One of my favorite parts about summer is the opportunity to relax and catch up on reading. Although it’s been a busy summer, I luckily dove into some really interesting books in my spare time. Check out a list below of what I’ve been reading. And let me know in the comments what you’ve been enjoying or recommend!
Summer 2016: What I’ve Been Reading
The Cellist of Sarajevo
This novel follows the story of three characters living during the Balkan Wars in the early 1990’s. All three characters live in Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and attempt to continue their lives amid the chaos of war. One central character, pulling together the storytellers’ lives is the fascination with a cellist. The cellist plays for 22 days in the city center to honor those who died. Although a fictitious book, it is loosely based on accounts of a real Bosnian cellist. The stories shape a sad but necessary portrait of the everyday casualties and face of war. While the topic itself is not light, the author weaves together absorbing stories of those living in the era.
A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda by Josh Ruxin
In this book, author John Ruxin recounts his family’s journey to Rwand, and their on-the-ground development work and opening a restaurant in Kigali (Rwanda’s capital). The book leans more towards the global health, rather than a foodie book though. I enjoyed the author’s emphasis on how development projects should focus on long-term sustainability and working with the local people and their culture. Ruxin avoided acting out the “white savior complex”, something that often happens in these kind of projects. At times I found it overly repetitive and a little tiring about certain luxuries. (For example,being able to fly out on vacation every couple months etc.) However, I appreciated his approach to the Rwandan genocide. While he wrote of the facts, he also discussed the roots in Belgian colonization. Too often the West writes off these kind of events as tribal problems or something that just happens in developing countries without analyzing historical Western influences. As someone studying economics and public health, I enjoyed reading about the intersection of the fields in a real life situation. The book is definitely worth reading.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia– by Candace Fleming
Back in 9th grade biology, we learned about forensics and the infamous case of the Romanov family and last Tsar. For many years after their death, speculations arose that one survived the family murder. Adding to the mystery, impostors of the Romanov family popped up throughout the 20th century. This story intrigued me a lot- I just can’t resist a good mystery and stories of royal families. Hence my interest in the Romanov family began. The Romanov family was the last ruling family and Tsar of Russia until their murder by Bolshevik troops in 1918. While I love reading the stories about the 4 princesses in particular, I appreciated the story from a nonfiction angle. The Family Romanov provides a well written background of the social and political dynamics leading to the family downfall. It isn’t incredibly in-depth and more of an overview of the 20 years leading up to the murders, but a good read nonetheless on the last Russian imperial family.
A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower– by Alison Weir
At this point you probably figured out I love European history. And Tudor England is the first time period I fell in love with. I took this book when I traveled abroad, knowing my final destination was in London. During my last stop, I visited the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey for the first time. Incredible experience. Weir is a great writer, one of my favorite historical fiction writers, but disappointingly I found this book just okay. It tells the story of Katherine Grey (sister to Lady Jane Grey) and Kate Plantagenet, bastard child of Richard III. I consider myself well-read on this era and even I, at times, found the book confusing. It covers a lot of time in history, making it feel disjointed, and there are simply too many characters to follow. I’m mentioning this book because I did read it over the summer but if you are looking for an alternative, I highly recommend Weir’s novel “Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey.” That book is amazing and really showcases Weir and her writing.
The Witch of Portobello– by Paul Coelho
Earlier this summer, I was given a recommendation to try Coelho’s writing. I couldn’t find the exact book recommended so I spontaneously grabbed The Witch of Portobello off the shelf. The writing style in this is incredibly unique. Instead of describing a character outright, the author pieces together different people in the character’s life to shape the readers opinion of her. The novel follows the story of Athena, a woman blessed with spiritual/witchcraft properties and her journey in self-discovery. While witchcraft isn’t real, but the emotions explored like love and questioning one’s identity are universal. Coelho clearly is a talented writer. While the style took a few chapters to get used to, I found the book a fascinating read and recommend it.
I hope you enjoyed my short list of what I’ve been into for my summer reading! Until next post 🙂