Friday, November 2, 2018

Five Star Reads for 2018

Most of my reviews on Goodreads are four stars. If I don't like I book, I tend to put it aside. But five stars books have to do more than satisfy. My inner book critic argues that it's one thing to give out four stars willy nilly, but five stars should mean something. Reflecting on the books I read this year, I was curious to see if there were any with five stars.

Turns out that there have been just two: a non-fiction tome detailing the battle in Congress over slavery, and a short and perfect gem ostensibly about an older couple but somehow about much more.

Arguing about Slavery: The Great Battle in the United States CongressArguing about Slavery: The Great Battle in the United States Congress by William Lee Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Early in the narrative, the author made this point: "It is a revealing curiosity of American popular attitudes that a people so practical, so optimistic, so energetic, so direct, so quick to say that anything can be done by an effort of will--the impossible takes a little longer--on other topics, have regularly and abruptly turned to the opposite extreme on issues of slavery and race: nothing can be done. Leave it alone. Don't meddle. It cannot be fixed." p. 15

He emphasized that when we encounter something equally heinous and unjust in our current lives, we should take heart. Things can change. A much needed reminder in 2018.

On the lighter side, I learned the origins of a "Yankee nutmeg". The wrath that the South hurled at the North prior to physical hostilities breaking out in 1861 was impressive. Where'd they learn to insult people like that? A Yankee nutmeg was a nutmeg made out of wood that Yankee peddlers developed a reputation for selling: fake nutmegs made of carved wood. p. 294

This article at Mental Floss details the early American obsession with wooden nutmegs, if you'd like to learn more. I agree with the Northerner who reputedly said, "I would rather come from that part of the country where the people make wooden nutmegs than to come from that part of the country where the people are fools enough to buy them." I guess the North had a few verbal defenses of their own.

Our Souls at NightOur Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"She had arranged the funeral and told the minister about Ruth. He hadn't known her at all. She had stopped going to any church because of her feeling about orthodoxy and the childish ways in which churches talked and thought about God."

My mom recommended this author to me. She does not suggest duds. Ever.

"I do love this physical world. I love this physical life with you. And the air and the country. The backyard, the gravel in the back alley. The grass. The cool nights. Lying in bed talking with you in the dark."

"Who does ever get what they want? It doesn’t seem to happen to many of us if any at all. It’s always two people bumping against each other blindly, acting out old ideas and dreams and mistaken understandings."

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