I know it’s not Friday. My New Year’s Resolution this year is to be nicer to myself and others, so it’s awesome that I’m writing my Friday blog post when it’s barely Saturday.
Here are a few of my favourites among the books I’ve read of late:
Just astoundingly great. So moving, so beautifully written, wise and unforgettable. Desperately sad in its subject of violence and evil on myriad levels (it’s about a young man hiding from the Vietnam War in the basement of a San Franscisco welfare office while translating the diaries his mother kept during the Jedwabne massacre in 1941 Poland) yet it’s permeated by hope and goodness. Every poem resonates — this is what novels in verse should be. This is a book to be sipped slowly, many times over. Go buy it. It will break your heart wide open.
Another verse novel, this one for young adults. Beautifully written in multiple voices. Also sad in its subject matter — it’s about a young slave on a tobacco plantation — yet not despairing. Powerful and complex. If you like historical novels or verse novels, this one’s for you. Highly recommended.
I loved this book about an ant invited to dine with the King of Beasts and his many greedy guests. The characters are so fully drawn, the humour is wonderful, the illustrations are engaging, and somehow it gets a math lesson in there. (The book’s subtitle is “A Tale of Halving Cake and Eating It, Too.”) A great original folktale for kids of any age. (The effect of the cake shrinking and the obligations expanding works in the story whether the child gets the math or not. The math is just a bonus. It’s not everybody’s favourite bonus — yay, I got math! — but it’s an extra for those not satisfied by fun alone and those who feel they’re too old for picture books. Because you’re never too old for math, right?)
It sounds macabre — this is a true crime story about serial killer Joseph Vacher who roamed France in the late 1800s — but it reads like a really exciting history lesson. (The subtitle is “The Birth of Forensic Science.” The author is a medical journalist. It’s not salacious, it’s fascinating.) Intelligent, detailed, well-written. Anyone with an interest in the history of forensics, psychology, rural crime and detection might like it, as would anyone interested in psychopaths (and who isn’t interested in psychopaths?). I don’t like fiction about killers, and true crime is usually too creepy and exploitive for my taste, but this book was great.
And that’s it for this day-after-Friday.
Nothing like starting a new year off with a good book.