Thursday, September 13, 2018

To Siri With Love, by Judith Newman

I loved this book because it brought me into the world of people who have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  It showed me how the world appears to them, and made me aware of how I could help to make their surroundings more comfortable or at least, not harder to handle.   You know that saying, walk a mile in my shoes (Elvis?)... this will get you a few hundred yards into the life of a person with ASD and his/her family.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

This book is a fun read for the traveller; I wish Zoe could have read it.  My mother has been to every one of the countries the protagonist visits except Morocco, and she greatly enjoyed the descriptions of the places and people he meets.  Arthur Less goes from New York City to Mexico, Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, and Japan. 

The author provides some highly evocative similies, such as:  "The driver works the horn like an outlaw at a gunfight" (India).  He describes fighting (and eventually conquering!) the VAT refund system.  He presents deep questions, such as "What does a camel love?  I would guess nothing in the world..."  He gives us hilarious lingual misinterpretations, such as "There is a fence in my book.  You are to correct, please," and "Six greetings, class.  I am Arthur Less."  (If you know German you may be able to understand what he actually said that lead to these bizarre translations.  My Mom has lots of German so I imagine she was howling over these.)

There is plenty of other material in this book that is not related to travel, such as the difference between comfortable middle aged and crazy youthful love, which is handled with wisdom and empathy.  A major theme is the aging of the first full generation of gay men to survive AIDS.  This matters to me because one of my best friends in high school was gay, and died of AIDS along with so many of his compatriots who became ill before they knew what was happening and why. 


Friday, September 7, 2018

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

This is a book I kept hearing about but was unable to read because it was always checked out.  When I finally got to it though, I had to agree with the general hype:  an excellent read (like Lincoln in the Bardo)!  It takes place in Shaker Heights Ohio, which is part of Cleveland.  I grew up in Ohio and my college roommate Elizabeth was from Cleveland Heights, located next to Shaker, so I knew about Shaker's existence and reputation (from Elizabeth: hoity toity!).  It was fun for me right from the start.

In the story there are a number of situations leading to various consequences, as happens in life.  We get to know the main characters and then see how they cope with the fallout.  You, the reader, might be ready to condemn the actions of someone, but then change your mind as you learn more about that person. 

Yep, the world is not black and white; the two families featured in the book are themselves complete opposites, yet they are attracted to each other too.  One of the main polarities is lifestyle.  One family travels extensively, living on the edge and rootless.  The other has major roots in Shaker Heights and lots of money.  I found myself considering which way I would prefer and why.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Alexander McCall Smith's Books

I wanted to let you know about this author, in case you are looking for some fun reading.  His main claim to fame is The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, but he's also written a series about people living in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I started reading the Scottish tales first, since I've been in Edinburgh and loved it.  I then moved to the No. 1 Ladies' series on audiobook.  The novels are read by a woman with a light accent which I assume is Botswanan, and it's lovely. 

McCall Smith is the sort of writer you should go to if you want to read about people and places that are interesting without being super edgy.  There may be crimes, but there will be no grisly descriptions or foul language.  His stories have more depth than "cosy" books, and are often funny and clever and full of interesting facts about, for example, Botswana and her people.  The books are positive without being smarmy.  Kindness is the order of the day and wins out over greed and cruelty.  It's a relief to read a book like this after, say, Dean Koontz's Intensity.

It is also lucky that McCall Smith is prolific, so if you like his work, you can spend many a rainy day enjoying his delightful style.  Be sure to have a cup or two of tea on hand, and maybe even some scones!