November Book Reviews from Annie Bahu & Rachael Altman of INALJ Illinois

by Rachael Altman, Head Editor, INALJ Illinois

November Book Reviews from Annie Bahu & Rachael Altman of INALJ Illinois

RachaelAltmanIn the spirit of National Novel Writing Month and Illinois Reads, Annie Bahu and I have rounded up a list of books we recently read and wanted to share with the INALJ community. Happy reading!

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1) by Maureen Johnson – (YA) This is the story of Rory, a girl from the southern United States, who goes to boarding school in London. Without giving too much away, it is a mystery with a fresh twist. I enjoyed the novel because the author made Rory relatable and likable. While tackling a potentially intense and scary topic, Johnson peppered in enough humor to keep you from feeling like you were on a really good roller coaster. Instead of just one intense drop there were twists, turns, loops, and the occasional painfully suspenseful climb. As someone who grew up on the Nancy Drew series, I really enjoy suspense and mystery novels and was pleasantly surprised by this one.

The Five Love Languages Singles Edition by Gary Chapman – As someone who has had her fair share of failed relationships, I went on a bit of a self-help binge when I started dating one of my best friends. I was certain that I would find the answers I was looking for (and how not to muck it up) in some self-help books. Many were terrible, but this one was an eye-opening read for me. It asserts that we all have a “love language” which makes us feel most love, for some it is receiving gifts, others quality time, and so forth (I won’t spoil it!).  As they say, knowledge is power and knowing what I need to help keep my “love” tank full and what will make my partner feel most loved has been very helpful. The book does have very Christian overtones, so if readers prefer to avoid religiosity, they should avoid this book.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran – While this is an old book (originally published in 1923), I do not believe I have ever read anything more beautiful or inspiring. Bold words, I know, but it is right up there with Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince in books that I reread to remind me that life is amazing and to provide a little inspiration when the daily grind is grinding. My copy is only 96 pages including illustrations, so it’s a relatively quick read, but one that should be done when you have time to take breaks for walks or general contemplation.

The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret – This is a fantastic selection of short stories, which feel less like reading and more like listening to someone tell you stories about real life experiences. The stories will make you laugh and cry—they capture the complexity of contemporary life in Israel, yet are fun and interesting to read because they are filled with a dark, demented sense of humor and absurdity. The stories are very short so it’s easy to breeze through the book, but I recommend reading the stories in bits rather than rushing through the book in order to allow time for personal reflection. Some of the stories are only one page, but will stay on your mind for days. The Nimrod Flipout was recently picked by FlavorWire as one of the “50 Works for Fiction in Translation That Every English Speak Should Read” along with classics like Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers, and Les Miserables. Keret’s witty stories allow the reader to briefly escape into a strange, complex, and funny world.

You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero – This book is smart and direct and provides readers with an action plan and great advice to take charge of living an awesome life. You are a Badass discusses how to take charge of your life through embracing the self-fulfilling prophecy, identifying what made you the way you are, and erasing the negativity from your life. It’s great for those of us in our mid-twenties who are transitioning from the life of a student to the life of a professional. This book is motivational and helps readers take control of goals and embrace a more positive outlook. Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants to get moving on taking action to become the best version of ourselves.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner – When Harold Kushner’s three-year old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and that he would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, me? I read this book when I was going through a difficult life transition. I did not experience great loss, but I found myself thinking “Why, me, why am I in this situation?” People are constantly searching for an explanation of why good or bad things happen—we hear things like “it’s fate” or “you’re lucky” or “everything happens for a reason,” but we often want and need a deeper, more meaningful explanation. Yes, we can learn something new from every peek and valley experience in life, but many of us need guidance along the way. Kushner’s book is comforting, thought provoking, and powerful, and allows the reader to reassess spirituality and personal beliefs.