Now that I’m back at work for the school year, my reading list is a little shorter than those summer months with endless reading time. Here are my three fall reads, all of which I recommend! (No, really I promise I’m reading Anna Karenina next!)
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, Barbara Demick: This nonfiction book tells the story of individuals born in North Korea, who ultimately defected to South Korea. Even though I’ve studied North Korea before, Nothing to Envy brough a personal touch to history and truly exposed just how desolate life is in North Korea, and has been for the past half century. The propaganda, brainwashing and control the North Korean government has over its citizens is inexcusable and it’s heartbreaking to read. Author, Barbara Demick clearly developed relationships with the subjects of her book and hours upon hourslistening to their stories and testimonies. I find history to be much more personal and understandable when told through individual’s stories. Demick does a great job sharing these stories with her audience.
State of Wonder, Ann Patchett: I loved Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, but didn’t love her previous novel, Run. My sister-in-law, Alden, raved about State of Wonder, which was published this summer, and she was right. This fiction story tells the tale of Dr. Marina Singh, who is sent to the Amazon to search for a missing doctor, Dr. Swenson, who has been researching a plant that is believed to extend women’s child bearing age. Dr. Singh also ventures to South America to find out more about the recent death of her co-worker. State of Wonder is a great read, that beautifully weaves together characters and shares a story with many different layers and emotions. A must read! Fiction at it’s best. This ones at the top of my “Favorites” list for 2011.
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller: One of my all-time favorite books is Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. I even used to offer it as extra credit for my World History students. Fuller, who has a gift for hilarity and poignancy in her writing, has chosen to focus on her mom’s (Nicola Fuller) story in her newest book. Fuller grew up in Rhodesia, during a turbulent time in the nation’s history, while her mom’s childhood was spent in Kenya. Her family epitomizes the colonial (British) farmer trying to live off the land in a nation where they are a minority. Fuller beautifully illustrates her mom’s unusual childhood, from her best friend, Stephen Foster (who’s a monkey) to her humorous experiences at Catholic school. Nicola’s adulthood is full of much geographic bouncing around, heartache, and even madness. My favorite lines of the book involve her mom referring to “that awful book” Fuller wrote. (She must be a good sport to have her life exposed in her daughter’s books!)