I haven't read a lot of Barbara Kingsolver's other books, only Animal Dreams and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I've heard from Kingsolver fans that The...moreI haven't read a lot of Barbara Kingsolver's other books, only Animal Dreams and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I've heard from Kingsolver fans that The Poisonwood Bible is very different from most of her other books. And I would agree with that, based on my reading of Animal Dreams. With that in mind, I venture to say that I think The Poisonwood Bible may continue to be my very favorite Kingsolver book, as I read through the rest of her works.
The Poinsonwood Bible is wonderfully complex, full of beautiful imagery, mind-bending wordplay, and amazing characterization. Nathaniel Price, a World War II veteran and Baptist minister, moves his family to the Congo for a year of missionary work in a small village on the edge of the jungle. The point of view of the story changes between Orleanna Price, Nathaniel's wife, and their four daughters: Rachel, Leah (twin 1), Ada (twin 2), and Ruth May. The voice and personality of each character is highly distinct as the Price women recount the trials and tribulations of their time in the Congo and, after they leave, how their time as a missionary family in Africa dramatically altered the paths of their lives forever.(less)
This is an amazing read. Winner of numerous awards and top book lists, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks masterfully weaves three stories in one: t...moreThis is an amazing read. Winner of numerous awards and top book lists, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks masterfully weaves three stories in one: that of HeLa cells, the first cells grown successfully and indefinitely in a lab environment; that of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman and the originator of the cervical cancer cells that gave birth to HeLa, and the family she left behind; and that of Rebecca Skloot and her journey to discover the woman behind the cells and the family behind the woman.
HeLa is one of if not the most important scientific breakthroughs of modern medicine. HeLa's commercialization gave life to a billion dollar industry, while Henrietta's family couldn't even afford proper healthcare. Her husband and children didn't even know about Henrietta's immortal cells for twenty years. And, when they did find out, they still didn't know what it meant -- were clones of their mother really walking around London? Had it hurt when parts of her were blown up in an atomic bomb?
Through this biography of Henrietta and her cells, Immortal Life sheds light on the gradual progress of bioethics. (Besides the cancer treatment of Henrietta's day, the gross ethical misconduct of the medical research industry, particularly when it came to racial minorities, is one of the most shocking elements of the book.) But where to strike the balance? If one pioneering scientist hadn't taken Henrietta's amazing cells (without consent), we probably would not now have the polio or HPV vaccines, we would not know the number of chromosomes in a DNA strand, and our understanding of genetics and genetic diseases would be far far behind where it is today. (less)
I have very mixed feelings about this book. My biggest problem is that Kivel is racist. Which makes it difficult to swallow when he's shoving his "All...moreI have very mixed feelings about this book. My biggest problem is that Kivel is racist. Which makes it difficult to swallow when he's shoving his "All whites are racist! You are racist!" message down your throat on the basis of his own racist, white upbringing. It's like he's bitter at the fact that he is subconsciously racist, despite his best efforts, but he makes himself feel better by telling everyone else that they're racist too. Well, I'm sorry Kivel, but when I see an African American man walk into the room, I don't automatically think he's the janitor like you do (yes, I can cite a page number). He also downplays other forms of discrimination and prejudice, including socioeconomic discrimination, homophobia, sexism, etc. EXCEPT his own personally experienced form of prejudice - anti-semitism, which Kivel firmly places as equal to racial discrimination, in America, in the twenty-first century.
Mixed feelings come into the picture because, despite my deep dislike for Kivel and much of the way he presents himself, he still has valuable things to say. Racism is a fact. A fact that many people ignore or pretend no longer exists. His insights and statistics are eye-opening to the wider world of subtle discrimination that still forms the bedrock of U.S. culture.
All in all, worth reading or skimming. But there are better books out there on the topic.(less)
The story of Greg Mortenson, mountain climber turned humanitarian, is an interesting one--particularly in its exposure of Pakistani culture, its peopl...moreThe story of Greg Mortenson, mountain climber turned humanitarian, is an interesting one--particularly in its exposure of Pakistani culture, its people, and the challenge of getting a good education in this country. My only complaint is that, although much of Mortenson's work getting his schools built in Pakistan was arduous, it doesn't have to seem arduous to the reader. Sometimes reading these parts was as slow and slightly torturous as the time probably was for Mortenson.(less)
I picked this book up for a book group, having heard rave reviews from some of my co-workers but still having no idea what it was about. I imagined th...moreI picked this book up for a book group, having heard rave reviews from some of my co-workers but still having no idea what it was about. I imagined that it was about the class-system of England, and the gossip- and intrigue-filled lives of "the help" serving England's aristocracy. That, too, would have made an interesting book. However, Stockett's The Help takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s and follows the lives of two "negra" maids serving white families and one anti-segregationist who happens to be friends with all the white ladies the maids serve. The novel is honest, immersive, and extremely well written. It's been a while since I've read a book that sucked me in so thoroughly, made me laugh, and then brought tears to my eyes.(less)
This was quite a fun read. I've had the book on my shelf for quite a while and am glad I finally picked it up. With his drunkard father after him for...moreThis was quite a fun read. I've had the book on my shelf for quite a while and am glad I finally picked it up. With his drunkard father after him for his recent acquired treasure (which he got in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, I guess, Huck Finn takes to the road and finds an unlikely traveling companion in Jim, the runaway slave. While rafting down the river on their way to the free North and Jim's freedom, they encounter swindlers, storms, and slave hunters, leading to many fun and humorous adventures.
Huck's debates over morality and goodness, as it pertains to slavery and his part in helping a runaway slave gain his freedom is certainly one of the most interesting aspects of the book, and perhaps the most highly discussed in literary circles.
I'm a big fan of American literature, and Mark Twain's classic did not disappoint. This adventure is quirky, fun, and (although it got a little long-winded right at the end there, (view spoiler)[while the boys were preparing for Jim's escape attempt (hide spoiler)]) on the whole quite satisfying. I will definitely be adding The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to my TBR list.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)