17 January 2016

Book Reviews

I've had some issues with my blog and while cleaning it up, I found this post that I'd never finished. The following are brief book reviews of books I read over the summer.  I haven't picked up a book (or rather opened the library app on my phone) since then.

Gone Girl  by Gillina Flynn

Yucky!  I didn't finish it and wouldn't recommend it.  A student of mine actually told me to read it.  We were talking about John Green books and she said if I liked those, I'd really like this one.  Um . . . no.

I liked it at first.  It was a Grishamy crime story where the reader tries to solve the case of the missing wife.  About a third of the way through, it started to get weird and a little inappropriate.

We were driving to Vernal and I mentioned what I was reading to James.  He said, "Isn't that the creepy Ben Affleck movie?"  I had no idea what he was talking about because I often live in a bubble (at least where movies are concerned).  I looked it up and read a synopsis.  I put down the book and decided it was not worth my time.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

It's a classic.  It's short.  I read it in a couple of days.  I've read it at least once or twice before, but (spoiler alert) I totally forgot George kills Lennie at the end. I was sad.  I really wish they had found a place to live on there own and that Lennie didn't have to be in the situation he was in.  George was such a nice guy for looking after Lennie.  I'm not sure what came of George afterwards.  Did he go to jail?  Did he just move on to the next place?  I bet he never forgave himself for what happened.  Yet, he really didn't have a lot of options.  Did this take place during the Great Depression?  I kind of felt like the family in the Grapes of Wrath could have driven down the dirt road and past right by Lennie and George at any point in the book.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This really is probably my most favorite book ever.  I have read it several times, but not for years.  I decided to read it this past summer in anticipation of the release of Go Set A Watchman.  I was not disappointed by my rereading.

I think what I like most about Mockingbird is the independence and uprightness of Atticus Finch.  He is a wonderful father, a hard worker, an honest man, and an absolute defender of truth and integrity.  There really isn't any better character out there.

What I learn from this book is 1) to try and be just a little bit like Atticus.  Be brave, courageous, and upstanding.  If the world had more people like him, we would be a much better place.  2) Get along with people of all types.  It's totally ok to think people are different or maybe even a little weird, but you still need to be kind and respectful to everyone.  I think you can learn as much from the courtroom drama in the story as you can with Scout's interactions with her neighbors and other townspeople.  3) Ever neighborhood has a Boo Radley.  Be nice to them, too.  They might save your life one day.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” - Atticus Finch

"Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in." - Scout Finch

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

This book stressed me out.  I read a ton of reviews about it before and after I read it.  I'm not sure what I was supposed to get out of it.  I liked the style of writing and I liked that it had some absolutely hilarious parts in some of the flashbacks of Scout, Jem, and Dill.  It bothered me that Atticus was not the character I thought he should be.  I guess that's what Scout thought, too.

There was a lot of controversy about whether this book was actually even supposed to be published.  Was it an early draft of Mockingbird?  Was it unfinished?  I even read that some bookstores were giving refunds because people were disappointed.  Yet, I talked to one teacher at school who thought it was perfect.  Atticus was the "watchman" to make sure that people (of all colors) didn't get too much power too quickly or ruin what might be in their best interest.  I didn't really agree with her point of view.  I mostly agreed with Scout and was glad that she finally told her dad how she felt, despite the fact that is was really disrespectful.

I had a conversation with my Grandpa a few months ago.  I had mentioned something that I had read in the Salt Lake Tribune and he snapped that I shouldn't be reading that paper because it is "anti-Mormon."  I responded, respectfully, that I felt like the Deseret News tells only Mormon news and sometimes I needed news that was simply more than Mormon news.  We then changed subjects to something else. I share this example not to talk about newspapers, but to share an experience that shows how my grandpa and I have very different frames of reference.  I love my Grandpa and have the utmost respect and admiration for him, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with his political and social ideas.  He has 86 years of experience that I don't have, but I do have 13 years of experience in the public school classroom where I've grown to learn about and respect kids from all walks of life. I feel like (though this is a very minor example) reading only the Deseret News does not give me a very wide spectrum of thought (nor does the Trib, really, which is why I'm not talking about just newspapers here).  Through this experience, I felt a little bit like Scout and her relationship with Atticus.  The man who could do or think no wrong while she was a child, has changed.  Or perhaps he hasn't changed, but instead she has.  Nonetheless, their relationship, life experiences, and opinions of social and political matters have drifted apart and that causes tension.  Atticus is still very honest, upstanding, and respectable, but not in the same way Scout wants him to be.

I think I may have to read this one again this next summer.