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June 2018 Reading List

Below are the books I read in June in the order I read them. Summer has been too busy with short staffing for the July 4th holiday, my birthday and getting sidetracked on some super cool genealogy discoveries and research on the history of our Rock House. More on that later. Meanwhile…the books!

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel – I kind of skimmed it fast and should have tabled it for another time, because I did enjoy it. The writer was recommended to me by my niece, and this was the first title of hers available at the library. It was part of a series but that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of it. It was pretty graphic / gory at times which I like. But, like the two other mystery books I’d read in February by Jane Jensen, there was some cringeworthy “romance” that seemed contrived. I’ll probably read another one of hers and hope she skips the random, out-of-the-blue, Skin-e-max sex scenes.

Animal Farm by George Orwell – A classic I hadn’t read since junior high. Holds up. Good stuff. 

Grant by Ron Chernow – So long, but so good. I got 1/3 of the way through before it expired and I had to get on the waitlist. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law bought me my very own hardcover edition which I’ve picked up in late July. The first 1/3 already had me so in love with Grant, especially after I learned that the other cadets at West Point teased him because his given name, Hiram Ulysses Grant, spelled out the itinitials H.U.G. Awww! And now that’s all I wanna do is give him a posthumous one. ‬ Because of that teasing, he preferred to be called Ulysses but the kids twisted that into calling him “Useless Grant”.  Kids, man. Kids. I got through Shiloh and just before his showdown with Robert E. Lee. Very engrossing and educational. I’m enthralled.

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson – This should be required reading. Till was kidnapped and brutally killed by a group of white men in 1955 at age 14 for allegedly whistling at a white woman*. The injustice and brutality of it all will break your heart and enrage you. The past isn’t so far behind us at all. The book is very, very good and very, very upsetting. It’s powerful; an incredible historical account & indictment.

It’s also a wonderful profile in courage of Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. Her love, bravery and political savvy has assured her son won’t be forgotten. Do her the honor and never forget her boy.

The white woman at the center of it all, Carolyn Bryant Donham, is now 84 and lives in Raleigh, confessed to the author that Emmett had lied during the investigation and trial. Tyson interviewed her two times for six hours total. That the author got this admission is remarkable. Of course we all knew she had lied but to hear it directly from her and so plainly? Wow. Jaw dropping. 

For the week after I read it, I could hardly think of anything else, telling everyone they must read it. I even posted about it on Twitter on July 11th imploring all to read it and telling other Twitter users about the details. Then, the morning of July 12th, the Justice Department announced they were reopening the investigation in light of “new evidence”. Surely that new evidence is the woman’s confession to the author, but really it reeks of a political show by the racist Trump administration

*The whistling part is a little unclear –some witnesses say he never whistled, while others,  including his cousin, say he did– but obviously that is no cause for the brutality. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Simply gorgeous. My stars! Another departure for me in choosing historical fiction and I’m so glad I read it. It’s set in Europe during WWII  and tells the parallel stories of a blind French girl and a German boy made to join the Nazi Youth. Their paths cross but it’s not contrived. It’s not forced. It’s gorgeous.  

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig – it gets rave reviews on GoodReads.com but I’m on the fence. It’s about an autistic 14-yr-old girl named Ginny Moon, duh, who bounced around in foster care before being taken in by a forever family. There’s some mystery in the why and how Ginny was separated from her real mom and she’s obsessed with how her baby doll is doing. From the praise and my limited experience, Ludwig has really nailed autism and the way Ginny’s mind works. I was frustrated, impatient and got angry a few times, too, which certainly means I was engaged and invested in the story. Ultimately, I was so glad when I was done as the story was stressful and became tedious. This probably means I’ve made the right choice by not having kids! LOL! That said, I absolutely loved the character Eleanor Oliphant from the book Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine which I’d read earlier this year. Eleanor is also on the spectrum and the book also has a bit of intrigue, but with so much more heart and soul and believability. If presented with the two, I’d choose the latter.  

I Was Told There’d be Cake by Sloane Crosley – Did not finish. A collection of short stories / essays and well written and funny but right now the world is on fire, and I feel like I need to feed my brain with more important things right now. I enjoyed essays on her family’s potential move to Australia and a pony collection from ex-boyfriends. She then wrote about what she’d described as the worst move in NYC. But her getting locked out of the same apartment twice really didn’t measure up as all that bad, and I put the book down after that. Sometimes you need to eat some fish and veggies and this book is more fast food. With my head filled with Grant, Civil War and Civil Rights…this just felt too frivolous to enjoy in the weeks leading up to the Midterms. 

Eyes on the Prize (PBS) — Okay, this is not a book but a 14-part documentary by PBS that originally aired in 1987. It’s an incredible piece of work about the Civil Rights movement and race in America. The first part chronicles 1954–1965, including the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Selma marches, and more. The first episode actually covers the murder of Emmett Till in which I was now fully educated, and it was just as devastating and worthy of all the tears and rage. Each episode is at least an hour long so I opted to watch this and put down the books for a bit as I waited for “Grant”. (Poor Mrs. Grant, now I know how she feels.)

The first part (6 episodes) should be part of classroom discussions. It’s so thorough and includes then current interviews with key figures. I wish I were an educator so I could introduce this to my students. I’d be especially keen to show this to students at my alma mater Richland High School and note that the school mascot The Rebels with a Confederate flag was chosen by students and passed by the board in 1961, a veritable “F you” to the Civil Rights movement. Those students, their parents, the school board and, well, everyone should be ashamed of that hateful legacy they saddled on us.

ETA: Well, well, well, per the Wikipedia page they made an educational version of this in 2006. Good.  

Click here to read my June Booklist
Click here to read my May Booklist
Click here to read my April Booklist
Click here to read my March Booklist
Click here to read my February Booklist
Click here to read my January Booklist

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