Lara Prior-Palmer’s memoir of riding in the Mongolian Derby was an escape into another world for me. The endurance required for this huge race over 1000 kilometers of Mongolian steppe on a series of 25 horses is astounding and it’s no wonder that each year more than half of the riders don’t finish. Lara’s youth and naivete certaining must have played a part in her success as she raced forward finding previously untapped reserves of power and resolve. Here’s a passage from the middle when she has been thrown from a horse in the middle of a stage of the race with no one anywhere nearby to help.
“When I step towards him, he hops away like the kitchen mouse who used to ignite our late nights in London. There’s a strangeness, for a horse, to losing a rider – the centaur vanishes, his partner becomes a predator at his side. He can feel unsettlingly light and flighty. The strap around [his] leg looks as though it’s about to break, which will let him bolt over the boglands while I hum my way after him. I prowl shyly, my eyes on the ground. I don’t want him thinking he’s my target. Each second feels the size of the steppe.”
Also wonderful was Boris Fishman’s memoir of leaving Belarus as a youth with his family, the memorable journey of their emigration through Austria and Italy and finally to New York. Food is the unifying theme and many recipes are included.
“Everyone was too shaken to go back to sleep. The illicit hour, the close call, the candy – I was filled with a sense of adventure. My grandmother boiled water for tea. The five of us, two adults per berth and me on my grandmother’s knees, drank it from West German tea cups, cobalt with gold trim, that she and my mother had babied into our luggage. They were among the things that we were told might sell well in Vienna and Rome, our transit points in route to America, but until then they were ours, and we sucked at their hot rims through the caramels on our tongues.”
To Night Owl from Dogfish is pitch perfect middle grade fiction at its best! Bett and Avery did not end up at the same summer camp by choice and, despite the best plans of their respective single dads who want to start a family together, the girls do not intend to become friends. But just as Bett and Avery’s relationship becomes more supportive, their dads’ relationship hits the rocks. This book is full of wonderful characters and packed with surprises and fun. A terrific read for our kids transitioning from Elementary to Middle School. Holly Goldberg Sloan has written other excellent books for this age range as well including, Short and Counting by 7s.
The Pulitzer Prize in Fiction was announced last week on April 16th and the winner was The Overstory: a novel by Richard Powers. If you are looking for a deep and rich story about humanity’s connection to nature then this books is an absolute gem. Powers novel is divided into 3 broad sections: “Roots” creates origin stories for each of the unique individuals in the book, “Trunk” ties their stories together, and “Branches” allows the characters’ stories to move to toward their independent conclusions. It’s a wonderful piece of literature and such a timely choice so close to Earth Day.
The runner-ups The Great Believers and There There are both excellent choices to borrow from our literature section as well. The Great Believers explorers the early days of the AIDS epidemic in Chicago. It sounds unbearably heavy but I found a lot of humor in the pages and really loved the main characters. There There delves into the lives and stories of Native American people, not through stereotypical representations of displaced people on reservations but as urban dwellers, seeking to connect with cultural roots while also living very modern lives.
It was a strong year for fiction and our Literature section is filled with so many titles to enjoy.
Alongside thousands of readers worldwide, AAS Moscow patrons can discover a remarkable true story through the largest global digital book club, Big Library Read. From April 1–15, booklovers can borrow, read and discuss Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung’s heartbreaking yet hopeful Homes: A Refugee Story ebook from their library with no waitlists or holds. AAA Moscow readers may join by visiting https://soraapp.com/library/aasru downloading the Sora or Overdrive app. More than 19,000 libraries around the world are participating.
Big Library Read is available in more than 90 percent of public libraries in North America and facilitated by OverDrive, the leading platform for ebooks, audiobooks and magazines. Homes: A Refugee Story, a 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award finalist for nonfiction, was chosen by a popular vote of readers and librarians worldwide.
Homes: A Refugee Story chronicles the struggles of the al Rabeeah family who left their home in Iraq for Syria in hope of a safer life – just before the Syrian civil war broke out. Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was ten years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtaposition of growing up as a typical teenager in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy – soccer, cousins, video games, friends.
Readers can join an online discussion about the book at https://discuss.biglibraryread.com/. The free program runs for two weeks and only requires an AAS Moscow Overdrive account to get started.
Read with us and enjoy!
The Friend really cracks open the world of modern literature with so many revelations about the culture, secrets, choices, sacrifices and mythos of those living the “dream” of being full-time writers. The self-awareness of this novel is what amazed and intrigued me but equally beautiful is the author’s exploration of grief as well as the bond between human and pet. A stunner in a tiny package, I am looking forward to reading this one again in a few years and appreciating new angles and perceptions. (Those with elderly pets as well as those with writing ambitions should proceed with caution – this book will probably hit too close to home.)
Take a look at the National Book Award site to see other winners in finalists in more categories. It’s very very well laid out and easy to click through.
I have often noticed the books that stay in my memory the longest are well-written narrative nonfiction. Here are 3 recent publications that were excellent.
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
This book was a fascinating true-crime tale that connects the worlds of natural history and fly-fishing, or more specifically the tradition-laden art of fly-tying. This would be a terrific one for discussion.
How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals
Sy Montgomery’s account of her life as a scientist and writer, told by reflecting on her connections with 13 amazing animal companions is a true jewel. Those border collies! The octopi! The emu! A gem to share with anyone who loves animals or memoir.
The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees
This work created an absorbing portrait of the developments in Syria that led to the diaspora. This book was a terrific way to tune into a world crisis. It’s a short graphic work that leaves an impressive impact.
At AAS many students love reading science fiction, fantasy and dystopian novels and I do too. Some new and wonderful options are Dry, The Wicked King and Trail of Lightning. Here’s more info about each.
Dry: The residents of Southern California were warned to conserve water but almost no one was prepared for the day that the water taps were turned off. This harrowing survival story feels all too possible.
|The Wicked King: The sweet and horrifying splendor of the world of faerie is back in book 2 of the Folk of the Air, but alas it was such a scintillating read that I finished it in one day. I’m considering reading the Cruel Prince again and then this one a second time. It was a brief but rich dalliance and I can’t wait for more.
|Trail of Lightning: Packed full of action with mysterious characters both human and from Pueblo mythology. I thoroughly this enjoyed this fast-paced dystopian adventure.