The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Darby read this book a couple of years ago, and I asked him to hang on to it so I could read it. Although it starts out a little slow, this story of two cousins who create a famous comic book series in WWII-era New York picks up in the middle and then veers off into an absurd side plot before the touching ending. I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters, but the book was about 200 pages too long. Further evidence that I don't enjoy Pulitzer-prize-winning books. Why do I never learn?
Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith by Jen Hatmaker
I had heard good things about this author/blogger, so when one of her books was offered cheap on the Kindle, I decided to try it. This woman and her husband worked for an unspecified mega-church when they felt that God was calling them to completely change directions and start a church that would focus on reaching out to the "unchurched" in Austin and becoming an integral part of their community. This book really resonates with where I am in my spiritual journey right now, as I think that most Christians (myself included) are doing a poor job of "loving our neighbor." One point that really hit home with me was that many Christians are so burned out on church because we're constantly "blessing blessed people who should be on the giving side of the equation by now." Yes. I think, in general, the church has become very inwardly-focused. We're more concerned about making sure that everyone believes the same thing and policing morality than forming relationships and serving others. This was a very convicting read.
Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
Kalyn highly recommended this book, and I had some Amazon birthday gift cards, so I ordered it. It's a combination cookbook/memoir (my absolute favorite genre) about the joys of family dinner. The author writes about how dinner has evolved as she and her husband have moved from childless couple to parents of two children under two to parents of school-age children. She encourages readers to make home-cooked dinners a priority even when work and other commitments take up time. Jenny is very funny and not at all preachy. This book just makes you feel good about cooking.
The Land of Later On by Anthony Weller
In this small, strange book, a man commits suicide and finds that there is indeed an afterlife, but it's nothing like anyone expected. With the help of Walt Whitman(!), he embarks on a time-traveling, continent-jumping journey to find his recently-deceased girlfriend before she gives in to pressure and chooses to be reincarnated. It is a weird story, but I found it quite engrossing.
A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling
This memoir was written by one of the student leaders of the Tiananmen Square protest. I was woefully ignorant of this event. Now that I teach mainly Chinese students, I've become more interested in China's history. It was very interesting to read about the events that led up to the massacre from someone who was in the center of it all. Chai Ling escaped political retribution in China and moved to the U.S., where she married an American. There is a lot of controversy surrounding her role in the protest. Many argue that she saved her own life at the expense of the students who were under her leadership. She wrote this book to tell her side of the story and to share about her conversion to Christianity. Now, she runs a non-profit organization dedicated to stopping child sex trafficking and forced abortions and gender-selection abortion under China's one-child policy. Chai Ling's story is very interesting, but the book is a little disjointed. At the end, in the acknowledgments, Chai Ling thanks her editor who helped cut almost half of the book. I think the editing job was rushed, and some necessary sections were cut. This was a good introduction to recent Chinese history, but I'll definitely read other perspectives.