It's that time again! I read more books this month than I thought I would. It helped that many of these were rather short and/or easy reads. Some books just take way more thinking than others. Most of these were not that type so I read quite a bit. Happy Halloween to those who enjoy this day!
The Places In Between by
Rory Stewart -- A book about a Scottish man's journey by foot through
central Afghanistan and the people he meets along the way. I was
impressed by some villages' hospitality, but mostly unimpressed by how
many treated a stranger among them and how they treated dogs and
donkeys! Rather neat story and way to "see" some remote parts of
Afghanistan just after the Taliban fell.
Paul: The Mind of the Apostle by A.N. Wilson -- see previous posts
Funny in Farsi by
Firoozeh Dumas -- "A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America" is a cute
story I happened to stumbled upon in the biography section of my local
library. Firoozeh was 7 years old when her family moved to California
for two years. This was before the Iranian Revolution and the family was
there because of her dad's work with a big oil company. She told how
nice the Americans were and her first impressions of their language,
foods and services. I laughed out loud when she and her mom went to the
store looking for "elbow grease" to help get out stubborn stains! The
family went back to Iran for a while, but came back to the US
permanently after the revolution. While Firoozeh mentions Islam,
Muhammad and being Muslim, she is quick to point out her family's
secular views and speaks of her father's love of ham (which he was able
to purchase and eat in Iran since they lived in a section developed by
the British) and her own marriage to a cultural Roman Catholic French
guy whom she met in the US. (Oddly, his mom never accepted their
marriage as of the writing.) I loved her talk of our lack of using
those guttural sounds, our lack of a billion names for relatives.
Cousins, aunts, uncles covers a lot of people in English whereas in Iran
they are each broken down specifically! Really cute book. I loved
seeing America through her family's eyes!
The Language of Names: What We Call Ourselves and Why It Matters by
Justin Kaplan and Anne Bernays -- the authors (a married couple) discuss
movie stars taking new names as well as regular people names, place
names and maiden names. Some chapters are of more interest to me than
others, but overall a pretty good book even though it was published way
back in 1997. A few tidbits:
"If first names whisper, surnames shout,and they often give misleading
messages. 'In daily life,' Mary Waters, a sociologist, reported,
'Americans routinely use surnames to guess one another's ethnic
origins,' but the conclusions they reach, based on folk knowledge of
what is a typical Irish, Italian, or Dutch name, deal only with the
father's ethnicity, ignore the mother's, and disregard mixed marriages,
mixed ancestries, and earlier name changes. Even so, beginning with the
first tidal waves of immigration, a surname could cut you off from
employment and social acceptance as effectively as a criminal record.
If it was O'Reilly or Epstein or Bertucci, your destiny was shaped in
the cradle. Some people with undesirable names went the pragmatic route
and changed them. Others, who couldn't tolerate the psychic wrench of a
name change, did not and often paid for their refusal in reduced
earning power and career advancement, although they may have slept
better at night than the name changers." (pg. 56)
"Smith is the ultimate catchall for linguistic naturalization:
it takes in Schmidt, Schmitt, Schmitz, Smed, Szmyt, Schmieder,
Smidnovic, Seppanen, Fevre, Kalvaitis, Kovars, Haddad, McGowan, and
other variants that in their original language mean someone who works
with metal." (pg. 52)
Granted this book is old, but when it was published in 1997 it
said this about Germany's naming laws: "'the gender of the child must be
recognizable from the first name.' Junior, Jr., and Jun. are verboten,
as are Hemingway, Jesus, and Woodstock as first names..." Under Hitler
there "was a list of first names to be used exclusively for Jewish
newborns" and those adults who were not readily identifiable by their
last names as Jews had to take "Israel or Sarah as a middle name." (pg.
"When a woman gives up her name at marriage, she's saying: 'While I'm
willing to relinquish a piece of my identity for the sake of this union,
I do not ask the same of you.'" (pg. 146)
Fried Eggs With Chopsticks
by Polly Evans - An English woman tells of her travels by sleeper
trains, buses, bicycles, taxis through parts of China. This book was
written in a much more humorous way than some other travel books I've
read. Almost like a comedy mixed with travel through China.
Thura's Diary: My Life in Wartime Iraq by Thura
Al-Windawi (almost 20 years old) tells of the few days before the war,
Thura's family during the initial days of war and such things.
Interestingly, things got worse for women as religious people started
making the women cover their hair and not celebrate Muhammad's birthday
at the mosque like she had all her years before. Also pornography became
much more commonplace. It could have just been the American soldiers,
but Thura "scolded" the Muslim-majority Iraqi people for this.
Life In Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine
by Scott Korb -- a library book that discussed war, homes, religion,
money, foods, bathing, respect and death in year one. Pretty
interesting! You can read a short interview about these topics here if you want.
Faith Under Fire by Roger Benimoff is "an army chaplain's
memoir" mostly about his second deployment to Iraq and the struggle he
had with PTSD and adjusting to normal family life upon his return. He
questioned how he could serve a God who would not step in to stop all
the terrible things and suffering in life. This book made me so sad
about the awfulness of war...all those killed and living with shattered
bodies and minds.
The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley -- I really enjoyed this book; see previous posts for more on it
Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo by Zlata Filipović
-- life just before and during the war as told by 11 and 12 year old
Zlata; it ends with the shelling continuing; I got to thinking that
Zlata is now 30 years old and wonderedhow she is now. Oh, I found this about her on Wikipedia.
The Bookseller Of Kabul
by Asne Seierstad -- a great book which tells about life in a fairly
well-off family; each chapter follows various family members' roles in
society and in their households. Makes me extremely appreciative for not
being part of that life.
Muhammad by Deepak Chopra -- a fictionalized biography of
sorts; each chapter is told by a contemporary of Muhammad - friends,
families, enemies; I got the book recommendation from Wafa's reading
blog - here is her review
Off The Map: Bicycling Through Siberia
by Mark Jenkins -- granted this book is a bit old; the journey took
place in 1989, but it was fun reading of that time in Russian history. I
enjoyed Mark's telling of his trip with a couple other Americans and
four Russians - complete strangers prior to this months-long journey -
and their interactions with each other and people in Siberian villages.
It was sobering to hear one lady admit that "they were pets" to the
country's leaders. Interesting book!
Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah -- "The True Story of
an Unwanted Chinese Daughter" -- I found this at the local library. What
a sad book in so many ways. Adeline's mother died two weeks after her
birth so she was considered unlucky. Her stepmother was cruel and her
father had no backbone to stand up to her. Adeline's siblings were
troubling too. I admire Adeline for her hard work in getting good grades
and determination to study abroad and finally settle in California as a
doctor. This book was quite interesting as it told some history of
Shanghai and Hong Kong as it pertained to the author's life. Made me
wonder how people could sorely mistreat family like this.
What about you? Read any good books lately?