What We’re Reading This Summer

From Beth-Anne

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

Jacobs undertakes an entire year devoted to living as literally as the Bible prescribes.  Raised an agnostic Jew, Jacobs religious preconceptions are put to the test as he discovers the root meaning of biblical laws and a new way to look at the world.  Like with all of A.J. Jacobs writing, be prepared to laugh out loud and question some of your own ways.  Visit his blog for a taste of his writing.

The Alchemy of Loss by Abigail Carter

After her husband is killed at World Trade Centre on September 11, this young widow with two small children must navigate life as a single mother and come to terms with her new life.  Carter’s emotions are raw the first two years following her husband’s death, but she doesn’t hold back in this memoir.  After reading her reflection, I hugged my family a little closer because in a second it can all be taken away from you.  Abigail Carter writes a blog about widowhood, motherhood and raising teenagers.

50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I admit that I am struggling to get through this one.  I am too much of a pragmatist to get into the “romance” of it all.  I can’t stop thinking about who cleans up the Red Room of Pain?  Why doesn’t Ana have her own computer?  She’s a university English major in 2012 not 1995.  How can a virginal girl go from never been kissed to discussing the merits of anal fisting?  And really, if I have to read the words: jeez, oh my, crap, double crap and inner goddess one more time, I may gouge my eye with a pen.  Just sayin’.  (Side note:  Call me a quitter but I couldn’t finish it!)

From Nathalie

Two amazing books by Joseph Boydon, Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce.   These are books one and two in a projected trilogy about several generations of a Cree family from Moose Factory in northern Ontario.  What impressed me most about Three Day Road is how Boyden yoked the harsh conditions of trench warfare in WWI and the struggle for survival outside of the residential and reserve system to which his protagonist Niska refuses to submit.  That struggle to resist cultural erasure continues in the second book, and I found both of them simply riveting.

It would not be summer without a murder mystery!   I read Still Life and A Fatal Grace, two murder mysteries by Louise Penny, set in Three Pines in the Eastern Townships in Quebec.  These are the first two in a series of eight.  Penny’s books are an interesting read, because some of her characters are really quite unlikeable.  Of course, one is not supposed to like the murderer, but all of her characters have serious flaws.  This makes what could be a two-dimensional cozy murder mystery into a more jarring read.

Two books billed as the cure for The Hunger Games hangover: Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth.  These are young adult dystopian novels set in a world where the population is divided along lines of personality traits rather than colour or religion.  Addictive and perfect summer fun to share with the older kids in the clan.

From Carol

For the Time Being – it’s a kind of meditation on life and everything by examining seemingly disparate and almost disjointed topics, like the history of sand, the teachings of a Jewish mystic, and birth defects.  But it’s somehow lyrical and related, and I was surprised how riveted I was reading about sand.  It also isn’t a parenting book, which was nice.
There’s Lead in Your Lipstick – the subtitle says it all, really:  toxins in our everyday body care and how to avoid them.  Apparently, the average woman applies or spritzes 127 chemicals on her body every morning, including formaldehyde, coal tar, and lead.  The author also begins with a stunning revelation that she discovered she had breast cancer and had a masectomy while writing the book.
An Everlasting Meal – paraphrasing the author’s words, it’s a book about eating affordably, responsibly, and well, and since that requires cooking, it’s mostly about that.  It was modeled after a book by M.F.K. Fisher called “How to Cook a Wolf”, written in 1942 during wartime shortages.  Essentially a quiet celebration of food and eating.