the story. (I had been noticing for a while how quickly TenNapel books circulate at our middle school library, and finally decided to give his stuff a try. Glad I did.)

P.S. I also enjoyed Cardboard, by the same author. Sadly, the hero has lost one parent in that story; happily, the remaining parent still gets to be involved with the adventure, while not completely taking over it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


 I don't know what to say about it, except that it fully deserves the praise that it has collected.  It's brilliant.  Weighty, but up-lifting.  Beautiful.  Honest.  Well worth the read.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande has taken a new direction with this book; still exploring what it takes to make our lives - both as a doctor and as a patient - better, this time he looks at the end of our lives. With death both natural and inevitable, what interventions are the most useful? What merely prolongs suffering, and what makes life more worth living- what gives us better, rather than just longer lives?  What interventions actually make things worse?

Aside from the critical, end-of-life stages, what about the later years? At what point is it time to seek assistance, and when do we have to turn over autonomy? Intriguingly, do we ever have to turn over autonomy?  He shares his research about these questions and some answers to them - good answers that are surprising in both what they have in common and what they do not.

Reading this was enlightening for me: Knowing that we all die, and we all- things otherwise going well - grow old - is not the same as thinking about those facts, and how to deal with them.  Thought-provoking and informative, a straightforward read with beautifully clear prose; my favorite kind of non-fiction.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Eye of Zoltar, by Jasper Fforde

As the impatiently-anticipated third installment in the wonderful and Strange Chronicles of Kazam series, this book did not disappoint. Fforde's cleverness at plotting-- while not neglecting to include a high ratio of random-- made this one of my favorite reads in a long time.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism, by Kristine Barnett

Kristine Barnett's son, Jacob, was so affected by autism that his pre-K teacher assumed he would never (re-)learn the letters of the alphabet. Now, he has set the world's record for being the youngest paid researcher in Physics.

Ms. Barnett seems to be one of those rare souls who has an intuitive grasp of what will help little children blossom; this book focuses on how she helped this transformation happen. It is neither a straightforward narrative nor a detailed description of her methods. It seems, instead, to be a best-parts version of both.

Her main takeaway message is that we can't give up on any child, even if the school system has declared them to be in essence unteachable. I was raised believing this-- our version is to say, "genius is as common as dirt"-- and it is therefore small wonder that I was so taken with this book.