Next 5: 20 Books a Summer

I’ve clearly needed a lot of time to think of these next 5 reviews. Worth the wait? Check out the start of the series here.

15. The Wonder

Well this was a slog. I never saw or read Room but if that got such acclaim the author’s other work has to be great right? No! Why haven’t I learned by now ?

Slow and boring. That’s all I can remember–proof positive it’s one to avoid.

14. Jane

Product Details

I’m not usually a contrarian, but Jane Eyre, and Jane Austen, and Brit Lit in general is just not my thing. I can enjoy a rom com remake of a Jane Austen book, but otherwise I just find them tedious and predictable. My dislike for Jane Eyre, especially, always surprised even me because it’s a little more unique than the others. More gothic, more forbidden lovely, but not for me.

However, since I feel crazy having this take, I picked up Jane, a modern retelling of the story that students recommended.

It read like typical chick lit. Awkward girl meets handsome

14. Commonwealth

Tied for 14th place right on the precipice of mediocrity and terribleness. I know I’m supposed to fall all over myself for Ann Patchett but…this was fine. Family drama, some compelling characters, mostly terrible people being terrible aka acclaimed contemporary fiction. Blah.

12. The Widow of the South

Product Details

This book was good! Not great. I read it after reading The Orphan Mother, which I tore through. The Orphan Mother told a less familiar tale of Civil War/postbellum times in the South. Maybe this just seemed repetitive after a very similar topic by the same author, but it didn’t captivate me. I have referenced it several times in teaching, however, so it clearly has significance

11. The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by [Wilkerson, Isabel]

10. Imbeciles

Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by [Cohen, Adam]

My nonfiction is grouped right in the middle of the pack. These both discuss incredibly significant and frequently overlooked periods of American history: The Great Migration and the eugenics trend. They both started off fascinating and engaging. I’m less familiar with eugenics than the migration so Imbeciles especially left me exclaiming during each read at all the next facts.

They both go 100 pages, run out of new information, and yet continue for hundreds more pages.

These books, as with many non fiction titles, are in desperate need of a ruthless editing. They weave in many characters and time frames, challenging I’ll admit, but they give the reader no credit for remembering anything that happens on any page. With each new locale or reintroduction of a character, the authors retell relationships and plot, sometimes pages worth.  Wilkerson’s book is especially problematic as the entire text weaves among the personal stories of 3 migrants. So each time we revisit a migrant, we have a backstory. Again. Sometimes multiple times in one page. Imbeciles gives chapters worth of repeated biographical information on its main topic but never gives context for present day or other parts of history. Both titles draw in the reader with an under discussed topic and approachable writing style but their attempts to personalize the issue go off the tracks and leads to detail overload.

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