Books in Review Q3 2020

Let-us-not-waste-our-talents-in-the-cauldron-of-modern-nothingness-but-strive-to-become-women-of-intellect-and-endeavor-to-do-some-little-good-while-we-live-in-this-protracted-gleam-called-life

It turns out that getting a dog means that you get to walk a lot outside, which in turn means you can listen to more audiobooks. This is good because I am not currently commuting to work and I was missing that audiobook time!

Books in the order I finished them:

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness*
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
  • Girls Waits With Gun
  • Her Quiet Revolution: A Novel of Martha Hughes Cannon: Frontier Doctor and First Female State Senator
  • At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women
  • The Patron Saint of Liars*
  • How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind
  • Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes who Fought Them*
  • Wishtree
  • The Jane Austen Society*
  • David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants*
  • Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers in World War II*

*audiobooks

Educational

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness*

By: Michelle Alexander

Audiobook: excellent reader

What the author terms as “the new Jim Crow” is how mass incarceration and its racial bias, especially for minor offenses, takes an extreme toll on individuals, families, and communities. I found this book to be well-researched and informative on some of the complexities of our current justice system. And I really appreciated the look on how policies from both political parties have perpetuated and continue to create these problems and what we actually need to do about them. I recommend listening to and understanding the issues presented in this book. A reminder that you don’t have to agree with everything in a book to learn from it.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

By: Austin Channing Brown

This reads more like a memoir than an educational book but I’m putting it in this category because it provides insights and education on racial issues from the perspective of the author’s experiences as a black woman growing up in majority white schools and churches about the assumptions our society makes based on whiteness. It is a very quick and worthy read and I appreciated the author’s candor.

How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind

By: John Van Epp

Some years ago, a handful of friends and I signed up for a community workshop of a similar name through the Utah State Extension. This book was a gift from the class. I actually really enjoyed the workshop at the time and learned good info about healthy relationships, but I hadn’t ever read the book. Until now. Perhaps it was connected to me breaking up with someone this year, perhaps not. Perhaps I felt completely justified in breaking up after reading through this. While the title seems to indicate that people who don’t work out for us are just jerks, it actually focuses on how to develop strong and healthy relationships and how to know when something is not working for you (and yes, when someone is actually a jerk). It was an interesting read.

Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes who Fought Them

By: Jennifer Wright

Audiobook reader: great

This was a fascinating read, especially in our pandemic times. The book explores different plagues and pandemics throughout history and what helped finally overcome them or abated them significantly. If you’re pandemic-ed out, maybe don’t read this, but if you’re fascinated in how we’ve done it before and are doing it now with other serious “plague” type issues, then read it.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

By: Malcolm Gladwell

Audiobook reader: great

I just…really liked this book. From the book: “Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.” Consider reading if you need a dose of courage because something seems too big or overwhelming. You may have the exact skills you need to slay your giant.

Gospel

At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women

By: Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook

I’ve actually been working through this book of talks basically since it was published 3 years ago. It has been my study material for many Sundays and I love reading the talks and perspectives of female leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ since its beginnings. There are way too many things I learned to share them all here, but I did particularly like Francine R. Bennion’s “A Latter-day Saint Theology of Suffering.” These women are amazing. Highly worth your time and consider listening to the Latter-day Saint Women podcast that goes more in depth into studying the women behind the talks and their teachings.

Novel

Girl Waits With Gun

By: Amy Stewart

This is a delightful and fascinating novel based on facts from the real life of the real Constance Kopp, the first female under sheriff in the United States. A run-in with her buggy and a motorcar turns into a nightmare of stalking, brick-throwing, and threats. As Constance engages with the sheriff for help, she finds other problems she wants to solve. I love how the author wove what she learned from newspaper clippings into a fun read of this 1914 experience.

