My Weeks in BooksI set out in 2015 with the goal of reading more diverse books. I found a #DiversityReadingChallenge to keep me on track, but it’s only six weeks into the year and I feel a little thrown off of the structured challenge. Mainly, in month two I am supposed to read a book with a person of color on the cover, but it turns out I read very few books with people on the cover! I haven’t given up just yet, though, and have been reading a wider range of stories.
- This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett is a book of essay by Patchett. I love her fiction but it turns out I like her essay writing only so-so.
- Frog Music by Emma Donoghue is about French immigrant circus performers in the United States and the relationship one woman forms with a woman who prefers wearing mens clothing and, sometimes, the romantic companionship of women. There’s way more to the book than that, but to be honest, I really, really struggled with Frog Music. About four-fifths of the way through I started to enjoy it, but that’s just not enough.
- I was such a fan of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion so I was very excited for his follow-up, The Rosie Effect. Where the first book really stuck with me and is one I’ve referred to repeatedly for a compassionate representation of a person with Autism, I found the second book very entertaining but forgettable.
- What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman was recommended to me by a friend and I loved it. In fact, I set aside all other activities and finished the book in only one day! Told through a lovely story, Wiseman explores asylums in the United States in the early to mid-1900s. Going to school in Athens, Ohio, I am very familiar with the lore surrounding The Ridges asylum there. The mere idea that people could be institutionalized at a whim is astounding. Although not exactly upbeat, I think stories like this one are important to educate people about the history of mental health treatment and the changing definition of mental illness in our country.
- Taking advantage of some of the alone time I bragged so much about, I listened to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson on audio while taking a nice, long walk. I think it’s good I listened to this book because the language was a little hard to follow and I suspect I would have given up were I reading it. That said, so many of our present day plot lines in television, movies and book are based on the basic storyline of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that I’m happy to be familiar with it.
- The first “assignment” in the #DiversityReadingChallenge was to read a book by an author of color. I chose The Bridegroom: Stories by Ha Jin, which is a book of short stories taking place in China just after the death of Chairman
Mao Tse-tung. I’ve never really been keen on visiting China, but sheesh! Jin paints a very unappealing picture. The Bridegroom: Stories did give me a better understanding of what people experienced in China during that time period (late 1970s - early 1980s) and the writing was beautiful but I am content just reading about the place.
- My attraction to A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois was the beautiful title, but I also learned a lot about life in the Soviet Union and Russia. (I’ll be visiting there right after I check out China!) What I like about novels that take place in other countries is that I learn about the world without having to do much research. duBois taught me more about Putin and the experiences of people during different political regimes in the Soviet Union and Russia. I haven’t quite decided if I’ll be passing the book on to others or not (my sign of a book worth reading), but I’m pleased to have read it myself.