Raise your hand if you’re surprised I spent my time in quarantine reading. No hands up, huh?
Okay, okay … I didn’t just read while we’ve been locked down due to the pandemic. I wrote and painted and had lots of Zoom calls with family, friends, and colleagues. But I read a lot too, for sure.
How about you? What books are keeping you company right now?
The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: Part magical realism and part historical fiction, The Murmur of Bees follows the story of Simonopio, a gifted child and his intuition to protect his adopted family from danger. This translated text is lyrical and beautifully written; the language alone makes the book worth reading. My attention started to lag about 75% of the way through, however, as it’s a fairly long book without a whole lot of action at times.
Dare to Lead by Brené Brown (3/5 stars)
Three-line review: I like Brown’s honest, unabashed style when discussing real, complicated situations. I always take a helpful nugget or two from her books, which I file away for use in my own life. Dare to Lead, however, seems to be a rehash of many of her previous ones, so there’s not a lot of new information for readers of her other books.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: An absolutely beautiful book; I loved every single word of this YA story written as a series of poems. I listened to the audio book (read by the author), and it is the ideal way to experience it. The plot is perfect, the characters are wonderfully developed, and Acevedo’s poetry ties everything together into a perfect package.
The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean by Paul Theroux (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: Grumpy ol’ Theroux is at it again, this time with a trip around the Mediterranean (circa mid-1990s). Theroux’s travelogues don’t inspire any sort of wanderlust for me, but his keen sense of observation and raw honesty keep me coming back for more. Though Theroux’s full circumnavigation of the Mediterranean Sea by land wasn’t fully achieved due to conflict at the time, I am intrigued by such an itinerary.
Where God Was Born: A Daring Adventure Through the Bible’s Greatest Stories by Bruce Feiler (3/5 stars)
Three-line review: Coming off our trip to Israel, I was interested in learning more about the religious history of the Middle East, which is what drew me to this book. Feiler makes his journey through Israel, Iraq, and Iran searching for information and answers about religion while examining his own Jewish roots in an Eat, Pray, Love kind of way. I found his travels more interesting than his spiritual journey, however, and even that wasn’t exactly a “daring adventure.”
The Vegetarian by Han Kang (3/5 stars)
Three-line review: Wait, what was this book about? This was an esoteric one — disturbing plot line, bizarre characters — but it was a quick read and the translation is lovely. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I am glad I read it.
Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: This detailed account of Harrer’s seven years of living in Lhasa, home of the Dalai Lama, is somehow both mundane and unbelievable, which is what makes it so extraordinary. He was the first to offer such an intimate account from this corner of the world never penetrated by foreigners, and it is a treat to walk in the author’s footsteps during these pivotal years. The movie is a gross and inadequate representation of the book; if given an option, choose the book.
Just One Night by Gayle Forman (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: This is the third and final part of this YA series I fell into a few years ago, and it was all the satisfying, fulfilling things I wanted it to be. From the very first book, Forman wrote characters with chemistry that I liked and wanted to see succeed. This book is a novella — not too long, not too short, and exactly, perfectly what it needed to be to feel complete.
Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: Set in an Italian convent in the late 1500s, this piece of historical fiction is understated, tragic, and lyrical. This book has it all: love, lies, devotion, deceit, piety, friendship, superstition, and self-discovery. I appreciate books that force readers to sit with long, drawn-out descriptions and thoughtful language as long as it is well written, which it is in Sacred Hearts.