Reviews

The Vegetarian

For me, books are a form of traveling to distant places, places I will probably never see. Because of this, I decided to check out this Man Booker Prize winner about South Korea.

My experience with books set in Korea has centered on North Korea—mostly nonfiction, except for Adam Johnson’s stellar novel The Orphan Master’s Son that won the Pulitzer in 2012.

The Vegetarian begins with the speaker, Cheong, saying, “Before my wife turned vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as unremarkable in every way.” Cheong, an ambitious businessman, then states that he deliberately chose his wife because she was so bland.

But late one night, Yeong-hye wakes from a dream. Cheong finds her in the kitchen in the dark; she does not respond to his words or even his touch. The next day, Yeong-hye, almost in a trancelike state, throws away all the meat and fish from their refrigerator and freezer. She never willingly eats flesh again.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Solvitur Ambulande, solved by walking, could be the motto of this novel. And if you, like me, process the world while strolling through town or the woods, you’ll love this book.

Two alternating stories thread through it. In one, it’s the 1980s, and New York City still has a crime problem, so people fear walking at night.  Most, that is, except for Lillian Boxfish, an octogenarian advertising maven (retired) and a poet. It’s New Year’s 1985, and a ten-mile, round trip walk from upper Manhattan to the Bowery and the Village is no big deal for her.

The second story first-time novelist Kathleen Rooney weaves tells Lillian’s history in the Big Apple. After moving to New York from D.C. in the roaring twenties, Lillian immediately felt at home. She began living in Manhattan in a sheltered rooming house with strict curfews and rules against male visitors.  Lillian and her childhood girlfriend got around these rules by organizing Shakespearean theater pieces to which they invited eligible bachelors.  Later, they’d head out on the town with them, and coming back hours after curvew, they’d tip the front desk person, and steal back to their rooms.

March: Book 3 by John Lewis

Winner of the 2017 Michael L. Printz Award, the 2017 Coretta Scott King Author Award, the 2017 Sibert Medal, and several other awards, March: Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell is a monumental feat of storytelling that is a must-read. March: Book 3 is the final installment in a graphic novel trilogy that chronicles the Civil Rights Movement in the American South from the perspective of John Lewis. This book follows the Civil Rights Movement from the Selma to Montgomery march to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, chronicling the trials and tribulations the protestors faced during this time. Chock full of text, explanations, and history, March: Book 3 illustrates the human need for freedom and equality. At once deeply personal, as we see much from Lewis’s perspective, and highly detached as the broader frictions in the movement are revealed and the enormous struggle the movement overcame are presented.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett has been writing to Legend every year for the past 7 years, but this year, she finally got the letter right. Legend is the master of Caraval, a magical, mysterious game where the winner's get fame, glory, and, this time, a wish. Scarlett and her sister Tella have been invited to Caraval, but Scarlett is about to marry a Count and finally take her sister away from their tiny island and their abusive father. If she leaves to play the game, she could ruin everything.

Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Winner of the 2017 Stonewall Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor marks Rick Riordan’s return to the world of Asgard. Picking up right after their triumph at the end of the previous story, Magnus Chase and company must now retrieve Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, before the giants invade and destroy Earth. So overall, just your average day really. Filled with Riordan’s trademark research, interpretative genius, and wit, The Hammer of Thor will satisfy die-hard fans and likely make some new ones, as he tackles issues of race, religion, representation, and gender.

Birds, Art, Life: a Year of Observation

If you love the natural world, this little book about birding will entice you.  It’s also about much more: how to be in the world, parenting, partnering, creativity, and friendship. She also explores the first books people fell in love with, celebrity eyebrows, art, and especially how to make peace with the roaring, anxious self inside you.

Maclear, a Canadian author of children’s books, decides after a heavy stint caring for her aged father after suffering two strokes that she needed to take up a hobby for herself. She is also a mom raising two young boys, the younger of which, has the weird propensity for falling, resulting in emergency room visits.

First, she plans to take up drawing again. But the renowned teacher she interviews about lessons seemed too structured for her. As you can see in the beautiful line drawings, she also spent a year with pen and ink.

One night her husband suggests that she look at some bird photographs taken by the musician who scored his latest film.  These bird pictures wowed Kyo. So much so, that within a few days, she’d contacted the musician and asked if he would be her guide to the world of birding for an entire year. What she liked about her guru, who she simply calls “The Musician” throughout the book was that he was “fervent about birds without being reverential.”

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