Recent reads: July 2012

Worlds of Childhood, by William Zinsser. A book of short essays by children’s authors. Loved it. Very inspiring. (I read it back in 2005 but couldn’t remember anything about it, so it was basically like reading it for the first time.)

Alvin Journeyman, Heartfire, and The Crystal City, by Orson Scott Card. Some people had told me that the Alvin series tanked after the first couple books, but that wasn’t my experience. I enjoyed all six books about equally, I think. The later books are different, of course — more political and philosophical — but there was still plenty of cool magic. I particularly liked it as a fictional look at building Zion. Now if only Card could find time to write Master Alvin… (I also need to read Earth Unaware. And the rest of his books I haven’t yet read, like the Homecoming series.)

The White Horse King, by Benjamin Merkle. A biography of King Alfred the Great. Lots of interesting historical detail, told in a decently compelling manner. I liked it.

Blue Eyes and Other Teenage Hazards, by Janette Rallison. This was the first book I read all the way through on our Kindle (which I hardly ever use, sadly). A fun read (as usual with Janette Rallison). Liked it a lot.

The Spying Heart, by Katherine Paterson. Essays on children’s lit and writing for children. Loved it. I really like Katherine Paterson.

The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson. A pretty good read. Kind of heart-wrenching in places. I liked Bridge to Terabithia better, but this one’s still good.

Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer. A fascinating look at creativity. Very much enjoyed it. (There are some f-bombs, though.)

An Anthropologist on Mars, by Oliver Sacks. Several case studies by a neurologist, on things like Tourette’s and autism. Very interesting. (Some people who go blind don’t realize they’ve gone blind, for instance, and insist that they can still see. And there are people who lose the ability to see color — so everything is in black and white — and it gets to the point where they can’t even remember the concept of color.)

The Year 1000, by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger. A history book overviewing what life was like in 1000 A.D. in Britain. I enjoyed it.

Curveball, by Jordan Sonnenblick. Young adult fiction. I liked it a lot. His other books moved me more, but this one was still good.

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George. A fun, delightful book about a castle that’s alive.

Maphead, by Ken Jennings. All about geography and maps. Delicious. Nerdy hit-and-miss humor, but the geographical stuff is oh so tasty. I loved it. We bought a National Geographic world map after I finished this.

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan. The book was far shorter than I originally expected (it’s only 58 pages). It was good, I guess, but it didn’t really resonate with me.

Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney. As I mentioned, this was the first time I’ve read Beowulf in its entirety. I knew the basic outline — Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon — and a handful of details, but that was it, so it was nice to finally get the whole story. I enjoyed it. Some great imagery, and I’m a total sucker for kennings.

The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. A history of cancer. Riveting. It’s a somewhat long book, but it was worth it. I learned a lot about cancer that I didn’t know. Well-written, too. And a bit heart-rending. If you’re a hypochondriac, good luck.

Jhereg, by Steven Brust. The first of the Vlad Taltos novels. I enjoyed it and was quite excited about having over a dozen other books in the series to read, but then the second book (Yendi) started dropping f-bombs and getting a little more racy and I didn’t feel like reading any further. Grr. Same thing happened with The Sparrow, by Maria Doria Russell — lots of profanity, to the point that I lost interest and stopped reading. Which was sad, because I liked everything else about it.

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