Becoming by Michelle Obama was an engaging read, I felt like I really got a sense of who the former first lady was, and also got some fascinating insights into her relationship with Barack Obama. They are very different personalities, and though I often get told I remind people of the former president, I think in many ways I’m a lot more like Michelle. There were a few parts where the pace dragged but others that were quite compelling. Her memories of her growing up years and her experience with the presidential campaign and entering the White House were among my favorite sections. I wish that some of my conservative friends would read the book. They’d find themselves hard pressed describe Michelle Obama as anyone other than a good person who loves her country and did her best to make America a better place. That’s something we all strive for.
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Most of the time the book is better than the movie (or TV series). This is not one of those times. Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel was the inspiration for the Amazon series of the same title, but the book is different in a lot of ways. And while it’s not exactly boring, it’s not near as interesting as the first season of the show. (And actually reminds me a lot of the third season of the show, which is not near as compelling. While I finished Season 1 in just a few days, I still haven’t gotten around to finishing the third season which I began months ago). Dick’s book lacks the urgent plot development of the show. There’s no underground resistance, no mysterious murders, just an underwhelming attempt on the life of a German spy. Viewers of the show will note that some favorites from the show are missing entirely. There’s no kempetai Inspector and no Obergruppenfuhrer which is a shame because those were two of my favorite story lines. And in the book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a book not a series of films. My recommendation is to stick with the season 1 of the show--maybe even Season 2 and skip the book.
Missoula: Rape & the Justice System in a College Town by John Krakauer. I picked up this book because of the author more than subject matter. I have been a long time fan of Krakauer and his books never fail to shake me to my core. Missoula was no exception. It is a harsh indictment of the rape culture that saturates not just our college campuses but our culture. Like all his books, Missoula made me think hard and challenged my assumptions. I highly recommend the book, with the caveat that, while well paced and easy to read the subject matter is dealt with explicitly. As a result, it can be upsetting at times. I felt pretty gloomy at points during the reading (it probably didn’t help that I was also watching a couple of episodes a day of The Handmaid’s Tale at the same time). Frankly addressing problem of sexual assault has gotten new traction in this age of #metoo but these kinds of crimes have been happening for a long time. I personally know of at least two women during my college days who experienced acquaintance rape and chances are you know someone too, whether you realize it or not. My hope and prayer is that this culture will change, and Krakauer’s book is a step in that direction.
Between the World and Me by Na-Tahesi Coates. The late Toni Morrison declared that this is required reading and I have to agree. This book has been on my reading list for a couple of years now, and I finally got to it. It hit hard. For African-American readers there is much to relate to. For everyone else this slender volume written as an extended letter to Coates’ sun is a vital insight to what it means to grow up black in America. Perhaps one of the most necessary shifts in our national understanding of racism is recognizing it as an institutional systemic problem rooted in power, greed, fear, and desperate clinging to control (Coates describes this as the Dream), rather than, as is commonly understood, an individual problem rooted in hatred. Most telling is that the police shooting that haunts Coates throughout much of the book is that of Prince Jones. Jones was an admired acquaintance of Coates from Howard University and was shot by a black officer in a case of mistaken identity. The issue is not the racism, or even the skin color of the officer, but rather than the system we all live in that puts a low value on black life. My only quibble with Between the World and Me was it’s pessimism. Still, though Coates does not have religious faith, his book is prophetic and searing.