Some of my reads from the not-too-distant past

I don’t know that I have it in me to write lengthy book reviews at the moment, but here’s a peek into what I’ve been up to with a thought or two to provide company.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
We’ll start with my favorite from the second half of 2014. The main character Cal was raised as a girl but discovers during those puberty years that the reason he isn’t getting boobs and a period is a genetic mutation. He was mistaken as a girl at birth when he’s actually intersex, and he later decides to live as a male. He traces this genetic mutation back to his grandparents and tells how they got married and had kids and then how his parents got together and had kids, which ultimately leads to him and his tale. From the burning of Smyrna to prohibition in Detroit to other places, Middlesex is packed with history and hard choices. Five stars!

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
This was an unexpected delight! I read The Poisonwood Bible several years ago and loved it (five stars!) and read Animal Dreams shortly after and was disappointed, so I was hoping The Lacuna would be more like Poisonwood than Animal Dreams. I was blown away! The Lacuna is written in the form of diary entries from writer who, as a young man, found himself making plaster for Diego Rivera in Mexico. He strikes a friendship with Frida Kahlo through Rivera and works as a secretary for Leon Trotsky while Trotsky’s in hiding. Now, I was also nervous about this book because I didn’t have high hopes for a novel that mixes all these real people into a fictional story. Kingsolver did it amazingly well. As I said, it was a delight. Thank you, Heather, for giving Z and me a copy. (I still like Poisonwood best, though.)

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson
This book is about the six innovations that have most shaped the current state of the developed world. Of course we constantly take for granted things like clean drinking water and air conditioning, but they didn’t come from nowhere. A man in New Jersey (I already forgot his name) snuck chlorine into the water system without any authority, and this made the infant mortality rate plummet and kept many diseases at bay. A doctor in Florida noticed that his sick patients were burning up and wanted a way to cool them down, so he hung blocks of ice over their beds. Isn’t that neat?! And there’s so much more.

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