Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

My book club picked My Beloved World for our May read. Sonia Sotomayor had recently visited the University at Albany, although I was traveling at the time and unable to attend her presentation, held in our basketball arena to a sold-out crowd. I was eager to read her memoir as part of my effort to counter the horror of the daily news with affirming works by people who are worthy of admiration. After reading Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father, I was ready for another work that would remind me that principled and intelligent public servants do exist.

My Beloved World tells Ms. Sotomayor's life story from childhood through her first appointment as a judge. I loved reading about her family, both here in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, as well as her academic challenges and achievements. She breezes pretty quickly through her years at Princeton and her time at Yale Law School, but I really appreciated learning how she would identify the best student and ask them for advice about how to be a better student. Post-graduation she worked as an Assistant District Attorney, then for a law firm, and volunteered for numerous positions in important advocacy organizations, in the process getting the right experience to be considered for a judge-ship.

This book is a thoughtful look back at Ms. Sotomayor's experiences growing up, going off to school, entering the workforce, and becoming a judge. She ends the book at the point that she becomes a judge; I can only hope that she's going to continue the story at a later time; hopefully she won't have to wait until she retires. My Beloved World is well-written, clear, and concise. Highly recommended!

Sonia Sotomayor. My Beloved World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 315 pages. ISBN 9780307594884.

June-August 2017

People of the Book tells the story of a famous book through the imagined clues left behind in its pages. A moth, a wine stain, and evidence of salt water on its pages reveal clues to its adventures, from its creation to its rescue during World War II and again during the siege on Sarajevo during the 1990s Balkan wars. It's a well-written and fascinating example of historical fiction; I look forward to reading more of Geraldine Brooks' work.

The Sparrow is a science fiction novel that explores philosophy and religion as its characters travel through space to encounter another civilization. As Father Emilio Sandoz, the sole survivor of an expedition to another planet, heals from his injuries, he slowly tells the story of what happened when they met intelligent beings that didn't quite meet their expectations and hopes. I loved this story and I'm eager to read the sequel, Children of God.

Author Sarah Schmidt became obsessed with the story of Lizzie Borden. A native of Melbourne, Australia, her interest was so great that she traveled to the U.S. to visit the Borden home and stay overnight. See What I Have Done explores the Borden tale through the viewpoints of Lizzie, her sister Emma, the maid Bridget, and a drifter named Benjamin (a fictional character). The characters and their voices are distinct and create a fascinating picture of what might have happened that day in 1892.

I've only read one Henning Mankell mystery: The Troubled Man, which is his last Kurt Wallander book. I wouldn't normally start a series at the end, but I had received an advanced reading copy at Book Expo America, so I gave it a shot. I found it a little bit sad and depressing, but maybe that's because he was wrapping up the series. Secrets in the Fire is a children's book based on the life of a young girl who lost her legs to a land mine. Along with its two sequels, Playing with Fire, and Shadow of the Leopard, it reveals the plight that so many regions of the world experience, not being safe in their own homeland due to conflict and war.

Peter Mayle's The Marseille Caper is a fun, fast-moving romp through Marseille. Sam Levitt, an amateur detective, is hired to help his client secure a contract to develop beachfront property in Marseille. Lots of action, adventure, good food, and wine drinking follow. Just what was needed for a post-semester break from reality.

I've set a goal to read all of the Jo Nesbo Harry Hole detective stories in order. I've enjoyed a few of his later books, but with Cockroaches his writing is nowhere near as good as in his later books. Perhaps it has something to do with the translation, because there are many phrases throughout that just don't ring true or make sense. My guess is that after he made it big his earlier books were translated into English, but the books weren't really all that good, and the translations were not the best. I will keep going with the series, however; at least I'll be able to track when he began to get really good.