Book Log #10 – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A friend of the family send this book to us for Scout to read, adding that it was her very favorite book. This is no small praise coming from a person as well-read as she.

It sat on our counter for several months before I took pity on the poor book and decided to give it a try. I knew nothing about the novel, which I think is really the best way to read something.

It is a tremendous book that, had it been described to me, I would never have sought out on my own. In short, it is a coming-of-age novel of a young impoverished girl in Brooklyn in the 1910’s. Sounds depressing, right? I’m not too in to depressing books. I’m looking for escapism; if I want to be sad, I can pick up a newspaper.

But the world our heroine inhabits is fascinating and foreign. It’s I-had-to-walk-uphill-through-the-snow-both-ways but told deftly and with humor and insight.

The writing is well done, and I’ll highlight something that should have bothered me, but didn’t– when a character’s thought processes were being described, they were written in a very matter of fact and stilted way that just… worked, for some reason. I don’t know why, and I never would have tried it myself.

When I was done with the book, I wondered how accurate it could possibly be– where did the author get this incredible detail of Brooklyn life of this time? Even my grandmothers wouldn’t have been old enough to experience it firsthand.

But of course, the answer is that this book is fairly old, written in 1943. I would have known that had I bothered to pay any attention to the cover, with the words “75th Anniversary Edition” printed across the top.

So, in summary, it’s nice the human race writes things down so we can learn about them 100 years later.

Highly recommended.

Book Log #9: Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid [Kindle, $13.99]

I made a note of this book after seeing an interview with Kiley Reid by Trevor Noah. Trevor endorsed her book, and I figure he knows good books.

Interestingly, it’s centers around a black babysitter taking care of a white child in a supermarket, where she is accosted by store security on suspician of kidnapping.

i started reading it before the most recent momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement kicked in; it turned out to be serendipitious reading material.

And interesting, and entertaining. Trevor didn’t let me down.

Book Log #7: Everything Scrabble

Everything Scrabble by Edley, Joe, Williams, John, Gallery Books

At the beginning of the pandemic, I tried playing Scrabble online with folks. I got stomped. Just crushed.

I’m not a Scrabble officianado. I enjoy the game, but I haven’t played in decades, and I had no idea what a “bingo” was.

So I read up, started practicing, and now I can confidently say I am no better, but now I know what a “bingo” is.

Book Log #6: The Glass Hotel

The Glass Hotel By Emily St. John Mandel

By the author of Station 11, which was fantastic.

This was a fine read. It had a story, but felt more like a collection of character sketches. I don’t mean that in necessarily a bad way, I stayed engaged throughout. The ending got a bit supernatural for my taste, in what was otherwise a very grounded novel.

The plot involves a Madoff-like Ponzi scheme and an isolated hotel, and the characters that inhabit both.

Worth a read, but try Station 11 first.

I liked it well enough to try some of her other works.

Book Log #3: The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia: A Novel

The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia: A Novel by Mary Helen Stefaniak [Kindle, $9.99]

Loved this novel.

I came across it because I was taking an SAT practice test with my son, and one of the questions had an excerpt from this novel. The excerpt was probably the most amusing bit of writing I’ve ever seen in a standardized test so I needed to get the rest of it.

There’s some fun literary fugues going on in this book… a person tells a story about someone who then tells a story about someone who then tells a story and so on about 7 layers down. And then, when you’ve finished the book, you can visit the Baghdad, Georgia website, and go one level up from the novel. There are layers, people.

All in all, this is a rollicking, amusing, touching and well-written novel, probably my favorite this year.

I picked up the other couple works by Stefanick, and they did not disappoint either.

Book Log #2: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1)

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1) by Becky Chambers [Kindle, $6.99]

This was an alternative family sci-fi story, like Firefly. Put a bunch of different personalities in a small ship and watch them bond. There’s some decent world building going on here, but not enough that I needed to look for Book 2.

There is a decent message here about accepting different cultures, sexualities, etc.