Friday, December 31, 2010

Young Adult Books: Are they popular because they are easy to read?

Some young adult books are popular among adults. I have previously posted about this topic here and here. Now I would like to discuss another aspect of this popularity.

Books for adults are usually longer than young adult books, with more difficult language and more complicated plots and character development. Perhaps adults are simply not willing to do the harder work of reading adult books. I think this might be a big part of the attraction, and that troubles me. Our minds and our hearts can be enriched so much by reading the challenging books. Classics that have endured for decades or centuries deserve our consideration for what they contribute to the great conversation of literature. But these books tend to be more challenging reading. If collectively we can not even bring ourselves to read adult books currently written, how will we learn from the wisdom of the past?

I think adults that are spending most of their reading time focusing on young adult books would benefit from doing some introspection about why they are focusing their attention there. I have times when I find that I am spending too much time reading young adult or children's book, and I have benefited from seeking more balance. Even youth can benefit from the challenge of reading some of the books written for an adult audience.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Flight of Shadows

Imagine that genetic research had been done on you, before you were born. You are different from everyone around you. You are searching for answers. This is the situation Caitlyn Brown faces in Flight of Shadows. On the one hand, she revels in her ability to fly. On the other, it makes her a target. Follow Caitlyn as she struggles to find her place in the world.

At first, I didn't realize that this book was a sequel, and this may explain why I felt somewhat disoriented in the first few chapters. The world is well crafted, but it took me a bit to feel fully grounded in it. The book is clearly written from a Christian world view. The over-arching theme is an exploration of genetic research and its implications, and there is some biblical discussion by several characters.

I enjoyed this book. It was a quick, interesting read. It left me thinking about the implications of genetic research in a new way. I recommend this book to science fiction readers. I also recommend this book to those who are curious about exploring the arguments against genetic research. This book delves into the issue in a thoughtful, non-pushy way.

Go here to read Chapter 1 of this intriguing book.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin decided to spend a year trying to be happier. She gave each month a specific theme and came up with several goals for the month's theme. She began her project, not because she was depressed or unhappy, but because she didn't feel like she was as happy as she should be. She talks at the beginning of her book about using Benjamin Franklin and his self-improvement project as inspiration. At several points in the book she re-examines her goal of becoming happier, each time deciding that it is a worthy goal and that it is increasing her happiness. She is open about her successes and her setbacks.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I like reading about life "experiments" that other people try. Sometimes I get inspired to try some things myself, but sometimes I just enjoy the vicarious experiment.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about goals, experiments, or happiness. I recommend it to people who are feeling like they are not living life to the fullest.

If you want more information about starting your own happiness project, check out Gretchen Rubin's website here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Is it Something In the Water?" Article

I found an interesting article online about the proliferation of LDS authors in the science fiction and fantasy genre. Go here to check it out and see what you think.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Reading

Do you have a favorite book to read at Christmas time? Many people read A Christmas Carol yearly. The Christmas box is another common one. Many families have a tradition of reading the Christmas story from the Bible during the season.

The other day we began to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. My oldest daughter picked it out and we read the first couple of chapters in the car. Even my younger daughters are enjoying the story, although I am bit concerned that they may see the Herdman kids as inspiration. The story centers around the Herdman family. They are the meanest kids in town, and they end up with all the lead parts in the church Christmas pageant. The story is entertaining, and uplifting. It is also a quick read, making it great for families with limited time around the holidays.

Reading a specific book every year can be a great tradition, and can help us enjoy the holidays.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why join a book group?

People can have many different reasons for joining a book group. One of the book groups I was in for a few months was composed primarily of people that apparently joined it to motivate them to read one book in a month. They wanted to read fast, light reads. This didn't mesh well with my own reasons to join the group, since I was looking for more challenge. However, motivation to read is part of the book club experience. When you have a date that you are planning to discuss a book, it can help you continue reading a tough book.

Exposure to new genres and books is another reason to join a book group. Through book groups, I have read books I would have never picked up on my own. Sometimes I have found new favorites, and sometimes I have just stretched my experience. Which isn't a bad thing at all.

The discussions in a book group can help broaden your perspective and understanding of a specific book. There have been times that I have gone to a book group with a certain perspective on a book, and come away with a completely new perspective. What touches one person may not be what touches another. Meeting together to share thoughts and insights enriches us all.

I have met some amazing people through book groups. When you get to know each other by talking about the things you are learning about, you get to know each other in a unique way. Friendships can grow in a book group.

If you aren't skilled at agreeing to disagree, a book group is a good opportunity to practice. It builds speaking and discussion skills, if you participate. Book groups make you a better listener as well.

