Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Playing Catch Up

Yowza! I think this is the longest blog break I have taken since Ex Libris Fides was launched in 2007. It was not really intentional, I just got behind on my postings during my Israel trip, and could never seem to catch up before the end of the year. Lately, I've been procrastinating because I want to do my "year-end/new year" post with the best and worst of 2009, but did not feel like I could do that without writing posts about the remaining 2009 books. So, I just kept putting it off. I want to move on in to 2010, though, so have decided to wrap up 2009 with one post containing six micro-posts of the final 2009 books. Then, in the next couple of days, I'll get my New Year's post done and we'll be off to the races.

Here are the final 2009 books:

Seven Types of Ambiguity: (by Elliott Perlman) a compelling novel that shares the thoughts and intentions leading up to a crime, as well as its aftermath, from the perspectives of seven different people involved. Well-written, moves quickly, and reminds us that we never really know the whole story until we hear all sides.

>The Sisters of Sinai: (by Janet Soskice) a history/biography of Agnes and Margaret Smith, two Victorian-era women who devoted their adult lives to the study of ancient languages and to exploring the world looking for old biblical manuscripts. A great read about the joy of discovery and the passion for the study of scripture. Note: I recently submitted a more lengthy review of this book to The Presbyterian Outlook. It will probably appear in an upcoming issue.

Consequential Strangers: (by Karen Fingerman and Melinda Blau) an exploration of the effect of our more casual, peripheral relationships on our quality of life. People like our mail carriers, our baristas, and friends of friends can actually go a long way toward enriching our lives and helping us feel more at home in the world. It is a sociological study, but confirmed a lot of my own instincts about how we are all connected and have the potential to positively (or negatively) affect each other.

>The Inheritance of Loss: (by Kiran Desai) cryptic and forgettable. A novel about the legacy of colonialism in India. Desai poignantly describes the toll that being pulled between British and native traditions took on personal relationships in the decades immediately following independence. A worthwhile aim, but Desai writes with a detachment that makes it difficult to get into the story. I find novels about India fascinating, but liked The Toss of a Lemon much better (see below).

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: by William Kamkwamba) This is a wonderful story. One of the most hopeful and inspiring books I have read in a long time. The story is the narrative of how William, forced to drop out of school because his family could not pay the fees, figured out how to build a windmill to provide electricity for his family. William and his family are from Malawi, and his efforts brought progress and possibility to a people who were recovering from famine. Don't miss this one!

The Toss of a Lemon: (by Padma Viswanathan) another novel about India, and how one family copes with the social changes leading up to independence from British rule. It's a great story, but also very informative about the caste system and how closely tied that system is to the Hindu religion. Great characters, and the information is woven in in such a way that one never feels bogged down in didactic details. Viswanathan gives us a peek into the Indian culture in the early 20th century by letting us into the lives of a traditional Brahmin family. Very, very good book.

Tune in soon for the best and worst of 2009!

Reverent Reader


At 1/12/10, 9:38 PM , Blogger Melinda said...

Leslie, thanks for your kind words about Consequential Strangers. It is our hope that people will grasp how vital ALL their relationships are, even those they take for granted. Life is too complex nowadays to live by intimates alone. We need consequential strangers to cope and to keep abreast of the information that floods us every day. Thanks for noticing!
Melinda Blau

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