An Open Book: What I Read in April and May

The last two months have been nothing short of stellar when it comes to awesome reading material. Sometimes I hit a slump of bad books (and I should mention that I did abandon one book in May after fighting through 200 pages; Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier), but, for the most part, I hit gold with my chosen books.

Throughout June, I’ll mainly be picking up long reads and finishing the final pages of a few random magazines I have sitting around before we hit the road for our next big adventure. That said, I’m currently listening to an audio book I love, and Cory and I are mapping out a whole course of audio books for our drive across the country, so there’s plenty of reading on the horizon.

What noteworthy books have you been reading lately? Anything I shouldn’t miss?

053116 - Girls and SexGirls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein

Three-line review: This book is undeniably essential reading not only for parents of teenage girls but parents of kids at any age and anyone living in American society who needs proof on why comprehensive sex education, access to birth control and an open dialogue about all things related to sex is important. At 35 years old, I don’t consider myself old, but a lot has changed for teenage girls in regard to relationships and intimacy expectations — and the whole social media aspect of the teenage world is another complicated mess altogether. This is an incredibly valuable, readable and honest book, and Orenstein has done a thorough job with including girls’ voices from all walks of life to provide an updated look at this messy period of time for adolescents.

053116 - Dark Star SafariDark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown by Paul Theroux

Three-line review: I love every single book I’ve read by Theroux, and this story about the author’s overland journey across Africa is as authentic and honest as they come. Some call Theroux a grouchy old man, but I see him as someone who reports fairly and unbiasly based on what he experiences, sees, hears and observes; on a continent like Africa, that includes unfiltered commentary about aid relief, religion, poverty, crime and racism. His account from Nairobi (the only city he visited with which I was familiar) was an accurate depiction of the area’s characteristics, so I can only assume his dispatches from the rest of his trip are equally accurate — and undeniably disheartening, maddening and eye-opening.

053116 - Dorian GrayThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Three-line review: I often wonder, if the classics of yesteryear were written today, would they have been widely published, read and applauded? The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of those books for me – a classic that’s been hanging out on my bookshelf and that I had an interest in reading, but didn’t seem well written, cohesive or all that interesting once I finally read it. The story is easy enough to follow, and while I realize the premise is fantastical horror, the book was wildly unrealistic and boring to read.

053116 - Lenny and LucyLenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead

Three-line review: Lenny & Lucy is a beautiful picture book about a difficult topic (for everyone, not just kids): Moving. Peter and his dog, Harold, feel lonely and scared in their new home, so they use their imaginations to create characters to help protect the house, but in the process they also make a new friend. In addition to the simplistic yet sophisticated topic this book tackles, the black-and-white drawings punctuated with yellow/orange accents are lovely.

053116 - Write BackI Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda

Three-line review: I absolutely loved everything about this book, which tells the story of two pen pals (a well-off girl living in Pennsylvania and a poor boy from Zimbabwe) who are randomly matched to write to each other and ultimately end up as best friends. Obviously I adore pen pals and snail mail, but beyond the actual idea of letter writing, this book shows two friends who smash through every stereotype and roadblock they meet on their journey of friendship, all with the help of pen, paper, stamps and a belief that people, in general, are honest and good. Against all odds, Caitlin and her family are able to assist Martin and his family, who live in a ramshackle home in one of Zimbabwe’s largest slums, so that he can fulfill his potential and attend college in the United States. (Bonus sentence: It’s a rare night I stay up late with a page turner, which this was, and I even shed a few tears along the way.)

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