Sunday, June 01, 2014

May 2014 books

Greek Mythology (Junior Genius Guides, #1)Greek Mythology by Ken Jennings

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this for my kids, and then ended up stealing it from them so I could read it myself. Miriam (age 8) and I finally called a truce and shared the book by flipping the pages to read our favorite parts to each other as Magdalena listened in. The drawings are awesome. The text is great. The tone is engaging. I officially love this series. Youth non-fiction is tricky to get right, but Ken Jennings succeeded. So well, in fact, that Miriam actually ran back from the morning bus the other day yelling "MYTHOLOGY!!!" and grabbed this book to bring to school. This will be good for many re-reads to come, and different bits of the book will catch her (and Magdalena's and eventually Sterling's) interest at different ages.

Because the thing is, we live overseas and don't have access to an extensive library of children's books. If I'm going to buy a book, it can't be for just a one-off read. It has to be WORTH it, for years to come, for all the kids. I took a risk on this (and Maps and Geography, the only other JGG available from The Book Depository) and it paid off, big time. Hooray!



A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in IranA Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran by Shane Bauer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Audiobook.

3.5 stars. Always interesting, but I've read better captivity-narrative books, even ones that take place in Iran, specifically. Plus, I couldn't get over how insufferable these three people were. They certainly did not deserve to be put in Evin prison in Tehran, and bless them for holding fast to their sometimes odious convictions throughout the ordeal, and I'm glad they're free, but. BUT. There is a massive BUT somewhere in all this that I cannot or will not put into words.

(I concede that some of the attitude I picked up from this book may have come from the narrators' voices rather than the prose itself.)


PanicPanic by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm tempted to give a big ol' MEH to this book. I mean, I read the whole thing and enjoyed it, but I will probably never think about it again. Its major strengths are that Heather is one dang interesting human being, and that sometimes it is nicely spooky.



Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live SquidLost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid by J. Maarten Troost

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It is unfortunate for every travel writer ever that I will always compare their work to Robert D. Kaplan's. I can't help it. It's what I do. So when I read books like Lost on Planet China, that are meant to be high on anecdotes and observations and very light on politics and context, I end up disoriented. This book was fun, but ever so slightly slipshod. I am reminded of The Wilder Life, where ten pages in, I knew I did NOT want to spend a whole book with this person. Troost is a fun companion - even a laugh-out-loud one - for a lot of the time, but sometimes I just needed a break.

9 comments:

Josh Caporale said...

I was unaware that Ken Jennings had a book about Greek Mythology. It's not an area of mine, but I would read a book of trivia from one of the most successful game show contestants.

Shannon said...

Awesome. So, do you have a list anywhere (e.g., on this blog or maybe on Goodreads) where you keep track of your favorite books for kids? I'm always on the lookout for great read-alouds for all the kids as well as great novels for my oldest. :)

Emily Tree said...

I felt that way about Troost's writings when I read Sex Lives of Cannibals. I couldn't put it down though because of the fact that he was quite funny and pretty honest about the fact he was being unbiased in his observations/opinions. It's rare for an author to ale me laugh out loud while reading. I now need to read something by Robert Kaplan to compare.

Bridget said...

Yes, it's definitely meant for kids, but I enjoyed it, too! Maps & Geography and US Presidents are also available.

Bridget said...

Ooh, I don't think I have such a list ready. I should make one. Just yesterday, Miriam told me she doesn't like it when she doesn't have a chapter book ready to read. She just finished Boy by Roald Dahl and library day isn't until tomorrow. :)

Bridget said...

And by the way, your kids read a few of our Usborne Illustrated Classics books while they were here. I think they burned through Greek Mythology, Shakespeare, and maybe Arabian Nights?

Bridget said...

Yeah, I'm not inclined to read his other book, but maybe someday. It is to his credit that he's so open about his biases. That helped while reading Lost on Planet China. Robert D. Kaplan is not so much laugh-out-loud, but I think you'll like his books. Eastward to Tatary is one of my favorites of his, along with The Arabists.

Shannon said...

Yeah, I was actually surprised to find them reading those Usborne books! With the exception of Greek mythology, they've never shown any interest in those kinds of books. I should try presenting them again this summer.

I look forward to seeing your list of favorite kid books!

Liz Johnson said...

I got the Ken Jennings book on your recommendation - thank you! My boys have devoured that one and the one on US Presidents!

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