Spring Reading

Thanks to a wonderful spring break trip to Miami, I had a little time to do some good reading.  I’m trying to take advantage of quiet moments, without a crying baby that needs my attention.  Word on the street is that life changes a lot once baby enters the world.

The President and the Assassin, Scott Miller: This biography documents the lives of President William McKinley and the relatively unknown anarchist who assassinated him, Leon Czolgosz.  If you were a fan of Erik Larson’s writing style in In the Garden of Beasts, then you will enjoy this read.  I love feeling like I’m reading a story but unknowingly digesting a big chunk of history.  McKinley is a president that we don’t hear about all that often and tend to brush over in U.S. History classrooms, but under his leadership, U.S. foreign policy changed entirely, as we became actively involved in China, Hawaii, Cuba and other foreign countries.  Also, the theory of anarchism is fascinating and Miller does a nice job explaining the ideas behind the anarchist leaders at the time and painting the picture of the clash between unions and big business at the turn of the 20th century.  All you history lovers should pick this one up!

Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Before we moved to Atlanta, I taught African Studies in D.C. and Baltimore.  This historically rich continent often goes unnoticed in our classrooms, yet there is so much to learn about it.  This novel takes place in a politically unstable Nigeria and is told through the perspective of a 15-year old girl named Kambili.  While this book is fiction, Purple Hibiscus offers a personal illustration of the long term effects of colonialism on many different aspects of an individual’s life, including religion, politics, business and wealth.  Even if you don’t know anything about Nigeria, this book is an easy read, full of beautiful prose and unique characters.  If you read Things Fall Apart in high school, check out Purple Hibiscus for another representation of the western world being haphazardly transplanted onto the continent of Africa.

I am the Messenger, Markus Zusak: I chose this young adult book because I recently devoured and loved The Book Thief, written by the same author. While The Book Thief was one of my favorite books of the last year, I am the Messenger was not as brilliant to me.  (I have now vowed not to pick up a book by the same author immediately after reading one of his/her other books.  I think it sets me up for disappointment.)  I found the story to be a bit far fetched, the main character being a 19-year old cab driver, who, after witnessing a bank robbery, is ordered by an anonymous person to do things for other people.  I just had a little trouble believing this one or suspending disbelief.  An interesting read, with a thoughtful message, but not at the top of my list.

Do you have any recommendations for me?  Of course I’m already putting together my (pre-July 3rd) summer reads wish list!  My sister-in-law, Alden, sent me Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe, so that’s next on my list.  It’s the first child-raising book I’ve dared to read and it’s very amusing and useful.  (Of course, the snob in me, loves the fact that she used to write for the Wall Street Journal.)

  1. Kate says:

    I always love your book review posts! I get some great reading ideas!

    I am just wrapping up Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open.” Sounds random, I know, but I’ve been wanting to read it since it came out like three years ago. I’ve always been intrigued by him, and I admit to a crush. Call me strange, but I just think he’s totally cute. His book is really well done, and I’ve learned lots of tidbits about his life and career that make this book about so much more than tennis. It’s one of those books that I’m kind of sad to see end – I think I’ll go a biography kick for the next little while. They’re just so fascinating!

  2. Betsy says:

    Thanks for rec, Kate! I will definitely check out “Open.” I love biographies.

  3. Jlal says:

    Just finished purple hibiscus! Sad and amazing.

  4. Jlal says:

    Also the author is the same woman from the Ted talk “the danger of a single story”

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