Here are the opening lines of books I was reading in June.
(PSA: In case you don't feel like wading through all these words, feel free to skip and just go to the comment section to wax rhapsodic about whatever you love best among the books you are currently reading.)
Home. Mona Butterfield felt contentment settle inside her chest like a deep sigh as she drove past the familiar billboard on Rural Route 20. The billboard depicted a giant wide-mouthed bass, its body arched in a shower of splashing water, a cartoonish fisherman triumphantly reeling it in. Beneath the picture large red letters announced Welcome to Bassville – the White Bass Capital of the Western Hemisphere.
How did the Marquis de Lafayette win over the stingiest, crankiest tax protesters in the history of the world? He trudged from France to Philadelphia, hung around the building where they signed the Declaration of Independence, and volunteered to work for free. The Continental Congress had its doubts about saddling General George Washington with a teenage French aristocrat, but Ben Franklin wrote from Paris that the kid might be of use and, what the hell, the price was right.
German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that “the early mornings belong to the Church of the risen Christ. At the break of light it remembers the morning on which death and sin lay prostrate in defeat and new life and salvation were given to mankind.” This comes as unfortunate news for someone like me who can barely remember who she is at the “break of light,” much less ponder the theological implications of the resurrection.
I am almost a whole day old, now. I arrived yesterday. That is as it seems to me. And it must be so, for if there was a day-before-yesterday I was not there when it happened, or I should remember it. It could be, of course, that it did happen, and that I was not noticing. Very well; I will be very watchful now, and if any day-before-yesterdays happen I will make a note of it.
Let’s get one thing straight right from the beginning: I didn’t set out to be a comma queen. The first job I ever had, the summer I was fifteen, was checking feet at a public pool in Cleveland.
St. Petersburgh, Dec 11th, 17__
TO Mrs. Saville, England
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.
Mr Logiudice: State your name, please.
Witness: Andrew Barber.
Mr Logiudice: What do you do for work, Mr. Barber?
Witness: I was an assistant district attorney in this county for 22 years.
Mr Logiudice: “Was.” What do you do for work now?
Witness: I suppose you’d say I’m unemployed.
* * * * * * * * *
Here are the titles that go with the above excerpts. I’ve listed them in order of how much I liked the book, from best to least. It’s difficult to rank books of different genres all together. Is it fair to compare a history book to a novel? No. But I can say that I liked the first five books, but not the last two, which are for our book club.
1. Across the River by Melissa Westemeier
This novel met my biggest reading need: to get away to a small town with an excellently named river, and meet the people who live there, and enter into their lives. I think my favorite character was Grandma Nancy. This was a fun read. You can also get this book here.
Melissa Westemeier blogs here.
2. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Sarah Vowell’s Lafayette answered my need for a snarky take on Our Nation’s History. I have no way of judging her historical accuracy, but it’s amusing reading, especially considering that it’s history.
3. Searching forSunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
Rachel Held Evans is by turns funny and poignant while Searching for Sunday, but always passionate about her topic, her relationship to the church. I’m just grateful that when I was growing my church youth group was not like hers.
Rachel Held Evans blogs here.
4. The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain
Mark Twain wrote The Diaries of Adam and Eve late in his life, and his writing shows surprising tenderness. That is the book that I wish the book club would pick.
Mark Twain blogs here.
5. Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris
Mary Norris’ Between You and Me is well done, if you love grammar-related stuff. Her chapter on pronouns is a striking personal story on just how much those tiny words matter.
Mary Norris blogs here.
6. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley (for book club)
Some count Frankenstein as a classic, a genre I usually enjoy, but Mary Shelley’s writing style was just over-the-top maudlin, a sort of literary wringing of the hands. Much weeping and death and coldness. She wrote it when she was 18 years old, so I suppose she should be excused. I liked the book discussion much more than I liked reading the actual book.
7. Defending Jacob, by William Landay (for book club)
I had no business reading Defending Jacob, by William Landay, except our book club picked it. I am not a fan of novels about horrendous crime. I truly disliked this book. Maybe I'll feel differently after the book discussion. In my view the writing style was not anything special, and the plot was very disturbing to me. It’s going to give me nightmares. I was happy to read Mark Twain afterwards.
William Landay blogs here.
I also read The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West, but I neglected to note the opening lines. It started out rather Downton-Abbeyish, as a snarky-fun commentary on British upper crust life in the early 20th century, but it got tedious, and some characters that could have been quite interesting were not fully developed.
Now it's your turn. What did you read during June?