Maybe it was the pneumonia that kept me up nights this last week, but I have now read five books (adding up to more than 1500 pages) this year! I am quite proud of myself, especially because the books weren't all easy reading--I really had to focus :) I've already posted on the first book, The Imp of the Mind, so here are my thoughts on the other four I've read:
1. Charlie's Monument by Blaine Yorgason
I had such fond memories of this book from my readings of it during my tween years that I was hesitant to pick it up again. But, since the sisters in my ward wanted to do it for our Enrichment book club I acquiesced. I have to say, I wasn't surprised that I liked it when I was twelve. The melodrama of a frontiersman born with one arm and crippled legs seems ready made for teenagers--which in fact it was (more on this in a moment).
I admit to being torn as a reader. The literary, college educated part of me really didn't like it. The language and the overall craft was so poor I spent more time wondering about how doctrinal it's overall message was than about teh actual story. The other part of me, the emotional, I-never-get-any-sleep-and-I-could-use-a-little-pick-me-up part, REALLY liked it. I was surprised to find myself cheering when he got the girl, a little weepy when Charlie's kids died, and strangely satisfied when I closed the book 27 minutes after I started it. Something in me really liked the idea that even though the odds were against this kid, he found a way to make his life a success and that he still mattered to people. Poor writing aside, it really struck a chord.
The truly interesting part of the book was the afterword where Yorgason talked about how the story came to be. Turns out it was inspiration for an especially needy Seminary class he was teaching. The crazy part is that, unbeknownst to him, it was a true story. One of his grandparents was born crippled and lived a life remarkably similar to Charlie's, even building a monument out of rocks on top of a hill. The manuscript miraculously survived a flood (when nothing else of Yorgason's did) and even though it was originally self-published has been selling copies ever since. The persistence of the book seems to be a testament to the ideas embodied by it's title character.
2. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
This was such a good book! I really enjoy Oliver Sacks and like every other person to reveiw the book thought it was a perfect marriage of subject matter and author. The only thing I found myself wishing for was a cd of the music he references. Knowing what the music the patient's had been listening to really would have enriched the reading experience.
3. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Patricia Karamesines, a contributor at A Motley Vision, reviewed this book and, since I am often intrigued and moved by what Patricia writes I decided to try this one. It was quite enjoyable. I read it during the worst night of my pneumonia and it was a welcome distraction from my(literally) rib-cracking cough. I found Enna a likeable character and enjoyed seeing her grow and learn throughout the novel. I especially appreciated Hale's willingness to let Enna struggle and make poor decisions. Since it was teen fiction I expected a sticky-sweet, happy ending--which is exactly what Hale delivered.
The most interesting thing for me though was the metaphorical possibilities of Enna's fire abilities. I have to say that I found her description of burning akin to my own feelings about depression. I should clarify that I am mostly the angry/anxious type of depressed person and my most depressed moments usually involve yelling and breaking things. Enna's assumption that she could control her fire while giving in to it, and it's eventual consumption of her helped me view my anger in a new light. Hmm . . . this seems like it could be a post all on it's own.
4. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume 1 by B. H. Roberts
This has been my favorite book so far this year. I found it absolutely readable, interesting, and, honestly, a page turner. It's unfortunate that this set is out of print because it is chock full of fabulous stories from Church history. The most interesting things to me were the chapters on the history of the Danites, Jospeh Smith's prophecies about the destruction of Missouri, and the "other psychics" working and living aroudn the young Jospeh Smith. I especially appreciated Roberts' willingness to take on false doctrines and untruths spread by anti-Mormon groups. It really satisfied the intellectual part of my testimony and reminded me that intellect and faith are not always in opposition. Granted, the books are old and plenty of new research has come to light, but I still felt I learned a lot. I would really encourage anyone who has access to these books to pick them up.