If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to tackle a good book, our editors have a few suggestions. From Revolutionary France to the ancient Judaean Desert to modern-day India and the Ukraine, this month’s “Now Reading” list is a sweeping international tour that will take you through the many-chambered heart of the human experience.
Kate Hopper, Literary Reflections Co-Editor, writes, “I just finished Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, a stunning novel that follows the lives of four women who end up at Masada, the Jewish mountain stronghold that fell to the Romans in 74 A.D. I was captivated by each of the four main characters as they struggled to survive and find love in the midst of the devastation of war. This is the kind of novel you want to curl up with for days on end.”
Meanwhile, E-Zine Editor Jessica DeVoe Riley has taken up a long-deferred classic: “Several years ago, I was asked by Literary Mama what I would read if I had all the time in the world. I said Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I have since accepted that I will never have all the time in the world, and decided over Christmas break to stop saying, ‘I want to read that,’ and just do it already. I’m on page 400 of 1500 and couldn’t be more pleased with myself. It is every bit as amazing as I thought it would be. I unapologetically insist on reading aloud portions of Hugo’s text to my husband and children at the dinner table. In particular, I can’t stop gushing about two things: Hugo’s historical narrative of France, and his compelling commentaries on the behavior of his characters– both their beautiful acts of compassion and their cold attitudes of conviction.”
Fiction Co-Editor Kristina Riggle shares, “I’ve just begun Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, which is, at the moment, both indescribable and hilarious. A young Jewish college student with the same name as the author goes back to the Ukraine to look for his ancestors, aided by a bizarre three-generation trio of guides, plus a seeing eye dog for the driver wearing a sign that reads ‘OFFICIOUS SEEING EYE BITCH.’ (The dog wears the sign, not the driver.) I’m not very far into it, but I keep laughing out loud in spite of myself. Nevertheless, I can see the tragedy coming in this tragicomic novel; in the age-old tradition of black humor, this is the kind of book that helps us look into the darkest places of humanity without flinching.”
Blog Editor Karna Converse is engaged by a story more haunting than hilarious: “I’m in the middle of Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo and look forward to whatever time I can carve out of my day to return to it. In this work of narrative nonfiction, Boo exposes readers to the harsh life of the residents of Annawadi, a slum that lies just outside the luxury hotels near the Mumbai International Airport (India). Her narrative highlights the lives of Abdul, a teenager who is building a business around recycling rich people’s garbage, and Asha, a mother who hopes that her political connections will help her family out of poverty. Boo’s writing is so rich with detail and description, I can almost hear the rats scurrying among the bags of trash and smell the odors that rise from the garbage-strewn streets and the lake of sewage. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a heart-wrenching story about families striving for a better life that I’ll remember for a long time.”