Books Read: July 2020

Another month and another batch of books read. I read more nonfiction which is a goal of mine, but also I read a book that, quite honestly, may be in my top 5 list of 2020 and quite possibly at the top.

The Yellow House

This book introduced me to so much that I knew so very little about and the fact that it’s about two things I think a lot about in my own story, place and family. Sarah M. Broom writes so eloquently about growing up the youngest of twelve children in East New Orleans in a house that is barely holding together. She writes about her struggle with New Orleans as an adult, the several times she tries to live there again, the experience of Katrina as an non resident worrying about her family, and how the place shaped her. And she asks a lot of questions I ask myself, just in relation to a different place.

Who has the rights to the story of a place? Are these rights earned, bought, fought and died for? Or are they given? Are they automatic, like an assumption? Self-renewing? Are these rights a token of citizenship belonging to those who stay in the place or to those who leave and come back to it? Does the act of leaving relinquish one’s rights to the story of a place? Who stays gone? Who can afford to return? (loc 4791)

There are always, I have come to know, more questions than answers. (loc 5367)

A Dangerous Place

Yes, my addiction to Maisie Dobbs mysteries continues and this book was even more of a transition book than the last one. But I’m the type of person who keeps going, hoping they’ll get better, wondering where the character goes next. Maisie is on her way back to England from India in 1937 and stops in Gibraltar. World War II is on the way and the Spanish Civil War is going on and of course Maisie finds herself in the middle of a mystery. This wasn’t the best of the series by far, but it was entertaining at times and what I like to call a good TV book.

The Overstory

Richard Power’s novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019 and it must have made it onto my list via best of lists from that year. I really wasn’t sure what the book would be, but I found the first third of the book absolutely lovely. The way in which trees played a role in each of the characters’ lives was inventive and compelling.

The final two thirds of the book are the various characters we’ve met weaving in and out of each other’s lives as they work in different ways to save trees, care for the planet, and learn more about the forests. I’ll admit it, the last two thirds of the book went in directions that I didn’t expect and didn’t enjoy nearly as much as the first third. I kept thinking it may get back to the magical type of writing of the first portion, but it never did.

That’s when Adam realizes: Humankind is deeply ill. The species won’t last long. It was an aberrant experiment. Soon the world will be returned to the healthy intelligences, the collective ones. Colonies and hives. (loc 874)

And yet, places remember what people forget. (loc 2472)

The problem begins with that word world. It means two such opposite things. The real one we cannot see. The invented one we can’t escape. (loc 7337)

God Land

I wrote a full on solo review for this one that you can find right on this site. It had a large impact on me, as the review talks about, mostly because of my personal history.

Terra Nullius

Mandy read this and I was intrigued and lo and behold my library had a copy and it was available. Wow, it’s an amazing novel. Claire Coleman slowly reveals what’s really going on and as the layers continue to be peeled back it gets better and better. Jacky escapes from his life as a slave and starts runnning to find his home after being taken as a very young child from his parents for re-education. As he journeys to find the town he’s from and anyone who may still be alive, we learn more and more about what’s happening on Earth. I can’t say much more because it would spoil the book, it’s best to go in and read, it’s a can’t put it down book. Highly recommend as this book is firmly in the running for my top 2020 book.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

Another book by Alan Jacobs, this is the older book in a triology he’s working on about reading and thinking. I love to read about reading for some reason, not lists of what I should read, which Jacobs doesn’t like, but more to see what others think about reading. The Library at Night is another book like this and Jacobs quotes it. I enjoyed this quick book and will be thinking a long time about relying on whim for what I read, thinking about how much reading different things calls for different ways of reading, and how much books can mean different things at different points in our lives. I’m not a huge rereader, but this book may have changed my mind on that.