The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I know I'm a little behind the craze with this book, but WOW--what an incredible read! I'm always impressed when someone's first novel is as riveting, well-written, and well-developed as this one. I loved its fictional (but all-too-identifiable) peek into Southern culture, its delicate yet firm handle of race, its character development, and its perfect amount of mystery at the end of each chapter that leaves you wanting to read more. I also liked how each chapter was told by a different narrator, allowing the reader a more complete view of the story. Despite my sympathies for the other characters, I still found myself identifying most with the main character, Skeeter.
I stayed true to my policy of not watching a movie before reading the book, so now I'm just waiting for the movie to come out in our dollar theatre or at Red Box so I can see it. I've heard only good things! If you're behind the times like I was, it's time to pick up this book. Prepare yourself for some late nights of reading complete with tired eyes in the morning--well worth it!
The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris
So, when Jessica told me about Norris's memoir and about how it focused on race relations in the South--particularly in Birmingham--where her father, a black man, was shot by a white police officer, I was hooked. What was this woman's story? I had to know.
A week and half later, I finished the book. I admit that I went into reading the book with expectations that it would be politically charged and have a tinge of racial bitterness. What I discovered was a book that takes a very honest and unbiased look at the South during segregation, almost entirely omitting politics, and focusing rather on personal, human experiences, which are always interesting.
What I found most interesting (and humbling) about the book was how black men like Norris's father fought in WWII for social justice overseas and then returned home to severe discrimination and danger in their own home towns. Makes me want to find war veterans everywhere and thank them for their service--both abroad and at home--appropriate for this Veteran's Day.
Mentioning familiar places like Ensley and Crestline Village, the book took on a local feel, although Birmingham's racial past is nothing to be proud of. In fact, I was appalled that in the memorable past such things happened as Norris describes in the book. I haven't been to our Civil Rights Institute in years, but this book has inspired me to go back soon, if nothing else to pay homage to those who lived through such horrific times and to remind myself that issues of race in the South are still present in more subtle ways.
Somebody Told Me by Rick Bragg
I recently discovered Rick Bragg, a Southern author who has written for a series of big newspapers, including the New York Times, in addition to writing memoirs. Somebody Told Me is a compilation of some of his best news stories, covering all sorts of injustices and human interest stories from the '90s. I have to admit that I skipped the chapter on Susan Smith (I just couldn't stomach them with a child on the way), but the rest of the stories were fabulously written. The chapters are divided by topic (race relations, aging, school-age children, etc.) and each chapter has a handful (or two) of 2-3 page stories, making it easy to slip in a quick story any time of day. I highly recommend this book, although beware: most of the stories are sad ones and some will make you downright angry.
The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan
My friend, Christen, recommended this book to me, and, while I'm typically a writing snob when it comes to Christian literature, I have to say that this one was actually fairly well written. Unfortunately, I read this book several months ago and since I borrowed it, I didn't get the chance to underline and interact with the text like I usually do, so my memory of this book is in broad strokes at best and won't do it nearly enough justice.
As the title suggests, the book is about theSabbath, but more than just the day-of -the-week kind of Sabbath; it's about slowing down life, taking time to gain perspective, carving out moments for various kinds of rest, taking time to see God in the moments of our lives. Buchanan steers away from a do's and don't's list for what a Sabbath should look like and instead asks this question: is what I'm doing life-giving or life-sucking? If it's life-giving, then it is a Sabbath (day or mindset) activity. So, what might be life-giving to me (writing) could be life-sucking to another. Or what might be life-giving to my husband (yard work) might be life-sucking to me. I liked taking time to contemplate what in my life is life-giving and finding so many different ways to experience Sabbath rest.
So, that's what I've been reading. What have you been reading lately? Any books I need to add to the stack on my bedside table?