Reading, Reviews

If You Liked The Book Thief

Every now and then, a book comes out that defies the usual reading genres. It’s a book that we try to categorize, but it doesn’t even matter because all kinds of readers read it. It’s the book that makes the top of the “If you read one book in 20__” list. Let’s call it The Wonder Book. It’s awesome when we readers find books like that, because for a few minutes, a bunch of us who read all different kinds of books can talk about the same one.  The Wonder Book becomes that book on everyone’s reading list, or the only answer in every conversation on social media related to books.

You: “I need a good book to read at the beach!”

Half your friends: “Have you read The Hunger Games! So. Good.”

The Book ThiefAnd if you’re lucky (or living under a rock, or just really stubborn), you haven’t read The Wonder Book and you get to experience it for the first time. But after a while, you say, “What should I read?” and people say, “I love Harry Potter,” or “You have GOT to read Unbroken” and you slap your forehead. Can’t anyone recommend anything else???

This is what happened about three years after the publication of The Book Thief.  The Book Thief was “The Wonder Book” in 2011 (though published in 2008). My husband and I both read it and thought it was great. If you have read The Book Thief, you know it’s one of a kind in its writing style and perspective. And if you’ve read it and are now on the hunt for another great book, I found a similar one last week. All The Light We All the Light We Cannot SeeCannot See is making waves in the literary world.  I just finished it last week, and I am still trying to figure out the end, but I would venture to say that it’s really, really good. It’s an odd mixture of myth and history, with memorable characters and precise yet descriptive writing. If you’ve read extensively about Europe in World War II, you will understand all the horrors that are mostly veiled in this particular novel. There are definitely some harsh realities, but much is left to the imagination, or to the reader’s own historical knowledge, which might be nice for someone who doesn’t want to delve too deeply in WWII history. (Too late for me). I enjoyed it for its many layers of fine plot details, symbolism, and historical relevancy. I will never forget the characters. My only complaint is the format is a bit choppy, which is great and makes it into a page turner if you can sit down and read for a good solid chunk of time, but is a challenge for people like me who often read in snatches.

So read All The Light We Cannot See and then let me know what you think happens at the end!


Here are some of my other favorite WWII books which are not much like The Book Thief, but I love them.

For Such A Time, by Elyse Larson

This will probably appeal more to women readers. It’s the story of Jean Thornton’s attempt to rescue her cousin who is arrested by Nazis for aiding the French Resistance. I read as a teenager, and still enjoy it as an adult. Quality-wise, it probably shouldn’t be on the same list as Doerr and Zusak, but I’m putting it here because it’s one of my favorite books set in World War II Europe.

The Plum Tree, by Ellen Marie Wiseman – I loved this book! It’s the first one I ever reviewed on my blog. Read my review here.

Reading, Reviews

Bookish or Nookish?

Image from Lemuria Bookstore Blog

When the e-reader began to gain popularity, I was firmly staked in the “paper books are the only real books!” camp. As I wrote in a previous post, the crinkly pages of an old book are therapeutic to me, and the crispness of a freshly made book is delightful, as well. Just let me step foot in a used bookstore and I’m nearly transported to my own version of heaven. How could holding an electronic device compare? I was sure I voiced this deeply felt opinion to those closest to me. Didn’t I?

You can imagine my surprise when my husband presented me with a Nook on an ordinary summer day (not my birthday, or anniversary, just a dry summer day). Maybe he felt guilty that we were moving our family out of our house and temporarily into his parents’ house (which, by the way, was 25 minutes from the closest library and 45 minutes from a decent library) when our youngest was six weeks old. Or maybe (likely) he just loves me and thought I would enjoy an e-reader. I love books and his field is technology, so really, how could he resist? But here’s the thought that popped into my mind: “Holy cow, my husband doesn’t really know me.” Oh, but I was wrong.

I started figuring out the Nook. I downloaded my first book, which I think was either Book of A Thousand Days (enjoyable YA summer read) or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (not at all my piece of cake).  And I had to admit, the ease of getting a book from the library’s downloadable website without loading up my 2-year-old and infant in the car and actually going to the library was a definite plus. I love going to the library and taking my children with me has been a regular outing of ours since they were infants, but there are days when you just know taking a baby to the library isn’t a good idea. You know, the squallish days. Also, I tend to read big books like Little Dorrit and Les Miserables, so it’s no small thing that holding an e-reader while nursing a baby is way easier than actually holding Dickens. No, not the man, the volume. Speaking of Dickens, the best part of an e-reader, the one that really sealed my fate as an e-reader owner, was that I could download A Tale of Two CitiesWives and  Daughters, or any number of classics from Project Gutenberg and always have them at my fingertips wherever I am. Plus, I can just look stuff up when I’m curious about it without ever actually putting the book down. Oh yes, I’m sold. I have the Kindle app on my iPhone and I use my Nook for about 30-40% of my reading.

Here are some books I’ve enjoyed on my Nook recently.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

I don’t read very much French literature beyond Victor Hugo and (Gustave Flaubert in college), but I must say, The Elegance of the Hedgehog has made  me wonder what other French authors I’m missing out on. Muriel Barbery’s writing is stunning. Her characters are intriguing and likable if you keep reading past the prickly beginning. There are so many metaphors and images and symbols to ponder–it’s a rich book. It’s a bit short on the gripping plot side, so if that’s what you read for, this book may not be for you. Also, the parts narrated by the child character, while some of my favorite, were a bit of a stretch. It’s hard to write from a child’s perspective when you aren’t a child anymore and you aren’t writing for children. But if you love literature mixed with philosophy and beautiful wordsmithery, pick this book up. Or download it. Whatever.

Digging to AmericaDigging to America was my first Anne Tyler book. I have since read two others. It amazes me how her books can be so simple on the surface but ask so many deep questions. This one actually seemed to have a happier tone than the other two I’ve read. I have often thought about adoption and how I feel about it (mostly gung-ho), and this book is a searching comparison of two adopting families and the hard parts and good parts of international adoption. Even if adoption isn’t something you think about often, it is a great read, because, well, it’s Anne Tyler. I don’t see eye to eye with her when it comes to theology in some of her books, but I do enjoy her talent as a writer.

The Book ThiefAnd there’s The Book Thief. My husband read this one, as well, and we both were impressed with the unique narration and syntax. The words were just words, but they were arranged and chosen so carefully. This was the first in a long line of World War II novels set in Germany that I read in the last year. It set me on the trail of finding out what Germans endured during the war. Before this book, I’d read mostly French and English viewpoints. Also, I’d be interested to know what an atheist thinks about the narrator of the book, the Angel of Death. It was strange to me that the angel was the narrator but God was not often mentioned.

I still prefer paper books, but my husband proved he knows me better than I know myself when he gave me an e-reader. Words are words and I am truly an American word lover. If I can access them more easily and quickly on an e-reader, I’m going to do so. However, when I decide to buy a book, I pick the paper every time. =)

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