Is there anything more satisfying than holding a printed book in your hands?
I am undeniably thankful for digital books. I love that I can check e-books out from a local library in Wisconsin and have them delivered — as if by magic — to my Kindle in Ukraine. Technology makes reading so much more accessible in hard-to-reach destinations.
Yet, when given the opportunity, I’ll immediately make a beeline to a printed book. And, quite honestly, there are books that are better suited in print. A digital copy just wouldn’t do some e-books justice.
So, when we arrived in the United States at the end of June, one of the first places we went was the local library. I had prepped a list of graphic novels, coffee table books, and picture books I wanted to check out, if possible, simply because I finally had the opportunity. It’s been an absolute pleasure to end my days with a book in my hands — complete with illustrations, photographs, and that special something you just can’t get with an e-book.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (3/5 stars)
Three-line review: Backman, author of A Man Called Ove (which I loved), once again weaves a rich tale driven by complex characters and a touch of magical whimsy. I enjoyed the subtle details dripped into text, including the title names and line drawings at the beginning of every chapter, but also found mention of some character tics to be overkill. Overall, I liked the story told from the perspective of an almost-eight-year-old child, but the pacing plodded, leaving this one a bit “meh” for me.
What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: This highly creative picture book is just as relevant (if not more so!) for adults as it is for kids. Important life lessons are often baked into children’s books, and the one in this book — that ideas should be nurtured despite discouragement — feels particularly relevant as kids are cornered into societal norms and expectations. I especially loved that the idea is personified as an egg in need of incubation before being ready to hatch.
Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: Word nerds, unite! This book — part memoir, part historical reference, part cultural ethnography — is a wonderful deep dive into the day-to-day work that goes into creating the dictionary while also exploring the rich history of language. Stamper’s writing is engaging and humorous, which made this interesting topic all the more compelling to read about.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: This juicy, rich novel follows the life story of Alma Whittaker, a talented botanist and brilliant daughter of a hugely successful and rich business owner. Though Alma’s story isn’t always remarkable and she isn’t always likable, she is human, and this book masterfully let me, the reader, intimately live Alma’s life with her, as if I was her shadow. I loved every word of this book and slowed my reading as I neared the conclusion because I didn’t want it to end.
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: One reason I turn to kids’ books is to get the birds-eye view on topics I know nothing about, such as the creation of Braille. The author did an excellent job hitting the highlights of young Braille’s life and how he invented a reading system for the blind at age 15. I particularly like the author’s note about how, when we think of great inventors, we often don’t think of Louis Braille, but his system surrounds us each and every day, and he deserves more recognition than he gets.
Tiny, Perfect Things by M.H. Clark (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: Open your eyes … the world is filled with fascinating details if you just take a moment to look around. Kids don’t generally need a reminder to slow down and observe the world, but as an adult reading this picture book, I appreciated the message. The simple, bold drawings were a bonus feature for this one.