Please note: I have intentionally decided not to include Amazon links (unless something is available exclusively on Amazon). Instead, if you are interested in reading any of the books I mention, I encourage you to check out your local library or independent bookstore. These places (and the communities around them) need your support, and they are generally quite willing to order any book if they don’t currently have it in stock. However, if Amazon is still the more practical choice for you, it is easy enough to search and find any of the titles that I mention.
The Brothers Karamozov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I’m not going to lie, I started this book back in November. I’m used to getting through books pretty quickly, so the fact that I stuck with this one for so many months, and all 800 pages, is a real testament. The craziest part is that as soon as I finished it, I wanted to start it over again now that I knew where everything was leading. Though Dostoevsky is perhaps a bit more expansive with words than I would always care for, the characters and story are very engaging and the various philosophies that he expounds on throughout the book are fascinating. The style of Russian novels may be difficult for modern reading sensibilities, which are used to a much faster pace, but it’s also easy to see why classics such as this really are classics. It’s an exploration of human nature, which is the essence of any good story.
Gregor the Overlander, by Suzanne Collins
I’ve been trying to explore more Children’s and Young Adult literature, in order to give better recommendations to my nieces and nephews who are all growing into great little readers themselves. The Underland Chronicles (of which this is the first book) were written by Suzanne Collins BEFORE she wrote The Hunger Games, and I was pleased to discover that they are just as wonderfully written but for a younger audience. Gregor is a great character; curious, compassionate, intelligent, and with a good moral compass. And the writing was such that I actually cried a little over the death of a giant cockroach. I really enjoyed this first book, and immediately recommended it to my eight-year-old nephew, and will probably end up buying the box set for a few upcoming birthdays.
To Change the Church, by Ross Douthat
I generally don’t read a lot of books about “the current state of the world”, but this book was a very insightful and (I thought) very even-handed look at the modern Catholic Church and the pontificate of Pope Francis. It explained some of the controversies and hot button topics of the current pontificate that I had heard vaguely about but didn’t have a good grasp of what the actual issues were, such as the debate about allowing the divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist. An enlightening read.
Landwhale, by Jes Baker
This is Baker’s second book, and I enjoyed her first book (Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls) so much that I pre-ordered Landwhale after the first announcement I saw. This book was much more of a memoir than Baker’s first book, and was a bit more difficult for me to read on an emotional level. Baker and I are the same age and have both identified as “fat girls” for the majority of our lives, and yet the environments that we have existed in have been vastly different. I admire Baker a great deal for her vulnerability and honesty, and reading about her experiences definitely made me more aware of and grateful for my own journey through this world.
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
This book was lent to me by a good friend, who gets some serious kudos for book recommendations. (I’m great at finding non-fiction books to read but it usually takes someone else to introduce to me new fiction that I actually enjoy) The book is a fascinating concept that uses a fictitious hostage scenario to explore various aspects of human nature, in a surprisingly positive and beautiful way. A strong theme of the book is also the power of music and it’s ability to deeply touch the soul, which is something that I love and have always longed to be able to express in my own writing at some point. This is great read for anyone, but I highly recommend it to other writers as a study in a unique style.
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