Books Twenty-Seven to Thirty-One: First Five Summer Reading Books

Summer is starting off well for reading, but I know it's going to get tricky this week as we're moving apartments and as I'm starting an online class. But I'm committed to making it work! Here are my first five reads of the summer (books 27-31 of my year-long reading goal) with short-ish summaries (and yes, I added one that wasn't on my original list...I couldn't pass up the deal in a bookstore!). I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy this week as she shares about her summer reading progress! Check her blog out--you won't regret it.

BOOK TWENTY-SEVEN (1st Summer Reading book): What is the What by Dave Eggers. This is a novel recounting the true story of Valentino Achak Deng, who fled his home in what is now South Sudan the 1990s when it came under attack. One of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Deng's story is told in harrowing detail, a story filled with sorrow and yet with hope as he seeks refuge and safety, education and opportunities outside of refugee camps. The novel switches back and forth between his present day (at the time) life in Atlanta, and his life on the run in northeastern Africa. A couple of days ago I pulled up the news on my BBC phone app, and lo and behold, Valentino Achak Deng recently made the news in his appointment to the position of education minister in his home country. A little on the long side--and I'm not sure why this was a novel and not a biography--but informative and enabled me to walk in someone else's shoes in a unique way.

BOOK TWENTY-EIGHT (2nd Summer Reading book): The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang. I saw this book for half price in England; I'd recently set it down in a bookstore in Amsterdam after deciding not to buy it. (Great things come to those who (finally) exercise book-buying self-control!) This short book, translated from Korean, is a simple fable that is sweet, endearing, and heartrending. Sprout, a self-named chicken who is left for dead in a hole by a farmer, escapes the farm to make a life for herself elsewhere and realizes her dream of becoming  a mother. But her Baby is a duckling, not a chick... Themes of adoption, belonging, loyalty to "your people," home, and loneliness abound. Beautiful writing and illustrations.

BOOK TWENTY-NINE (3rd Summer Reading book): The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie KondoI LOVED THIS BOOK. OK, so it's a little "out there"--Ms. Kondo is, shall we say, obsessed with keeping a tidy house and has some strange rituals up her sleeve. There were a couple of things organization-wise I just can't bring myself to do (i.e. own 30 books only, keep my bookshelves in my closet) BUT there was so much in this short book that I cannot wait to apply to our life when we finally live somewhere more permanent than the past two years! Tidying, by Kondo's definition means totally decluttering, cleaning, and making a beautiful space to live in. I love her main rule of thumb for decluttering, which is to ask yourself the question, "Does this spark joy?" Yes? Keep it. No? Toss it. She says, "You'll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure." If you're looking to declutter and totally change your home, read this book!

BOOK THIRTY (4th Summer Reading book): My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner. I want a garden, but I have the opposite of a green thumb, whatever that would be. This short book's cover grabbed my attention at a used bookstore in Munich, and summertime in England seemed like the perfect time to read it. Warner lived in a home flanked by Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and though he is a little-known author, this is a sweet little book of his insights and reflections on gardening that, if you have any interest in gardening and dry wit and sense of humor, you might enjoy. "To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds, and watch their renewal of life,--this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfying thing a man can do."

BOOK THIRTY-ONE (5th Summer Reading book): Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. Ah, another Barbara Kingsolver novel. The more I read of her, the more I enjoy her writing style and the worlds she crafts, especially since her novels seem to take place in parts of the U.S. and the world that I'm not familiar with. This book takes place in the fictional town of Grace, Arizona, where Codi Noline returns to her childhood home to get back in touch with her ill and aging father, and tries to come to terms with her past. Codi encounters people who have changed, and people she wishes will change but who never will, all the while pushing against changes that are happening inside of her and all around her. After "seeing" the landscapes of Arizona painted in Kingsolver's prose, I am planning a trip out West for sometime in the next few years!