Wednesday, April 1, 2020

An Open Book: March 2020 Reads

It's a new month, so that means it's time to look back on the books I read in the past few weeks. Going through my list, I noticed that the books I tackled in March are, in general, on the lighter side in contrast to many of the books that I began 2020 with. I guess after John Steinbeck and Walker Percy, I needed a little bit of a break! I also noticed that I didn't read quite as many books as I thought I would, and I blame this on our libraries being closed but mostly on the fact that I recently got hooked on the Australian show, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. 

But, I shall talk about Phryne Fisher another day (and I WILL, don't you worry)-for now, let's talk about books! Make sure to check out Carolyn Astfalk's link-up for even more literary discussions!

Please Stop Helping Us: How liberals make it harder for blacks to succeed, by Jason Riley.
Written by a Wall Street Journal columnist and news commentator, this book outlines various well-intentioned government efforts to help people in the black community that have, over time, shown to possibly do more harm than good. Drawing from a huge amount of studies, statistics, personal interviews, and other research, Riley walks through topics like minimum wage (and how it is correlated with unemployment among black people), affirmative action, and the dangers of perpetuating a culture based on violence, indifference, and drugs (among other behaviors). While I don't think it is necessarily helpful to further the divide between "liberals" and "conservatives," I thought this was a fascinating, eye-opening book that has really helped me to think about some things in a new way. I'd heard some of these arguments before-from white people-so it really struck me to see these arguments coming from a black man (who, I'm guessing, has been affected by these issues in some way). I do think the book would have benefited from including more of the author's personal experience, since many people are not convinced by statistics and studies, but need a personal story to make it more "real" to them. In Chapter 3, the author finally included some stories from his life about being pulled over for no apparent reason, but other than that, this book mainly consists of him drawing conclusions and making arguments about various policies. This is still worth a read, but I would have liked more of his story mixed into the chapters. 

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier.
To my surprise, I enjoyed this Gothic novel. It follows a young heroine (we're never told her name) as she-while visiting Monte Carlo with her employer-falls for the recently-widowed Maxim de Winter. Swept up in a whirlwind (with the heroine infatuated with the idea of a grand estate), the two marry and journey back to Maxim's estate, Manderly. There, the heroine grapples with all of the ever-present memories of Rebecca (Maxim's first wife) as she tries to find her place in all of this. Of course, there's a creepy housekeeper and mysteries and a costume ball, and I found it all very intriguing and fun to read.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith.
A long time ago, I heard people rave about this book and the movie adaptation. So, I started watching the movie, and soon turned if off because it involved a lot of a random woman running around naked. Why is this story so beloved? I wondered. Well, I finally picked up the book when I heard yet more people rave about it. Written as the diary of seventeen-year-old Cassandra, this book follows her and her family as they live in poverty in the crumbling remains of an English castle. Her family is all weird and artistic, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about their escapades (even the rather hippie stepmother who runs around naked at night, "communing with nature"). I had a lot of fun reading this book, and I also enjoyed seeing Cassandra's growth throughout the story. 

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction, by Meghan Cox Gurdon.
This well-researched foray into the importance of reading out loud was fabulous, and so inspiring. The author included studies and her own personal interviews to show the scientific and social benefits of reading out loud at all ages. I usually associate the practice of reading out loud with kids, but it was neat to see the stories about adults reading to other adults (particularly those in nursing homes or hospitals) and this book has definitely inspired me to bring the practice of read-alouds into my life more!

Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin.
Set in modern-day Canada, this retelling of Pride and Prejudice was delightful. It follows Ayesha, a young, rather forward-thinking Muslim woman who works as a schoolteacher and writes poetry in her free time. Her path crosses with that of Khalid, a very conservative Muslim man, and they become good friends-but, due to a mix-up at the mosque, he thinks her name is Hafsa (who happens to be Ayesha's wordly, wild, man-hunting cousin). The story loosely follows that of P&P, but has enough differences in it that I think people unfamiliar with Austen could enjoy this. I really loved getting a glimpse into modern Muslim culture, and I also thought the discussions about "blending in" vs. showing one's faith were quite interesting. 

A Desperate Fortune, by Susanna Kearsley.
Sara, a young computer programmer (who dabbles with codebreaking) is enlisted to decode the diary of a Jacobite exile. So, she moves to Paris and begins unraveling the cipher-and finds other parts of her life taking a new turn, as well. From an unexpected romance springing up in her life to the mysteries revolving around her new employer (a once-famous historian, who is hoping to use the diary for a book that will help him regain momentum), Sara finds plenty of adventure. Intertwined with her story is that of Mary Dundad, the Jacobite exile whose diary Sara is decoding. This was a fun, lighthearted, historical fiction novel that I had a great time reading. Yet, while I liked the basic story, what I really LOVED was that Sara has Asperger's. Not only did I learn some new things about Asperger's, but I also just appreciated how an awesome heroine in a book had this and it was normal. Two thumbs up for that!

The Gospel Without Compromise, by Catherine Doherty.
In this lovely little book, Doherty brings her East-West wisdom into a discussion of various topics that revolve around the lived reality of Christianity. Written in the aftermath of Vatican II, I found her words still quite relevant and fresh in the 21st century. While I've preferred her other books, I did really like her discussion of things like poverty, faith, and love of God. This book had some great insights, and even though it's short, there's a lot for deeper reflection in here.

Thanks for joining me! Make sure to drop any of your recommendations below. I love reading a wide range of books and authors! 


  1. Rebecca is one of my favorites! A great novel. Thanks for linking up!

    1. Thank you for hosting! I was excited to read that book-it's amazing how many classics I've missed out on over the years!