Wednesday, July 7, 2021

An Open Book: June 2021 Reads

Another month has begun, so it's time to join in Carolyn Astfalk's linkup to talk about the books that have crossed my path lately! I fell into old habits of reading a lot of nonfiction, but I managed to read a couple fiction works, too. I also have a couple of longer books that I've been slowly working through, so maybe by the next book linkup those will be done! (but no guarantees haha!)

Bunker: Building for the End Times, by Bradley Garrett.

In this fascinating exploration of "prepper culture," Garrett travels throughout the U.S. (and a couple areas abroad) to learn about bunkers that various people are making. Learning about the communities of people who are doing this was really interesting (I found one particular group of pie-making "homepreppers" the author meets quite endearing), and I particularly was intrigued to learn about the Survival Condo, a luxury bunker in Kansas. This book brings up a lot of really good discussion points, and while I don't agree with all of the author's viewpoints or actions (he does some very questionable things in his journeys), this book was extremely interesting. 

Ms. Marvel: Outlawed, by Saladin Ahmed.

In this collection, Kamela Khan continues to work through her guilt over her father's injuries and grapple with the weirdness of her relationship with Bruno. She meets another superhero, Amulet, who arrives in Jersey City, and she navigates an anti-superhero organization that rises up. She battles an old foe and some new ones, too. This was a pretty fun volume, and while the villains didn't seem as developed as they could have been, I did enjoy seeing Kamala growing in her relationships with her family and friends as she continues to find her place in the world as a daughter, sister, friend, Muslim, and superhero. I'm interested to see where Ms. Marvel goes in the future! 

Unschooling Rules, by Clark Adrich.

This book was basically 55 short (1-2 page) rants about the problems of the educational system and the benefits of unschooling or homeschooling. It was a quick read, and a lot of stuff I agrede with, but there wasn't much actual research referenced. I did find some of the author's ideas pretty intriguing (teaching about calculus in a history class, since it "is a towering invention in the same vein as the potter's wheel or the loom") and appreciate the points that he made about learning through experiences-such as spending time with animals instead of reading books about animals, and taking part in apprenticeships and internships. I was not a huge fan of the slightly-disparaging comments he made about Classic novels, and I wasn't a fan of how enthusiastically he endorsed using a large variety of electronic and/or social media for schoolkids. (Clearly, every homeschooler has lots of strong opinions, myself very much included!) This book was okay, but there are probably other homeschooling books I would find to be better. 

Beowulf, by Gareth Hinds.

This is a graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf. I enjoyed it, and thought it was helpful to have in the graphic novel format, though the style of drawing wasn't my favorite. I much prefer Hinds' adaptation of Macbeth. Still, this was a good, quick read. 

Call of the Wild, by Jack London.

Somehow, I managed to miss this Classic growing up, so I was excited to pick it up. Set during the late 19th century Klondike Gold Rush, the story follows Buck, a dog that is stolen and bought and sold in the sled dog service in Alaska. Buck faces the brutality of man's greediness and wrestles with his own life as a sled dog vs. a free life in the wild. I find it hilarious that a fairly popular "find your tribe" homeschooling book riffs off this book's title, since Call of the Wild is anything but happy butterflies and rainbows; it is a brutal book that honestly looks at the harsh realities of that time in history. I thought it was excellent! 

Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder.

In this book, Bruder pulls together years of research and experiences living among modern nomads in the U.S.A. to talk about this continually-expanding group of people who are trying to push through so many barriers simply to live. I loved reading this insightful book, and I appreciate that these stories are being put out there so we can consider the countless individuals who are impacted by so many aspects of  housing and the economy. And, while I continue to appreciate and use Amazon (especially as a mom of little kids, it is very helpful) this book is making me think a lot more critically about that. This book brings up tons of good topics to discuss, and I'm really grateful that I read it! 

On the Other Side of Fear, by Hallie Lord.

This pithy book dives into the various ways that Hallie Lord has encountered her own fears and learned to push through them to experience greater love and joy. As someone who deals with plenty of my own fears and anxieties, I found myself nodding along to much of this book, and have found some of her ideas in here really helpful. Each chapter was an independent essay/reflection, and while I often like it when books are chronological, I think this book worked well in this non-sequential format, since working through fear and anxiety can bounce all over the place! It was sobering to read this with the knowledge that the author is now a single mom, and I'm really interested to read her next book to see how she addresses that particular part of her journey. 

Home Education, by Charlotte Mason.

After enjoying so much of what I've read about Charlotte Mason, I finally picked up one of her actual books! In this collection of essays, she explores children (ages 0-9) and their particular needs, abilities, and educational process. I LOVED IT. I made tons of notes on this book, and while I don't agree 100% with everything that Mason says or believes, I am on board with so much of this book. I love her huge emphasis on letting children "lie fallow" for the first six or so years of life, as well as her push to let children spend several hours each day in nature. I don't want to adhere to only one educational philosophy/approach (especially since different children have different needs) but this book really reinforced that a lot of my tendencies align quite nicely with a lot of Charlotte Mason's ideas! 

The Answer is...Reflections on My Life, by Alex Trebeck.

In this collection of reflections, famed Jeopardy! host thinks back on various moments in his life. From his childhood to his early work in TV and radio and ultimately, to his time on Jeopardy! he talks about a myriad of experiences that formed him. As in other celebrity memoirs I've read, some chapters are really short and others are longer, which I think helps a lengthy book like this flow easily and not become bogged down in details. I found it really encouraging to see the long process that Trebeck went through of working in various jobs before his time on Jeopardy! (I also loved all the little tidbits about that show!) and I enjoyed this book overall. 

Thanks so much for joining me this month! If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments--I always love adding to my reading stack!


  1. I am reading Hallie Lord's next book; I never got past the preview of "On the other side of fear." It hasn't really gripped me; your mileage may vary. I am interested in reading the Alex Trebek biography!

    1. Good to know! I have lots of books on my plate right now, so I'm intrigued to see how I like her next book. I hope you enjoy the Trebek book when you pick it up! He seems like such an iconic part of modern American culture, it was really interesting to learn more about him.

  2. I love how varied your reading is! I've yet to read The Call of the Wild, but my two oldest children, especially my son, really liked it. I've seen the movie adaption, at least. Also, I want to find these pie-peppers and befriend them. If everything hits the fan, pie sounds like great comfort food.

    1. That's neat that you've seen a Call of the Wild movie-I bet it'd be a great story to see onscreen. And yes! The pie preppers sounded pretty awesome. Reading about them reminded me quite a bit of one of my wonderful neighbors, actually ;)

  3. Replies
    1. thanks for reading! I always love sharing about books :)

  4. As always, your reviews are my favorite! I’m very intrigued by Nomadland. I need to read the Charlotte Mason book! It’s been on my list forever, and I love so much of her educational philosophy. And of course, Alex Trebek. I have to read that book even though I’m sure it will make me sad. He was such a treasure.