Between audio books from the library and the end of the semester, I’ve been able to wrap-up a number of books lately. I thought I’d drop some suggestions for summer reading, ranging from read this to leave this on the library shelf.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a great candidate for a summer read. The story revolves around a Chinese boy whose first love, a young Japanese girl, is taken away to an Japanese internment camp during World War II. And, the story follows the boy into manhood as he continues to wrestle with the events of those years. Honestly, I didn’t find the book brimming with the lyrical prose that I typically prefer. There were a few places where the plot or language (or both) plodded along a little bit, BUT I still wouldn’t have wanted to miss this book. The fact that this ugly period of history was told through the eyes of a child made it all that more gripping. I think there was at least one time that I was driving down the road listening to the book almost in tears. And, I happen to subscribe to the theory that we should study history to attempt (though often poorly) to avoid reliving missteps made. If you subscribe to this theory as well, then the book is worth reading. It shows how attitudes of hate, fear, and pride can affect individuals and communities. Fortunately, as the title indicates, these bitter themes do get balanced by the sweet ones of self-sacrifice, courage, and friendship.
I read Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell ages ago and enjoyed it thoroughly. That left me excited to dive into Blink, his examination of what happens in our unconscious mind that influences our actions. The theme of “thin slicing,” our ability to make rapid decisions based more on previous conditioning than concrete information, was a little stretched at points in the book. But, it was an interesting theme nonetheless, and I did appreciate that Gladwell showed both sides of the coin. Thin slicing can cause both harm and good. His examinations of the harms pointed to racism and sexism in a way that was unsettling because he revealed how many of us act according to unexamined (and unfair) attitudes and presuppositions. Even if the theme’s cohesiveness seemed shaky at points, the illustrations used in the book were fascinating and thought-provoking — certainly the type of information that makes for great nerdy conversation at summer parties.
I get disappointed when I read a classic that I wind up not liking. I’ve read some of Willa Cather’s work before and liked it, so I expected to enjoy The Song of the Lark. But, I did not. This is the story of Thea, a young artist coming of age. I just felt unsettled by the relationships between Thea as a child and some of the men in her community. As she grows older, she becomes increasingly skilled and increasingly selfish. Even as Thea reaches the pinnacle of success, she seems unhappy and restless. I suppose much could be said about that considering the way she achieved fame, but overall, I was disappointed to read that many pages only to have them sputter to an restless, gloomy end.
Next up in the mp3 player? Googled: The End of the World as We Now Know It.