Book clubs are curious things. I’m pretty sure we’ve all been in one far more focused on drinking and complaining than actually reading and discussing books.
This drives me bonkers.
Why join a book club if you aren’t going to read? Or, why create a book club when what you really want is a monthly wine-and-whine hour?
I recently joined a new book club, which met for the first time in November. One of the main rules? You have to actually read the book. (For November, that book was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of Universe, noted below.) So far, so good. As in, really good. We had an incredibly in-depth and insightful conversation, and I, at least, walked away intensely satisfied.
I am hopeful this book club will retain its integrity in the months ahead. Fingers crossed!
It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: This is a beautifully written and presented book by a woman who has witnessed some of the most heart-breaking travesties our world has faced in recent years. Addario is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist who skillfully used this book as a platform to discuss the conflict in her own life of working within devastating circumstances such as war, famine and genocide while also balancing her privilege of being able to step away from those places at nearly a moment’s notice. I believe everyone should read a book like this — or War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning or Farewell Kabul — to truly get an uncensored perspective of what’s going on in the larger world beyond the comfort of our living rooms.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: By far one of the best coming-of-age young adult novels I have read in a long time. I loved the simple, straightforward prose, which was driven by two teenage boys. It pulled at all the emotions, and I went from laughing to crying to sheer elation to sadness with the characters as they went through the same emotions, even if they didn’t realize what they were experiencing.
Black Square: Adventures in Post-Soviet Ukraine by Sophie Pinkham (3/5 stars)
Three-line review: This memoir is a brutally honest if jaded account of Ukraine’s recent history, the events leading up to the Maidan Revolution and the effects the Revolution has had on the country. Told by a Russian-speaking American public health volunteer who worked for several months at a time in Ukraine, this book offers a counter-perspective to the pro-Ukrainian vibe portrayed in the popular documentary “Winter on Fire.” While Pinkham weaves in insight and commentary from local friends and colleagues, her position of privilege makes it hard to fully embrace what she has to say even though many of her surface-level descriptions of Kyiv resonate with my personal experiences as an expat living in the country.