Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What I Read in June

Thanks to all that beach time in June, I had my best reading month in a long time. Well, it was only five books (the four pictured, plus one more), and I may have read most of them all in one week, but still, solid reading month for me.

I read some good ones this month, so let's get started.

The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson - I've been super interested in the idea of social evolution ever since reading The Origin of Stories last year, so when I found this one as staff recommendation at my local library branch, I was eager to pick it up. And I will say there was lots of fascinating stuff in it. He had a whole chapter specifically about the possibility of extraterrestrial life (very likely), what it would look like (probably bacteria), and whether interstellar travel will ever be possible (unlikely, if for the mere fact we'd immediately be killed off by any foreign planet's germs). I especially liked his discussion on group vs. individual selection, it's very interesting stuff. However, Wilson is absolutely an atheist (I think a better title for this book would be Human Existence Has No Meaning), and he has an extremely derogatory tone toward the idea of religion and belief. I found that very off-putting, because, well, first off, I happen to believe in God, and second, I agree with all of his scientific facts, but I wildly disagree that those facts lead to proof that there is no God (I find the opposite theory more plausible, obviously). So, only pick this up if you're willing to endure the barrage of criticism against faith of any kind.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber - I LOVED this book. Now, it wasn't perfect. As a literary sci-fi novel, I will say it was a bit weak on the sci-fi part of things. Especially reading this immediately after Wilson's discussion of what extraterrestrial life would look like, I found his alien planet and life to be very unbelievable. But whatever, it's fiction. The real power of this story comes not in the world-building, but in it's exploration of marriage relationships (especially long distance relationships), and the exploration of faith and belief. I loved seeing a literary book that treated Christian faith seriously and respectfully. It was refreshing, and thought provoking, and just really, really good. This is one I will be thinking about for a long time. (I wrote more about this book here.)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan - This one is just a lot of fun. I described this book to my husband as a more literary, more intellectual, more google-tech-nerd type of Dan Brown thriller. I super enjoyed it, even though I found part of the code-cracking plot a bit implausible. But if you can look past that, this is just a super fun read.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell - I will readily admit that David Mitchell is not for everyone. I can totally see how people don't like him, or don't appreciate his books. However, Mitchell hits a sweet spot for me, and I just find his books so much fun, in a super intellectual kind of way. I love that Mitchell is really a fantasy author masquerading as a literary writer. I love how he can inhabit any voice and genre with such utter perfection. I love the way everything connects, and you never know what detail is going to be important, or come up later (or in some other book). I will say that I didn't love The Bone Clocks as much as Cloud Atlas, but I appreciated how it fits in with his other works (everything connects between all his novels), and I will probably read every novel this man ever writes.

Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff - I love Liesl so much. Her books are such an awesome mix action adventure and simple profound lessons. She is so great at retelling fairy tales in such a creative way. And I especially like how her fairy tales are as much for the boys as they are for the girls. I blew through this one in a couple of hours, and I will say that at first I wasn't sure I was going to like this as much as Rump (that one was so much fun), but by the end I was totally sold. I can't wait to read these books with my boys when they are a little older.

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