From Israel to South Africa and across the United States by boat, February’s reading was a journey in destinations.
Where has your reading taken you lately?
The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: Most books chronicling conflicts and similar historical events lose my attention and interest with their dump of facts, names, and dates. Tolan did what most authors fail at: He made a complex, foreign situation understandable, authentic, and human-centered. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; given the conflict’s ongoing ripple effects, that should be everyone.
True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall by Mark Salzman (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: I still don’t know why it’s so engaging to read about an author’s experience teaching a writing class at a juvenile detention hall, but somehow Salzman managed to grab my attention. Though this is a memoir, it seems like a collection of small snapshots captured in words — each highlighting the humanity of young men already written off by society. It left me feeling angry and frustrated, humble and hopeful — a healthy dose of a myriad of emotions.
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (3/5 stars)
Three-line review: Written in the late 1940s, this novel is about a black man, a white man, and the horrible fate of their sons. It’s a complex book about a complex time with compelling characters struggling against the realities of Apartheid. Paton is a lovely writer, and his prose is beautiful.
River-Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America by William Least Heat-Moon (3/5 stars)
Three-line review: Heat-Moon’s ambitious plan to take a boat from the East to the West Coast of the United States is an interesting idea — and I’m surprised it’s actually not that easy to do. I enjoyed stories from the river that bumped up against places I recognized, but overall, I found the day-to-day account of the journey to be a bit tedious. I found Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways to be far more engaging.
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: I most loved this book because of the accessible but commonly flawed characters. What would be an ordinary, run-of-the-mill hit-and-run story is much more complicated given their diverse backgrounds and histories. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in diversifying their bookshelf.