News of the World: the news is good

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

3 words: thoughtful, direct, touching

The book I keep recommending to everyone I see? It’s this one.

The primary reason is: characters. The two main characters are fascinating, decent, complex humans, and their developing friendship completely absorbed me.

We’re looking at historical fiction here, with a touch of Western. One character is an elderly widower who travels around Texas, reading the news of the day to audiences. And the other is a 10 year old girl, abducted by the Kiowa four years earlier and now being returned to her family against her will.

And they hit the road together.

There are relatively few pages here (it’s only 240 pages long), but there’s so much story.

It’s quiet, it’s dramatic; there’s introspection, there’s action.

A perfect gem of a book. Get near me, and I’m handing you a copy.

Give this book a whirl if you like… intergenerational friendships, well-chosen words, 19th-century America, intersection of cultures, journalism, Native American culture, widowers, Civil War veterans

What book is making you borderline obnoxious these days?

Bite Size Reviews: End of Summer Edition

We’re keeping it brief this week, because vacation!

A couple of quick notes about books I read and liked during the final days of summer…

 

32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line by Eric Ripert

3 words: enthusiastic, coming of age, honest

Commentary: So grateful to Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm, who sent me this audiobook. It was sheer delight to listen to Ripert’s story as it carried me away from my commute.

Give this book a whirl if you like… workplace memoirs, chef’s lives, stories of painful childhoods, reading about achieving mastery of a skill

 

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

3 words: witty, sociological, self-deprecating

Commentary: Here’s the quote I can’t stop thinking about. Here, Koul is writing about women being watched by men.

“It’s such an ingrained part of the female experience that it doesn’t register as unusual. The danger of it, then, is in its routine, how normalized it is for a woman to feel monitored, so much so that she might not know she’s in trouble until that invisible line is crossed from ‘typical patriarchy’ to ‘you should run.’” (p. 171)

Give this book a whirl if you like… occasionally piercing observations about society, a feminist viewpoint, essays that are sometimes humorous and sometimes pointed, views of a young 1st-generation Indian-Canadian

 

What’re you all reading as this summer winds to a close?

Bookish Tourist: The Novel Neighbor

The Novel Neighbor bookstore, Webster Groves, Missouri

3 words: blissful, lucky, jubilant

During a recent long weekend in St. Louis, the Dear Man and I spent one of the best days ever.

It included a kitschy antique store visit, Route 66, a fast food restaurant we checked off our list, the Daniel Boone home, another fast food restaurant we didn’t expect to see (where we ate amazing donuts), an iconic bookstore, life-changing pizza (at our 78th pizza place), and the Gateway Arch.

Making a purchase at an antique store on Route 66

 

Hello, Tim Hortons!

Of course we’re gonna focus on the bookstore, partly because this is a book blog but mostly because It Blew Us All Away.

I learned about the Novel Neighbor from the What Should I Read Next podcast, where Anne interviewed Holland Saltsman, bookstore owner and reader extraordinaire (and they even taped a live show there).

On one of the episodes, Holland raved about The One-in-a-Million Boy. I’ll be forever grateful for that.

And when we visited her fantastic bookstore, I fell head over heels in love with it.

I was seriously in a blissed-out daze.

This bookstore is intensely comfy and cozy, yet it’s also wide-ranging and it just keeps going. And there are delights around every corner!

Here’s what I bought (minus one gift I bought for a friend)…

I selected the book Tell the Wolves I’m Home from the “Holland’s Favorites” shelf because I trust her like that. I bought a book I’d never heard of, simply because I trust her taste. (I adore shelves of staff picks!)

Oh, my goodness, dear readers. If you’re ever in St. Louis, I sure hope you stop by the Novel Neighbor. It’ll bliss you out, too.

My fellow bookish tourists… what’s your best bookstore experience?

Inspired: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

3 words: inspiring, youthful exuberance, triumphant

If I’m having one of those pitiful days when I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, thinking about this book will pop me right out of it. Not because it guilts me that my problems are actually darn puny, but because this story’s as inspiring as all heck.

William Kamkwamba and his family and his village in Malawi faced hardships (think: near starvation in a drought year), and “he started retreatin’ and readin’ every treatise on the shelf.” (OK. That’s actually Hamilton, but: Same Concept.)

He had a fascination with science and a yearning to learn and a scientist’s mind. And he writes lovingly of the books he’d check out over and over again from the small school library, so he could learn about physics.

And then he decided to build a windmill.

(Side note: these rhapsodies about reading and windmills and learning occasionally had me verklempt.)

And to build the windmill, he had to work for it. There was garbage scavenging for parts like the soles of shoes — just to hook up a tiny lightbulb so he could read after sunset. (We can understand this, can’t we, readers?)

And then he dreamt of using windmills to pump water to help alleviate the ill effects of dry years.

From starvation to science. This is seriously inspiring stuff.

Give this book a whirl if you like… stories of hope in grim circumstances, the quest for learning, self-sufficiency, perseverance

What book has most inspired you lately?

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

3 words: smart, thoughtful, emotional

Anyone else ever save a book you know you’re gonna love? And then read it as a treat?

This is one of those.

I’d heard rave reviews, and I knew the incomparable Lin-Manuel Miranda reads the audiobook, and I’m happy reading realistic teen fiction (as long as it doesn’t involve death), so I was pretty sure I was gonna love this book.

And I did.

Even if there hadn’t been the subtle, heartfelt narration by Miranda, this book’s sweetness and intelligence would’ve been evident on the page.

Ari is a teenage boy who’s never had a close friend until he meets Dante. The story of their unfolding friendship is charming, and so are the close relationships they have with their parents.

They’re teenage boys who don’t fit in with others, but isn’t that the way all teenagers feel? So there’s some serious universal understanding right there. I recognize these characters.

Ari’s first-person narration puts us right there with him, and he’s a fascinating person to hang out with and his voice is true.

I’m tempted to say that this book is emotionally honest, but it’s interesting: Ari is in complete emotional denial about aspects of himself. But the book itself is honest and wise. And eventually Ari gets there, too.

Give this book a whirl if you like… LGBTQ stories, coming of age, endearing teens, stories about friendship, Mexican American family stories, teen angst, and family secrets

What’s the best teen novel you’ve read lately?