Books I’ve Read (or Heard) This Year, Part I
So I thought this would be a good time to go back over the books I’ve either read or listened to this year. I’m making a note of which ones I listened to via audio book, as the experience is quite different from reading.
I spend a lot of time driving for work, and I’m one of those people who prefer stories to music, most of the time at least. Though listening to audio books in the car has occasionally resulted in awkward moments at the drive-through, especially during poorly-timed salacious passages. More than once I’ve had to point out to the cashier that I was listening to LITERATURE.
Anyway, here’s the first installment of this year’s books, organized alphabetically by author.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah. Fiction. A Nigerian woman chooses between two possible futures: in America or in her home country. Lots of interesting stuff on being an African in the United States, and the complications of relating to both white and black Americans. Some wry humor that I enjoyed.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hyacinth. Fiction. A young girl in Nigeria confronts domestic violence and religious fanaticism in her own family.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun. Fiction. The Nigerian Civil War as experienced by one family who supported Biafran independence. The story shows how ethnic divisions made war inescapable but also that the new nation was almost certainly doomed from the start. I couldn’t help but feel emotionally invested in the complicated, admirable, but flawed characters. A painful and engrossing story though not without hope. Highly recommend.
Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye (Audio Book). Fiction. So for a long time I was convinced that I didn’t like Margaret Atwood. Recently I came across one of her short stories and realized that she is actually a good writer. In this novel a Canadian artist considers her past, and in particular the toxic childhood friendship that was a formative experience. Though the artist grows into a reasonably rewarding life, her childhood tormentor does not.
Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride (Audio Book). Fiction. Another novel about friendships, toxic or sustaining, among several women with little in common. Amusing, a bit horrifying at times, with lots of local Toronto color.
Margaret Atwood, Hagseed (Audio Book). Fiction. This is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (which I knew nothing about until I read this book), but it takes place in the inmate theater program of an Ontario prison. Very funny – or at least I thought so. Plus I learned a lot about Shakespeare. Highly recommend.
Edward Ayers, In the Presence of Mine Enemies. Non-Fiction. The American Civil War as experienced by two towns that lay in the path of conflcit: Staunton, Virginia, and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. This book covers the period from the 1850s through the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg. Lots of primary materials – letters, diaries, and home town newspapers – enables the reader to view historic events from a more intimate angle. The author emphasizes the experience of African Americans on both sides of the border.
Daniel Chamovitz, What a Plant Knows. Non-Fiction. Last year I started to get tired of gardening books (gasp!), so this year I’ve really avoided them. I made exceptions for this book and a few others, though. Chamovitz, a noted biologist, walks us through how plants experience their own version of the senses that we associate only with animals (sight, touch, smell, etc.). For more detail, here’s a review I wrote earlier this year.
Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy or dislike them?
More books to come.