After last month’s #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks fail, I wanted to do better in August. So far, I’ve read two books, one my own and one borrowed. This means I’m meeting the goal I set for myself: to read 50 percent my own books through the end of the year. Hopefully, I can keep that up!
What are you currently reading?
At the moment, I’m most actively reading The Girl Under the Olive Tree by Leah Fleming. It’s yet another Nook book I picked up for sale. This time because it’s set in Greece during World War II. I’ve not found an abundance of these (Corelli’s Mandolin being an exception). So this novel was a find for me. It tells the story of Penny, an upperclass British girl with Greek heritage on her father’s side. At 18, she’s expected to make her debut in society. Instead, she follows her sister, who is married to a British diplomat, to Athens. There, she gets her first taste of freedom and possibility. As war looms, Penny is ordered to return to England. But she chooses to train with the Red Cross as a nurse and stay behind, adopting a Greek identity in occupied Greece.
If I were a judge tasked with delivering a verdict on the book, I would have to recuse myself: Having close relatives who lived through the war and occupation, the story hits too close to home for me approach it objectively. I could, if I had to. But since I’m reading it for me, I’m choosing to soak up the descriptions of Greece and its people during the war.
There are some beautiful descriptions of pre-war Greece. It’s the Greece of my grandparents and great-grandparents that I see in photos hanging in the homes of aunts and uncles. The descriptions of wartime Greece also resonate with the stories I’ve heard. One moment that especially affected me comes at the beginning of the war: A civilian ship leaving Athens is bombed, killing everyone on board. This is how my great-grandmother died. She left behind three young daughters, one of them being my grandmother.
Of the three (!) other books I have going currently, I’ve also been spending time with The Odyssey by Homer. I’ve been rotating between two translations (Fitzgerald and Fagles) and was having a hard time deciding which one I prefer. Turns out, I appreciate them equally, for different reasons. So I’m continuing to rotate between them. And I am loving this epic so far.
What did you recently finish reading?
My one day marathon read of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child reminded me how de-stressing it can be to read a book straight through from beginning to end. So I read two short but nourishing children’s books for more of the same experience.
I borrowed Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai from my library’s digital collection. In the autobiographical verse story, a young girl escapes Vietnam with her mother and brothers as Saigon is falling. We follow them on a dangerous journey by sea, as refugees, and struggling to adapt in America. I would highly recommend this for reading aloud with middle grade readers.
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead has been in my Nook library for a long while. It’s set in Brooklyn, where 12-year-old Georges (his parents named him after Seurat) lives with his parents. Georges befriends Safer, a homeschooled boy living in the same building, who invites him to be in a spy club. As Safer’s demands become more intrusive, Georges must confront how far he’s willing to push himself. It’s a slim, engrossing little book that hits readers with twists and surprises in the second half. The story is about recognizing what you can control, facing that head on, and learning how and when to speak out. As with Inside Out and Back Again, it’s an excellent book for reading aloud with middle graders.
What do you think you’ll read next?
It’s only slight hyperbole to say that your guess is as good as mine. Last week, I compiled a long list of titles on my Nook that I’m hoping to tackle sooner than later. The list was, of course, inspired by #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks. But it may be a while before I even look at that list. I still have The Odyssey, Harry Mount’s Odyssey, Things Fall Apart, and The Girl Under the Olive Tree to get through!
What books are on your read, reading, and to read lists this week?