A great quote from the book: “I couldn’t understand how anyone would take hold of a stranger and pour out their troubles. But now I realized that people did it all the time. They called for help. And some people would answer, out of a sense of duty and a sense of belonging to the world around them…

“If I could give something to Fleurette…it would be this: the realization that we have to be a part of the world in which we live. We don’t scurry away when we’re in trouble, or when someone else is. We don’t run and hide.”

Her Quiet Revolution: A Novel of Martha Hughes Cannon: Frontier Doctor and First Female State Senator

By: Marianne Monson

If you read the introduction to this book, you’ll notice my dearest mother was one of the editors! She is amazing. As is Martha Hughes Cannon. Holy. Cow was she amazing. My mom and I both agree that Martha Hughes Cannon’s life is wild. How did one woman do so many things and pack so much life into her life? It’s almost unbelievable. Yes, this is a novel about her because she asked for her journals to be burned (curse her!). But there is enough evidence in other records to piece together a substantial idea of the life she lived. Her efforts to provide healthcare in Utah were grand, her love of her family beautiful, her devotion to the cause of women was remarkable. And she was the United States’ first female senator. Wow. Spoiler alert: the only thing I didn’t like is that the book ends just as she becomes senator, and I wish I knew more about that part of her life.

But I love this. “Martha’s life exemplified the words she once wrote in a letter to her dear friend, Barbara Replogle: ‘Let us not waste our talents in the cauldron of modern nothingness–but strive to become women of intellect and endeavor to do some little good while we live in this protracted gleam called life.'”

Sign me up. I want to be a woman of intellect and endeavor and do good.

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers in World War II

By: Liza Mundy

Audiobook reader: great

This is more a biography of a whole bunch of women–many, many women. These women were among 10,000 who were recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy to be codebreakers in World War II. Their jobs were classified and no one knew that they were doing incredibly difficult and meticulous work. As the author explains, their commitment to not sharing anything from their work, even all these years after the fact, nearly removed their whole experience and work from our history. But this author captures captivating stories of the women who provided an incredibly valuable work to win World War II. Note: the book can be a little tough to get through at times because it jumps through so many women’s stories, but it is worth getting all the way through it.

The Jane Austen Society

By: Natalie Jenner

Audiobook: yes, yes, yes. Read by Richard Armitage

Ok, so honestly, this is one of those books that I would love to just physically read because it has Jane Austen in the title and I know I’d whip through it. But someone recommended it because of the audiobook reader…so I had to listen to it and I don’t regret that. This is the story of the folks in Chawton (where Jane Austen lived) around the end of World War II. These varied characters all share a love of Austen and boy do they love her. Yes, somewhat predictable, but I did like this read.

The Patron St. of Liars

By: Ann Patchett

Audiobook reader: Just OK.

Ann’s writing has been recommended to me several times and this happened to be the first one available through the library when I went looking. I didn’t actually like it but I’m reading another of Patchett’s books now that I do like. This is the story of a married woman who escapes her life to live in a convent, intending to give up her baby. The story is told from the perspective of three different main characters, but they don’t retell it from their perspective–their subsequent tellings move the story forward. So it was interesting to see the different style, but I felt the main character Rose was a completely flat character and as I said, I didn’t really like it. I still finished listening, though because I HAD to know the end. Hate it when that happens.

Middle Grade

Wishtree

By: Katherine Applegate

This is a very quick read (it is middle grade after all) and heartwarming. It is told from the perspective of Red, the oak tree, who serves as a wishing tree where people tie their written-down wishes to her branches. When a new family moves in, not everyone is welcoming, and Red gets to work to help the situation. Quoth the oak tree: “It is a great gift indeed to love who you are.”

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One Reply to “Books in Review Q3 2020”

  1. Thank you for taking such care and time to share your readings. Curious about which Ann Patchett you’re now reading that you like. I want to like her writing, but just when I think I’m getting there, she ruins it with uncomfortable descriptiveness. I do NOT recommend Commonwealth but I did enjoy Bel Canto and The Dutch House. I’m prompted to read “Get Well Soon” based on your review.

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