Tuesday, February 2, 2010

50 in 2010

3:23 AM
So I've given myself a bit of a reading challenge for the year. I plan to read 50 books this year! I recently purchased a Kindle, so carrying around 50 books with me will be no sweat! I want to read a variety of genres, from fiction to young adult to non-fiction to Christian inspiration. To make it even more fun, I chose my books alphabetically...one for each letter of the alphabet! Each month I'll post my readings, as well as my thoughts on each book. If there is a book you think I should check out, let me know! I love a good suggestion!

January Readings

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Imagine a world where people were no longer judged based on their appearance. Where there were no celebrities because all people had equal talent, equal ability, and equal beauty. Where the biggest care of your day was which party to attend that night. Well, this world exists in Scott Westerfield's Uglies. Set many years in the future, the author creates world powered no longer by gasoline, but solar power and moved not by cars, but hovercrafts. And at the age of 16, everyone undergoes a surgery to make them Pretty. For Tally, the main character in Uglies, she longed for 16th birthday where she would no longer be considered an Ugly, but a Pretty. Her best friend had already turned Pretty, and now she was counting down the days. Until Tally meets a new friend, one who didn't dream of becoming Pretty, but of something else entirely. She takes Tally on an adventure, bigger than the walls of Uglyville and New Pretty Town to place where the surgeon's knife can't touch. And Tally learns the truth about the procedure and is left with the dilemma...is being Pretty all it's cracked up to be? Westerfield creates a world in which the fantasy doesn't seem too far off, with sly references to how we today are destroying our own world. Though written at the young adult level, the social commentary is impossible to miss and it makes for an entertaining read for readers of all ages.

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl

Murder. Opium Dens. Theft. Betrayal. These are the themes in Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens, a historical novel told against the backdrop of the death of Charles Dickens and his incomplete final work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Pearl uses much historical accuracy, including the conspiracies surrounding Dicken's Drood. The story is told in six installments, mirroring the only six installments published of Drood. It crosses oceans and decades, and honestly, is a bit muddled. One storyline barely has any correlation to the rest of the plot, and it isn't until the the second half of the book that the story is even engaging. The main characters find themselves betrayed time and time again, until it seems they can trust no one in a way that seems unrealistic. Pearl did not offer his own ending of Drood, staying true to the mysterious nature of Dicken's work, and the story is better for it. While hoping for a good murder mystery, I was left wanting something different. A good read for Dicken's fans, I'm sure, but i'm neutral on the author myself, and so for me, The Last Dickens fell flat.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

The first rule about fight club is that you don't talk about fight club. A single sentence that coined a movement. The movie Fight Club is hailed by critics as a masterpiece in filmmaking and storytelling. It was the movie with the twist ending before twist endings were cool. It had men hitting themselves in bars and challenging others to fights across the country. I'd seen the movie, and wanted to delve further into this world with the Chuck Palahniuk novel, Fight Club. It was my first Palahniuk, a writer who has truly carved out a specific place in modern literature, and I still don't really know how I feel about him. Fight Club was a challenging read because of the shifts in narration. I had seen the movie, so I knew the reveal, which made that element of the book anti-climatic. But I found myself just lost in Durden's philosophy. I didn't find what he said profound. I didn't relate to any characters. And honestly, the most insightful part, was the afterward written by Palahniuk several years after the Fight Club fame. I think I liked it because it gave insight as to why and how he wrote it. Maybe if I had read that first, and from that perspective, I would have enjoyed it more. I didn't hate Fight Club, but I didn't love it, and it will be a long time before I pick up another Palahniuk.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

This book by Francis Chan was crazy good...in a crazy painful way. Chan, a pastor in Southern California, wrote about some of the very issues I struggle with a believer. It was comforting to know I wasn't alone in my doubts, and challenging to hear Christ's words on the subject. He spoke specifically to Christians in America, those of us who assume being nice, not swearing, and going to church on Sundays is what keeps our relationship with God in tact. But in reality, that's not a relationship at all. Chan lays out Scripture after Scripture about what a true Christ-follower really looks like. While we in America gauge a church's success by the number of people in the door, Chan reminds us that Christ taught in parables, which were meant to confuse those not really listening. So much for seeker-sensitive! Chan also challenged my thinking about the here and now. He used a quote by C.S. Lewis “If you read history you will find that Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” How often am I thinking of what matters in eternity vs. my pleasure here on earth? Told you it was painful! Chan allows us to look at our lives, the decisions we are making, the paths we are walking and compare & contrast them how Jesus commands we live as His followers. I loved this quote by George Bernard Shaw “This is true joy in life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” Harsh words, but such truth! “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” - I John 3 [somewhere between 16-20]. This is the “Crazy Love” Chan set out to write about. The crazy, unashamed love that Christ gives us and expects back from us in return. To live our lives in way leaves world scratching their heads and wondering why we're just so different. “...God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He callus to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.” It is my hope and prayer that I find myself living this kind of life this year as I prepare for my missions experience. I long to pour out this kind of crazy love on the people around me. And I am so beyond thankful for this book that helped remind me of my first love.

Pretties by Scott Westerfield

Pretties is the follow up book to Uglies, by Scott Westerfield. This story picks up pretty much where Uglies ends, with Tally deciding to turn pretty. As is expected, her pretty life isn't as “bubbly” as she hoped for. Especially when former ugly & Smokie friend, Croy, comes to New Pretty Town with a message from her ugly self. Does Tally remember enough of the Smokie way of life to leave the allure of New Pretty Town? And what about Shay, former best friend and trickster, who is seen with strange cut marks up and down her arms? As Tally and new compadre, Zane, soon learn, the only way to be yourself in New Pretty Town is to leave New Pretty Town. They set off for the New Smoke with hopes of a permanent cure. While I still enjoyed this futuristic reality Westerfield creates, I didn't enjoy Pretties as much as I did Uglies. At times, I felt he was being too obvious with the criticism towards the “Rusties” [a.k.a. Us] and creating scenarios just so he could make a point about our culture today. I liked that aspect when it was implied, not so much when it was obvious. However, I'm sticking with the series...Specials is up next!

About the author

Joy Muldoon is a full-time missionary and part-time blogger. Read about her travels, adventures, and missions here!