I’ve been writing three-line book reviews for about a year-and-a-half now. I like the challenge of succinctly summarizing my thoughts on the things I read, but I realized I haven’t actually been telling you how many stars I give these books on Goodreads. Summaries are grand, of course, but what do I really think of them?
Starting this month, I will tell you.
I fell off the Life List wagon in February, when I was trying to read one fiction and one non-fiction book each month, but the goal is back. I spent much of March in Munich, Germany, pet-sitting and working on some writing projects, and that also gave me lots of time to read and listen to audio books.
And it was a good book month! I love good book months, when (almost) every book I finish makes me feel more complete. That’s what good writing is supposed to do.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: Of all the books set during the Holocaust I’ve read over the years, this is perhaps the best. Told from the perspective of the grim reaper, who, of course, was omnipresent during Nazi Germany, The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, whose close relationships are often forged on the foundation of stolen books. I particularly like the voice of the story, which mixes in a bit of whimsy and humor despite the heavy topic.
Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan To A More Dangerous World by Christina Lamb (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: British international correspondent Christina Lamb reported from the Middle East – specifically Afghanistan and Pakistan – for nearly 30 years, allowing her to foster relationships with local villagers and influential leaders, dig deep into the culture and its nuances, and witness first-hand why Western nations’ attempts to overthrow the Taliban after September 11 failed. She watched as the United States and United Kingdom made nonsensical and often dangerous decisions that led the West deeper into war, and this book highlights her experiences of working on the front lines, not as a solider but as a journalist. Books like hers emphasize the importance of having journalists reporting in real-time as major events unfold, because average citizens need to know what’s going on, even as their countries’ leaders say one thing but do another.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: There’s no doubt about it: Eugenides tackles the complicated and controversial subjects of gender identity and family in this piece of literary fiction, and he does it flawlessly. I read recently that good literary fiction isn’t necessarily plot-driven but character-driven, and that is absolutely true in this case. I was unquestionably tied up in the characters’ lives, which were built on such a solid foundation that I understood and appreciated their choices and actions because the things they said and did were most natural for their present circumstances.
Was by Beth Kander (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: Written by one of my childhood friends, Was was written by Kander in one month and edited in a single week, and for that purpose alone, this is an impressive read. Told from the perspective of Wilma, a struggling single mother, Was weaves together a series of fantastic tales told by a mysterious old man while Wilma navigates the complications of her personal life. I love the concept of this book, and though the ending is a bit esoteric, it is very creative.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: Reading this book was like receiving confirmation about being who I am. I always assumed that half the population was introverted, but now that I realize I am actually in the minority, I understand why the world feels so loud to me. Quiet is incredibly well-researched, filled with anecdotes and examples, and, I think, an important book to read if you are an introvert or you want to understand those introverts in your everyday life just a little bit better.