Saturday, February 13, 2016

Some Fascinating Reads From Last Year (Inspired by Literary Agent, Nephele Tempest--and Isn't That The Best Name Ever?

Nephele Tempest wrote a post about her favorite reads from last year. Not those she represents, just ones she read for joy.

She has some fabulous ones. I recommend you taking a gander, over at

And of course, I had to take her up on writing about my own favorites. Unfortunately for publishing, many of them are from least year or earlier, but oh, do they smoke!

Some books are comedies, like Nephele's choice of "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry." I think of these as the perfect books to read when you're going through a divorce, or have a child in the hospital--enough meat and insight to give meaning, but you always know it will end happily. And though, like Nephele, I tend to skew female in authors I read, I'd put the Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett "Good Omens" in this category. It is without a doubt one of the funniest books I have ever read. I would also include Toby Barlow's "Babayaga," (another guy) and Christopher Moore's "Sacre Bleu." (Three guys, oy.)

I enjoyed the book "Hild" by Nicola Griffith, an exploration of Saint Hilda and got jealous of Saint Hilda's 7th Century, a world where, believably, women were expected to work, weave, bake, brew, plot and wield power side by side with the men we more often hear about.

Two books older books changed the way I look at the world. Both deal with the overwhelming horrors of the Holocaust--and you have to figure that any . One is called "Conscience and Courage" by Eva Fogelman; the other is "Shielding the Flame," an interview with Warsaw Ghetto uprising leader Marek Edelman, written by Hanna Krall. Fogelman, who participated in the research into bystander behavior, (those infamous--"would you torture someone if you were ordered to" experiments) became fascinated by those few who refused to follow orders, which lead to interviews and analysis of those who saved Jews during the war. Her insights are astounding. Edelman, who survived the Warsaw ghetto and was one of the young leaders of the uprising there--they held out for longer than almost every country in Europe--later became a noted cardiologist. I found his view of God and life to be earthshaking.

Right now, I'm immersed in research on Anna Leonowens and her King of Siam. "You just got another book about Thailand?" my husband asks, while I skip for joy--another book! Both Leonowens and Mongkut, historically, are vastly different from the way they have been presented in American culture via missionary Margaret Landon's "Anna and the King of Siam," and of course, "The King and I." Both straddle multiple cultures in ways we have not historically understood before.

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