I am far and away a fiction reader, but this month the books I finished included a few genres I don’t explore as often: detective noir, biography, and spiritual memoir. It made for interesting shifts when I put down one book and picked up another.
What I’ve read lately:
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett: Gritty, brooding, and densely layered. I’m not sure I understood all the shadowy plot twists, but I came away with a great appreciation for Hammett’s wry humor and vividly original description. A sample:
…Noonan chewed a cold cigar and told the driver:
“Give her a bit more, Pat.”
Pat twisted us around a frightened woman’s coupe, put us through a slot between street car and laundry wagon—a narrow slot that we couldn’t have slipped through if our car hadn’t been so smoothly enameled—and said:
“All right, but the brakes ain’t no good.”
“That’s nice,” the gray-mustached sleuth on my left said. He didn’t sound sincere.
…It was a nice half-hour’s ride, with everybody getting a chance to sit in everybody else’s lap. The last ten minutes of it was over an uneven road that had hills enough to keep us from forgetting what Pat had said about the brakes. (p. 80)
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: James took a bit of a risk, buying me nonfiction for Christmas, but I found this gripping and beautifully written. I was flabbergasted at the rickety death-traps in which many American airmen risked their lives in World War II, and stunned by the inhumane treatment endured by Allied POWs captured in the Pacific. This is a story of surviving many things, and somehow scrounging up the strength to go on in the darkest possible places.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: I devoured this in a weekend, and I don’t remember the last time that happened. There’s a good reason this has been recommended to me for years. It’s touching, illuminating (I knew nothing about the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands), and delightful. I finished it and promptly handed it to my mom, who loved it so much she read it twice.
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey: This warmly written little book, which generated a lot of buzz in the blog world, was not quite what I expected. I am not spoiling for a fight on the potentially controversial issues it addresses, so I won’t take a stand on those. But quite apart from agreeing or disagreeing with her, I was surprised that the book was not more of a systematic argument in support of her position. It seemed to cheer on those who already agree with her or are ready to be convinced, rather than answering the objections of skeptics. This is not necessarily a failing; I had probably just misunderstood the purpose of the book. On the plus side, I greatly appreciated her desire to move past theological infighting to do some actual good in the world, and I thought her criticisms of women’s church ministry programs (what if you don’t like crafts or pink floral décor?) were spot-on.
Read anything great this month?