I’ve actually been doing some reading these days – not all that usual anymore, with my schedule. Nothing weighty and important, but some good books nonetheless. Here’s a list of what’s been keeping me awake at night:
The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan: yes, I borrowed them from One and dove in, in part to console myself for having to miss the movie, since by all reports (including Kate’s) it was terrible. The books are anything but terrible. They’re exciting and fast-moving; I can see why One and his friends devoured them. More interesting to me are the messages implicit in them. The books make it clear that no matter what position you’re in, you never back away from a challenge. This is great stuff for kids to hear – boys especially in this day and age. The books also present a complicated and interesting picture of parent/child relationships. Someday when I have some free time (!) I want to have One write down for me whether he thinks those relationships are portrayed positively (overall) or not, and his examples for that conclusion. I think it would be an interesting exercise for him, especially since he’s getting to the age when he’s going to start asking that question about his own relationship with us. My conclusion? Overall the parents come off quite well in these books. There are some duds, but most of them seem to love their children and help them, given the constraints that bind them. For the parents in the books that are Olympian gods, this means “hands-off” most of the time – but when a child is in need even these parents manage to come up with a helping hand, even if it doesn’t look like that to the child at the time. I don’t want to be a spoiler and give lots of examples, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan: I just started this, egged on by One and his love of the young adult version. Interesting stuff – and yes, I am ready to learn more about where my food comes from. I want to know because I’m perfectly willing to change where I get what we eat; I’d just like help knowing how to start.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley: This is a recommendation from Melissa Wiley (who you should all read regularly, like taking vitamins), and it is indeed a good one! I already have the next book in the series waiting in my Amazon shopping cart. A mystery with a young girl as detective: she makes some wild mental leaps to get to the solution, but overall those only add to the fun of the book.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane: Another mystery, even better than Sweetness. The story takes place in two time frames: the 17th century, during the Salem witch trials, and modern times, where a Harvard PhD candidate is researching colonial American history. There’s mystery and danger in both story-lines, and the end is an explosion of “oh my goodness, I didn’t think it would resolve itself like that!” Fun fact: the author, Katherine Howe, is from Houston.
Midnight Fugue: This is the latest from Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series, a detective series as old as I am. It was as excellent as all of the books this long series are, and I would recommend the series to anyone who loves a good mystery. The character development over the life of the series has been one of the most fascinating parts of these books, but that doesn’t taken away from the fact that these are A-1 mystery stories as well. You could pick up any of them and enjoy it, or you could start at A Clubbable Woman and read forward, and wrap yourself into the lives of some fairly interesting characters.
On deck: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I've owned the former for years and never gotten around to it; the latter is a James Lileks recommendation.