Book Reviews

“Room” by Emma Donoghue

This is by far the best book I’ve read all year. The book is original, thrilling, captivating, and heartwrenching. At the same time, it is unexpectedly fresh and optimistic, filled with life and hope and wonder.

“Washington’s U Street” by Blair A. Ruble

Washington’s U Street area is a “contact zone”—a place where cultures and peoples exist side by side. Whether black or white, southern or northern, professional or scholarly, residents in the neighborhood have interacted with each other with very few clashes decades. U Street has bred activists, politicians, scholars, educators, athletes, musicians, dancers, calling such famous figures as Duke Ellington and Ralph Bunche sons.

“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book was truly a delight to read, and I appreciated Gaiman’s intelligent handling of complex issues without losing sight of his inventive narrative. I would recommend this book to almost anyone for its fully formed characters, excellent prose, and engaging plot.

“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

While it was fun to read and act out a play together, perhaps Jack and I chose the wrong work; neither of us particularly liked this one. The entire play seemed very disjointed, like there was a scene or even an act missing.

“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë

Such a powerful story of love and loss ages well, and the unconventional use of an unreliable narrator had an interesting effect upon my view of the characters and story. The supernatural elements throughout the novel only serve to add to the dark, intense feelings between the two lovers.

“The Purity Myth” by Jessica Valenti

If you already believe that the abstinence movement is harming young women, you will like this book. If you don’t, you’re not likely to change your mind. There were many parts of this book that I enjoyed. However, I came to it hoping for a clear-eyed, well-argued account of the effects of the movements toward abstinence and virginity. This book instead only reinforces the dichotomy between supporters and detractors of abstinence.

“Fingerprints” by Joel Church

Fingerprints, Joel Church’s first collection of flash fiction, captures both the enticing and the mundane. Set against the backdrop of Washington, D.C., Church’s characters explore topics ranging from sexuality and drug abuse to childhood and loss. These stories extend from two to ten pages long, and their brevity makes them an excellent read on the metro; I could read for only one or two stops and not feel completely lost the next time I opened the book.

“To Have and Have Not” by Ernest Hemingway

To Have and Have Not is my least favorite Hemingway book so far. Though Hemingway attempts to dissect grand social issues, such as troubled economic times and the relationship that exists between husband and wife, the entangled sub-plots and the erratic activities of the characters serve to distract from whatever statement Hemingway is trying to make.

“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit is one of the best books I’ve read all year. Because of its intensely imaginative plot and Tolkien’s masterful literary execution, The Hobbit is one of those few books that are equally attractive to kids and adults alike. But you probably already knew that!

“The Souls of Black Folk” by W. E. B. Du Bois

It is impossible to rate The Souls of Black Folk too highly. It is a worthwhile read solely for the impact that it has had upon American society, both in its time and in the decades since its 1903 publication. The Souls of Black Folk was a major contribution to the African-American literary tradition, and it is also a cornerstone of the literature on sociology. Beyond its historical and educational value, though, I highly recommend this book to everyone for the piercing glimpses Du Bois offers into the souls of all men and women.

“The Anti 9 to 5 Guide” by Michelle Goodman

Michelle Goodman offers advice geared to women who want to work in nontraditional jobs but don’t know where to begin. Drawing from her years as a freelancer, Goodman suggests practical, step-by-step changes one can make over time so that a transition to the entrepreneurial life doesn’t lead you back to your parents’ couch. Particularly salient in our troubled economy, The Anti 9 to 5 Guide should be consulted by anyone contemplating “life outside the cube.”

“Lost and Found” by Carolyn Parkhurst

Lost and Found is the story of a mother and daughter struggling to mend a relationship torn by deceit and mistrust—in front of millions of TV viewers. The true story, however, is the gradual unfolding of the characters’ lives—the peeks through the curtained windows, the chinks in the armor. Lost and Found is a well-written novel of secrets and yearning, of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, that is simultaneously thought-provoking and entertaining.