5 Brief Book Reviews

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The Infinite Tides by Christian Kiefer

The Infinite Tides is a story about a grieving astronaut that is relentless in its integrity. I always appreciate the rare author who can plumb great emotional depths without a hint of sentimentality or a single false note. I read this novel as instructive in craft, as well as a meditative study of grief and mid-life spiritual growth. Indeed, there is a complex spiritual truth woven throughout this narrative about nothing less than what human beings are essentially for. The Infinite Tides is impeccably and beautifully written. This is painfully honest work about grief, manhood, relationship, and place. This is a story with an immensely satisfying ending, addressing in its quiet, meticulous way the loneliness of the human condition. As with Kiefer’s second novel The Animals, I found this to be tremendously moving work.  Highly recommend.

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I got a signed copy. This is a picture of it.

The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil

To be honest with you, I had a hard time going back to my normal life after finally finishing The Great Glass Sea.  This story, set in a speculative  Russia, is about twin brothers who head in opposite directions after a strange encounter with the oligarch in charge of the enormous green house structure where they work. One advances in his career, and the other stops going to work altogether. The grim fairy tale world where people slog to work every single day of the week in pursuit of cheap consumer goods and  a mirage of an American Dream-like fantasy cut too close to reality for this reader’s comfort.  The Great Glass sea is a genius piece of work, but it will change how you see everything, including your own work ethic. I’m warning you now.

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I just turned the last page on I’ll Give You the Sun an hour ago. This long, multiple-storyline YA novel kept me from all of my holiday chores. This story about twin artists and the mother they lost to a horrible car accident is a work of art itself. The story is told through the alternating perspectives of the twins, each so different not only in their personalities, desires and vision, but also in the secrets that they keep. This reading experience was like swimming in an ocean of paint but cooler. Highly recommend to student readers in particular, and to all fans of highly imagistic and emotional writing as well.

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No god but God : The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Rezla Aslan

I started reading this nonfiction text about the origins of Islam as part of a professional book club at work. It’s highly readable text, and every page a nuanced instruction in religion, faith, culture, language and geography.  This is no neutral textbookish treatment of Islam–Aslan has a point of view. Yet for anyone interested in history and how religious history shapes modern cultures, No god but God is a fascinating read. This in-depth exploration of Islam is particularly useful to this reader’s understanding of the nature of the current and ongoing events on the world stage.

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I love this cover.

Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

Instructions for the End of the World is the only book on today’s list that I’m reading in the vicinity of its release date.  I’m so often late to the reading party, but this time I am right on time. This beautifully rendered YA novel is told in alternating perspectives, and no one writes fresh, distinctive young voices quite like Jamie Kain.  Nicole and Izzy’s father moves the family into a decrepit house in the woods, as he “preps” for the end of the world. Wolf, a young man loves Thoreau and dreams of living in trees, befriends the sisters as their lives are tossed on the waves of their father’s madness. I loved this novel and will suggest the title to my high school students as Jamie Kain manages to tell the truth about what it feels like to be a young person navigating a difficult world with parents who not only don’t help, but make things so much worse. Highly recommend.

 

 

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