A Year in Books: February
Hello, beloved friends! I was concerned this reading goal of mine would deteriorate rather quickly, but lo and behold, here we are in month two of A Year in Books! A little late, yes, but nonetheless, the existence of this blog post is a pleasant surprise. ;) Here are this month's three brilliant reads:
Milk and Honey
by Rupi Kaur
In a nutshell: This collection of poems follows the author through four seasons of life: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing.
This ephemeral, entrancing piece of art is something special. Milk and Honey is a compilation of poems and doodles that work in tandem to depict the anguish and reconciliation the author has experienced. Kaur takes the written word and strips it down — leaving behind only the most meaningful, most essential lines. I was astonished by Kaur's ability to create such tremendous impact with so few words — there is beauty, clarity and vulnerability in the simplicity of her text. Some of Kaur's verses are open wounds, others are celebrations of healing, others screams of anger and betrayal. Milk and Honey is a quick read, but each one of Kaur's poems punctures your heart. This is a book that I’ll read over and over again in admiration of Kaur’s poetic prowess.
I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in poetry. But be forewarned, I’ve heard the reaction to Kaur’s work is extreme — either you love it or you hate it. But, to quote legendary designer Tinker Hatfield in Abstract, “If people don't either love or hate your work, you just haven’t done all that much.” ;)
A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman
In a nutshell: A grumpy old man who misses his late wife slowly warms up to his new neighbors.
Hooray for my first fiction book of 2017! And what a delight it was. A Man Called Ove is the endearing account of Ove — a cranky old man who has been "grumpy since the first day of second grade.” This short-tempered curmudgeon is quite the character; he "points at people he doesn’t like the look of, as if they were burglars and his forefinger a policeman’s flashlight.” At first, I was distracted by Ove's all-consuming despondency. But, by the novel's close, I found myself wholly captivated by the charms of this grouchy old man.
Backman’s lyrical writing is exquisite. I am in awe of the effortless way he affixes words together. Backman’s text crescendos when Ove recalls moments with his late wife. Here, he describes her laughter with such light and animation:
“She laughed and laughed and laughed until the vowels were rolling across the walls and floors, as if they meant to do away with the laws of time and space. It made Ove feel as if his chest was slowly rising out of the ruins of a collapsed house after an earthquake. It gave his heart space to beat again.”
Backman weaves together this story of love and loss so perfectly. One of my favorite passages from the book is this superb analogy on love:
"To love someone is like moving into a house… at first you fall in love in everything new... But as the years go by, the facade worn, the wood cracks here and there, and you start to love this house not so much for all the ways it is perfect in that for all the ways it is not. You become familiar with all its nooks and crannies. How to avoid that the key gets stuck in the lock if it is cold outside. Which floorboards have some give when you step on them... That's it, all the little secrets that make it your home."
When Ove’s wife died, “she left [Ove] alone in world where he no longer understood the language.” As I read Ove’s heartbreaking, tender story of loss and love, I witnessed his crabby exterior come tumbling down. I started to feel empathy for this character. When I finished the book, I found myself misty-eyed by how this cranky man lived his life and affected those around him. This novel is a sobering reminder to be kind to others.
I’d recommend A Man Called Ove to anyone who is looking for a feel good novel. It is the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day, when you need a bit of sunshine and charm to illuminate your day.
by Orson Scott Card
In a nutshell: An impending attack from an alien species threatens to destroy the earth. Enter Ender Wiggins, who is called upon to train with the world’s brightest children in Battle School in order to save the world from decimation. Throughout his training, Ender is given a series of increasingly difficult games to prepare for war.
My friend Enders was kind enough to lend me his namesake book this month. In hindsight, I should have realized he might have been slightly biased when he told me this was his favorite book — haha! Just kidding Enders, thank you for your generosity. :)
Although I've heard praises sung to the moon for this novel, I thought the plot was rather predictable — the fate of the world rests in the hands of a brilliant child. There seem to be so many of these "kid saves the world" books, and oftentimes, they feel like variations on a single theme. Ender’s Game had a relatively creative storyline and a minor plot twist at the end, but I wasn’t surprised nor emotionally affected by anything that happened to Ender. Compared to other books that I’ve read thus far, I felt that Ender as a character was not as fully developed. With Ove in A Man Called Ove, with Dr. Kalanithi in When Breath Becomes Air, even with Chip and Joanna Gaines from The Magnolia Story — I cheered for their victories and grieved for their defeats. With Ender, he was genetically-engineered to be a genius. I wanted to understand Ender on a deeper level, but struggled to find moments of vulnerability in which I could do so. This book seemed to be much of the same, with Ender winning, Ender challenged but still winning, Ender being exposed to violence but still winning, Ender being hated for winning, but still winning.
I do commend Card for conjuring up such an elaborate world. He added layers of intricate detail to a story that could have been more simply told. I can understand why this bestseller made the leap to the silver screen, but ultimately, it wasn’t for me. However, I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in science fiction. Though the book is targeted towards younger audiences, it is worth a read for sci-fi lovers of all ages.
Thanks for reading, friends! ’Til next time.