Bibliophile Corner

photo-1421338443272-0dde2463976aBibliophiles unite! We’ve got three wonderful bookish friends telling us what books they are grateful for reading. Join me with welcoming Alex (Alex Green),  Alex (Alexandra Vanhorn), and Cathryn (Runs for Cookies)!

“The Humans” By Matt Haig

The book I am glad to have read this year is The Humans by Matt Haig. This was a book recommended to me by a friend in university who told me without a doubt that I would love it.

So I picked it up as well as Haig’s latest release, Reasons to Stay Alive, the author’s autobiography/self help book on mental health. I’d heard such good things about this one that I decided to read that first. After gliding through Reasons, he mentioned The Humans a number of times as his perfect novel in explaining his own life and the many issues he has dealt with, as explained in the book.

It took me all of one and a half days to read the whole thing. For me that is really fast, seeing as how I usually take a week at most to read any book. Sure, the book is small and isn’t overly detailed but I ate it up like I hadn’t read anything for years, and what a wonderful, poetic piece of literature!

On the outside, the book may seem like a fun, sci-fi flick but the sci-fi element to it exists only as a background matter because the real story exists in its message.

Haig puts an unemotional, completely rational, stress free alien into the shoes of an everyday human. Of course, this might sound like a classic sit-com gimmick but instead of your usual japes and eventual clarity for all involved, this alien experiences what it is really like to be normal, everyday human being.

When you read, it’s clear to see Haig has pulled from his own experiences and I know that many reading this book will also see themselves and their struggles with this character. Throughout he is battling away to understand this alien world around him whilst also attempting to navigate it smoothly with all the obstacles of being human getting in his way.

Our alien friend is constantly torn in his guilt between sticking to his rational, peaceful yet unfulfilling life or leaving his people to live like a human, even if that does bring with it the many emotions being human can bring.

That’s the message I received from this story. That being human doesn’t mean everything will be OK but in fact, for a large majority of us, it means a lot of things will be tough and it
is very tempting not to care. However, it is being human that makes us so special.

Our friend realises that through all the pain of it all, there is also good music to dance to,bookish-corner-picture great food to eat, amazing friends to hang out with and an uncountable amount of love to be shared. This is something he learns the hard way but ultimately accepts because he
knows that at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.

Even if we’re only here for a minuscule minute of time in the aeons of space, all that bad
stuff and all that good stuff is worth living for.

Like I said, I am very happy I found this book.

Website: Alex Green

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaimanocean_at_the_end_of_the_lane_us_cover

Where does anyone begin with capturing and defining the “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman? This is one of those stories that is not read, but experienced. The story follows a nameless narrator reflecting back on a strange occurrence at his childhood home involving a neighbor girl named Lettie Hempstock and the pond that she claims is an ocean. Telling you more details is a betrayal of experiencing the story for yourself. This book is best unwound like a ball of yarn, methodically so not to miss a detail of it’s texture.

As a writer myself, I’m often trying to push the boundaries of traditional storytelling, searching for new ways to shake up my arsenal of words. “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” is permission to authors to explore the bizarre and strange. It pulls it off with grace and chills.  The descriptions are vivid and the ending will leave you thinking long past mewhen the book is closed. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about how to make creatures go bump in the night without giving them a broom to jam against the ceiling. Open it up and start unraveling.


51nin4uu4qlThread of Grace” by Mary Doria Russell

 This book sat in my pile of to-be-read books from my mother for a while; it was actually one she had not yet read herself, though she read “Doc” (a historical fiction novel about Doc Holliday) by the same author. I picked it up from the pile earlier this fall and spent months making my way through it. (As I’ve gotten older, busier, less focused in my reading, I’ve gotten slower at it.) The book is a thoroughly researched, fictionalized take on the events in Italy following the Italian armistice, the Jews who found their way from other countries to Italy, the Jews who already lived there, and the Italians who helped to save their lives. Most disturbing, there are moments where you find yourself listening to the narrator work its way into the mind of one Nazi or another.
I opened the book one night before bed, my husband and I reading beside one another to wind down, and when I finished the novel’s brief Preludio, I stopped and placed the book against my chest, above my pounding heart. It was a slow, methodical reveal, and the moment the direction became clear, it was like someone had poured ice water down my spine. I immediately read it aloud to my husband so he could feel it too. There were several such moments as I moved through: bearing witness to a Nazi doctor confess his manifold sins to a Catholic priest (is there forgiveness, is there divine mercy for such atrocities? Can one repent, can one really change?); following families split apart by war, by living underground, by helping those stay and survive underground; voices cut short by war. There were several times the week after the election this November that I had to put the book down after only a couple of pages – the parallels were too horrifying.
The characters are plentiful – and there is a character list, which I consulted many times14533597_1842215806021800_2050464786369478656_n due to my very slow movement through this book (unless I had a flight to sit down with it for a more sustained period) – but sharply drawn. Many will pull at all of your empathy; some will draw on your darkest rage and despair. But Jewish or not (and I am), it’s a beautiful, well-plotted, honest, wrenching book that – while not shying from the truth and the horrors of war and the Holocaust – reminds us of how each of us can make a difference.

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