Sex Object by Jessica Valenti: I cannot say this book was enjoyable, but I still appreciated Valenti's story and the reason she felt it necessary to share. In a world where people criticized Valenti for the title of her book, proclaiming she wasn't attractive enough to be a sex object, we need to remember that being called an object isn't a compliment. That was Valenti's point.
The current climate of boys will be boys makes Valenti's story of leaving college due to harassment about her sex life even more important. The boy who targeted her after their break up, of course, was not vilified for the sex they had.
This book is not one of hope. Sharing decades worth of family trauma as it relates to women being treated like objects, Valenti doesn't hold back.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles: News of the World landed at number one on the Book Pages list for this year, so I had to read it. I don't miss their numbers ones, and I've never been disappointed.
News of the World was no exception. Taking place in Texas in the 1800s, this book follows Captain Kidd as he takes news from one Texas town to another, reading from the papers to the people about all that is going on in the great, big world. When he is tasked with returning a young girl, Johanna, who was taken by Kiowa raiders four years early, to her home in San Antonio, he has to avoid the law, the Kiowa's who want her back, and other malicious people who don't have Johanna's best interest at heart.
This book is tender and hopeful, though at certain points I wanted to hide for fear of what was going to happen to these two unforgettable characters. I would have never grabbed this one on my own, but I'm glad it was on the list because I can't imagine not knowing this beautiful story.
Tomorrow Will Be Different by Maria Semple: This was on my Book Page List for the year, and it was very enjoyable. The protagonist daily makes a list of how her day is going to be different, better, more grown up, and she regularly fails to meet her own goals. As the story unfolds, we are permitted flashbacks that allow us to see her in a different light.
Semple's writing is hilarious and real, and she doesn't spare her protagonists close examination of their own faults that created the mess they are living in. The characters are memorable and the story relevant.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple: I will read a great book by an author and then vow to read more of their work, but then I don't. I decided to break that pattern by following up Today Will Be Different with Semple's previous New York Times bestseller, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I like Where'd You Go, Bernadette even better.
Told through emails, memos, and narrative, we learn about Bernadette, a former architect who is now just trying to avoid people while living in Seattle with her husband and daughter. The moms at her daughter's private school, or the gnats as she calls them, make it hard, and just like in Today Will Be Different, we learn more about the past that led Bernadette to where she is through flashbacks. When Bernadette disappears, the past becomes extremely important for tracking her down.
This book is hilarious and delightful.
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett: The reader is warned from the beginning that this is not going to be a carefree, upbeat ride. From the opening pages of this story, which is told by alternating narrators, we know that tragedy will occur in some way. The story then takes us back to how this family started and to how they landed where they are.
Margaret decides, even after her fiance suffers from a depression so deep he has to be hospitalized, to marry him and have a family. Their three children then carry on the story of their generation, with troubled oldest child Michael at the center of everyone's concern.
The writing is flawless, the story heartbreaking but honest and at times humorous. Haslett knows families, and my breath was stolen away when, using Margaret's voice, he described being a mother as hearing and feeling but not often actually seeing our children, a truth most any mother can attest to. This one is worth the read and the heartbreak.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: I maybe picked
the wrong time in life to read Atwood's book about a dystopian
environment where women are basically used for parts by a government
masquerading as a religious entity, or maybe it was the perfect time.
Either way, this book that was written decades ago gave me the creeps
and kept me hooked until the last page.
Offred is a
handmaid who is assigned to a commander and his wife to try to conceive a
child for them. She has a limited amount of chances before she is
deemed worthless, and the clock is ticking. As Offred remembers her
life before this world emerged, she also learns of a resistance growing
in the heart of Gilead.
I may be one of the last to pick this one up, but if anyone else hasn't read it, grab it now. It's disturbing but wonderful.
Transit by Rachel Cusk: This book is a sequel of sorts to Outline, a beautiful
piece of literature that I read and loved. The narrator continues
giving us snippets of her life in transition as she moves back to London
with her young sons after a divorce.
This novel is not
what most people expect when they think of telling a story. Certain
details are left completely out, and the story is more a series of very
deep conversations that cut to the bone of meaning than a strict,
detailed narrative. Cusk's writing is breathtaking, and I want to sit
at a table with people and dive to the heart of conversations the way
her characters do.
Jesus Without Borders by Chad Gibbs: I want to see more of Gibb's hilarious, relevant writing on Christianity in the world because he is spot-on without being preachy, serious and yet hopeful.
Gibbs grew up in Alabama and decided he wanted to see what Christianity looked like in other countries around the world. With an advance from Zondervan and travel hacking tricks, he went to 12 different countries, worshiped with other believers, and asked what they thought about American Christianity. The answers and experiences were eye opening for Gibbs and for me as a reader.
As our country delves further into a dangerous trend towards nationalism and forgets that we do not have a monopoly on Christianity or what it looks like in real life, Gibb's book comes along and shows what following Jesus looks like in other cultures. It should make us question our Christianity wrapped up in an American flag and our allegiance to politics over the actual words of God.