Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summertime, and the reading is awesome: July 2015 "Quick Lit"

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for "Quick Lit" to share what I've been reading this past month:  specifically, an excellent novel and two great pieces of nonfiction.



The Light Between Oceans
by M.L. Stedman 

Modern Mrs. Darcy herself is reviewing this novel this month. Like her, I felt like everyone else had read this. Now having read it myself, I think, why did I wait so long? But it was worth waiting for.  Lighthouse-keeper Tom and his wife Isabel live on a remote island where Tom can escape the memories of his time on the Western Front. After Isabel endures two miscarriages and a stillbirth, she considers it a miracle when a boat washes ashore with a dead man and a living baby in it. Although Tom knows he should immediately report the incident, Isabel begs him not to, and they keep the baby and raise her. But two idyllic years later, when they return to the mainland, they must face the consequences: the baby and the dead man have left behind a grieving family.

This book has a page-turner plot and raises some important and difficult moral questions. It is also beautifully written. I loved this passage describing Tom's first time viewing the sea from the lighthouse:

For the first time he took in the scale of the view.  Hundreds of feet above sea level, he was mesmerized by the drop to the ocean crashing against the cliffs directly below. The water sloshed like white paint, milky-thick, the foam occasionally scraped off long enough to reveal a deep blue undercoat.  At the other end of the island a row of immense boulders created a break against the surf and left the water inside it as calm as a bath. He had the impression he was hanging from the sky, not rising from the earth. Very slowly, he turned a full circle, taking in the nothingness of it all.  It seemed his lungs could never be large enough to breathe in this much air, his eyes could never see this much space, nor could he hear the full extent of the rolling, roaring ocean. For the briefest moment, he had no edges.
 
I'd highly recommend this gripping, thought-provoking novel.  It would be great for a book-club discussion.

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Amazing Grace:  William Wilberforce 
and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery 
by Eric Metaxas

An engaging biography of the English politician and abolitionist William Wilberforce. I knew few details beforehand about Wilberforce's life story, so it was fascinating to read of his life-changing conversion, his unflagging determination to abolish slavery and the slave trade, and his efforts at cultural reform and improvement of the lot of the poor.



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Being Mortal:  Medicine 
and What Matters in the End 
by Atul Gawande

 This engrossing book explores how and why end-of-life decisions are made by the elderly, those with terminal illness, and their families. Gawande argues that our highly medicalized society, in its determination to treat illness and prolong life, often ignores the fears, wishes, and priorities that dying people have both for today and for their final days. For example, safety -- which is a valid consideration -- often becomes the primary criterion in deciding where the frail elderly should live; yet safety without some level of freedom, independence, and purpose can be more like imprisonment than real living. Using interesting case studies (including that of his own father, who developed cancer while in his seventies), Gawande discusses the process of aging, the history of nursing home care and assisted living, and the role of hospice and palliative care.  This book makes some excellent points about  the desire we all have to live meaningfully and well to the end of our days. 

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Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?  And what have you been reading?

12 comments:

  1. No, I've not read any of these, but they sure sound good. Almost all of my picks lately have been fluffy-ish. Glad to read about your picks. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by again, Anne. Fluffy-ish sounds all right to me, especially for summertime.

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  2. Jeannie, I am adding The Light Between Oceans to my "possibilities" list for book club next year. I haven't read it! I didn't realize it was so popular. I feel we have similar taste, so I am eager to dig in! I will let you know how our discussion of "Gold" goes!

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    1. I was thinking the same thing about our reading tastes, Dawn. I just loved TLBO -- and I saw online that it's going to be a movie next year, starring Michael Fassbender.

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    2. Oh my word, I LOVE me some Fassbender. #swoon

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  3. I <3 William Wilberforce. I read his biography by British politician William Hague. He was an extraordinary man. So inspiring! And of course you have to then read about John Wesley.

    As for me, I've been gobbling up books as usual. I'm now re-reading Wuthering Heights (it never gets old). I'm also reading Breakfast with the Nikolides by Rumer Godden, have begun Neuromancer by William Gibson (not sure about it yet) and am reading a couple of other non-fiction books too. I just finished Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I liked it, but I didn't think it was amazing like some of the reviews said. It was a very good insight into the world of 19th century China. My favourite book of recent weeks has been the novel Annie by Thomas Meehan. I never knew that the guy who wrote the musical Annie also wrote a novel. If anything, the novel is better. It's a lovely, touching story of the harsh, grimy side of life in Depression era New York. The prose is lovely - perfect for the intended audience but not childish so it appeals to all ages I'd imagine.

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    1. Very interesting, Sandy -- esp the book about Annie. I didn't know that was a novel, either. I was thinking the same thing about reading a John Wesley bio ... oh, and John Newton, too. I love biographies and memoirs.

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  4. Gripping is just the word for that lighthouse book Jeannie, because your description of it gripped me. I also thought of some photographs hanging in a colleague's office. You may have seen these prints as well: http://www.jean-guichard.com/photographs/france?items_per_page=8&page=1

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    1. I don't think I have seen those, Tim. They're spectacular!

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  5. Hi Jeannie, I read The Light Between Oceans a year or two ago, and I thought it was excellent. The most interesting ponderable about it was the moral dilemma, as you mentioned. I found myself seeing both sides, as I'm sure Tom did too. I can't remember exactly how it ended, but I remember thinking that it seemed a little too neat. Maybe I'm just used to novels that are messy. I'm reading A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, and I'm not sure what I think about it yet. Happy Reading! Judy

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    1. I've never read any of Kate Atkinson's books -- I understand this one is a sequel to Life After Life? I'd heard quite good things about that one although I also heard it's pretty challenging to follow the time-shifting.

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