A book group can enrich your life in many different ways. Consider trying one out soon!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gone With the Wind

Most of my close friends and family know that I love Gone With the Wind. It is a book that I come back to year after year. In fact, I just finished reading it for the second time this year. I find that I see the book differently each time that I read it. I continue to re-experience some of my past insights, while also gaining new ones.

My opinion of Scarlett is complicated. I admire her brash ability to take on the world, even while I think she is being an idiot about the people around her. I have the same mixed opinions of Melanie. She is also naive about people, but in a completely opposite way from Scarlett. She is also a strong woman taking on the world, but she manages to do it within the rules of society. Rhett and Ashley offer the same kind of counterpoint, although they both seem to see people much more clearly.

I highly recommend Gone With the Wind. If you have only seen the movie, you don't know what you are missing. The book gives you more insight into Scarlett's character, trials, and motivations. Every character is more developed in the book. Yes, it is a long book. But what is contained in all those pages has made it an enduring classic. Don't miss out on this book great book just because it is long!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Author Highlight: Lemony Snicket

My oldest daughter has been tearing through the Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. I had read most of the books years ago, but stopped before the final books were released. As my daughter read the last few books, I read them too. The series is filled with unfortunate events, but they are often told in a humorous way. I had forgotten how somewhat unusual words are peppered throughout the book, with definitions provided. As a person who loves to play with words and learn new words, I found this to be a delightful diversion throughout the stories.

All told, we enjoyed Lemony Snicket's books, his clever way with words, and the adventures of the Baudelaire children. It provided several exciting discussions about choices, parents and children, and what it means to be a bad person. The books are a fun easy, read for both adults and children.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Year with Emily Dickinson

Poetry is such a different form of writing from prose, and there are often things that seem to be expressed more easily in poetry. Poetry does seem to take more effort on the part of the reader, and it often requires the reader to slow down enough to really take in the words.

Throughout 2010 I have read Emily Dickinson's poetry. My goal was to read at least 10 poems a month, as well as learn some things about her life. Most months I read many more than the 10 poems, and I have now finished reading my book of her poetry. It is titled The Collected Works of Emily Dickinson and in the front and back of the book it has essays about her poetry, a brief life sketch, and information about some of the other works that have been inspired by Emily Dickinson's work. For instance, Martha Graham choreographed a dance piece using one of Dickinson's poems as inspiration.

I have been inspired by some of Emily Dickinson's poetry, and I have enjoyed coming back to it each month. I think that next year I will do the same things with another poet or book of poetry, but I have not decided which one yet.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Minimalist Book Thoughts

A few days ago my husband sent me a link about minimalist living, which eventually led me to an article about Breaking the Sentimental Attachment to Books. I gave it a read because I have been thinking its time to weed out some of our books. It only took a few sentences before I was laughing. The author talks about the piles of books on every flat surface, which sounded quite familiar, but the mention of the two huge book shelves brought me up short. Two bookshelves? How huge? Did they span an entire wall? Or is she just talking about your average five shelf book shelf? Because this doesn't seem like that many books to me. The last time all my books fit on two tall five shelf book shelves was...never. When I took my books out of my parents house for the first time, they didn't fit on two bookshelves. And a lot of books have been added since then. Sometimes by the box.

After I calmed down a bit about the difference in scale between my book collection and the one mentioned in the article, I read the rest of the article. I did find it a helpful starting point for paring down the book collection. There are some good things to think about and ideas about evaluating what books to discard. But there is no way I am ever going to own only twenty books. I'm not even remotely interested in that.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Books Finished November 2010

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
Parenting: A House United by Nicholeen Peck
Parents and Children by Charlotte M. Mason
Righteous Influence by Lee Tom Perry
Servant of a Dark God by John Brown
The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille
The Dark Devine by Bree Despain
The Element by Ken Robinson
The End by Lemony Snicket
The Great American Staycation by Matt Wixon
The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner
The Limit by Kristin Landon
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket
The Writing Circle by Corinne Demas
Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

*These are books that I have finished reading. This list does not include books that I have skimmed. The list does not include picture books that I have read to my children, nor does it show all the other reading I have done. These books were finished in this month, but some may have taken considerable time to read, bit by bit.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book Quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes

"The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests: just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts."--Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sometimes I read simply for enjoyment or escape. But other times, I am touched by a book and the ideas it suggests to me. These experiences are what brings me back again and again. Classics tend to have the universal themes and broad ideas that inspire and enlighten me. I like to read them for more than just the enjoyment of the story. Classics broaden my horizons in a way that isn't possible with most current fiction. With a classic, I know that it has universal themes because it has stood the test of time.