38 books finished in 2016: My Name is Red

38 books finished in 2016

sets out to describe
complicated mysteries:
art, faith, and murder

This particular book, a selection for the book club which has mostly disbanded, was difficult to read (and I wish the book club was still around for further discussion). Though it was written in English*, it wasn’t written in a way that was hugely accommodating/accessible to Westerners. None of the cultural norms or foreign words/phrases were explained in any way. Obviously, I do not EXPECT this to be the case with books, particularly when I’m reading them specifically for exposure to foreign cultures. But the distance between myself and this book drew my attention to how frequently OTHER authors write in a way that accommodates Western readers. The rhythm of this book never became natural to me as a reader, and I am hugely aware of how much I do not understand about this culture. Thankfully, I have another book by this author, so I will have another opportunity to learn, but I also think it would be helpful for me to dig into some historical facts so I can better understand.

A little bit about the plot: it’s a murder mystery, set within a guild of manuscript illustrators/miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire.  Each chapter is from a different perspective – some were from the murderer, some from observers, some from the victims/suspects – which made for an interesting narrative.

*Did a bit of research and discovered that this book was TRANSLATED to English, which helps explain some of the difficulties in reading.

37 books finished in 2016: The Fire Next Time

37 books finished in 2016

WHY HAD I NEVER READ THIS BEFORE NOW? The things he was saying about our society, 50 years ago, are still mostly relevant, and that’s a shame. Honestly, the fact that I, a white person, hadn’t heard his words before, is part of the reason.

I wish I’d read the physical book, because there were many things I would have underlined, quoted, shared. But it’s probably better that anyone who hasn’t read this book does. The first chapter – a letter to his nephew – is beautiful and profound and terrible and seems to have been the core inspiration for Between the World and Me. The second chapter, though, was equally powerful – it tells a story of the time James Baldwin met Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. It was particularly fascinating to read this having recently finished The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

No haiku. Just a request for recommendations of other books that speak to the American story that don’t show up on required reading lists.

36 books finished in 2016: Tangible

36 books finished in 2016

I have no memory of this book, but I know I read it, and probably underlined things inside. It’s super short! It was assigned reading for a class at church, and I think I missed the meeting when we discussed it so I can’t even borrow the insights of others.

But hey, I support the premise!

(One of the most profound observations from this book project, over the years, is the discovery that I’m mostly uninterested in instructional books. It’s particularly profound because I feel like I have read A LOT of them in my lifetime, and it seems to be a very popular thing within Christian culture. But they are generally dull to me, and I’m much more likely to be formed/changed through stories – fiction, yes, but also through compelling tales of non-fiction.)

35 books finished in 2016: Just Mercy

35 books finished in 2016

This book was so good that I am tempted to change careers. The work Bryan Stevenson is doing with the Equal Justice Initiative is difficult and necessary, and the injustices described in this book are heartbreaking.

If you don’t have time to read this book (though it’s a compelling, fast read), I’d recommend watching Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th (on Netflix) for a similarly eye-opening and sobering experience.