The included Amazon links are affiliate links; many of these titles I check out from the library or already own, but should you be inclined to purchase one, these links only mean Amazon will give me a small percentage of the cost, at no additional expense to you.
Moving on, though, to the book in question (just promise me that you'll glance at the Playaway section next time you're at the library, though - so much nicer than swapping out individual CDs).
Along with many others, I was introduced to Swedish author Fredrik Backman by his book A Man Called Ove (one of last year's reads). Beartown is his most recent book, and while browsing audiobooks one day, I saw they had this in a Playaway edition.
It's a departure from A Man Called Ove. The Beartown community is all about hockey, and we get insights into the junior players, coaches, and families. We wrestle with themes of truth, loyalty, friendship, and success. Individuals learn what they're made of when everything is about to be taken from them.
One character quips, "People round here don't always know the difference between right and wrong. But we know the difference between good and evil."
It's an interesting read, but it tackles some darker topics, and not everyone comes out glowing. There are some redemptive storylines, though, to help balance out the compromised characters.
60) 10/7: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye, and it caused me to chime in with my own evolution surrounding that book (here's the basic story, somehow one of the most popular draws for strangers to my blog -- I think students are hoping there's an essay about it hiding on here they can "borrow").
Anyway, someone suggested I might like Franny and Zooey; in their words, it is seen as a female version of The Catcher in the Rye.
Franny and Zooey is a book of two connected novellas. They are siblings, the youngest in the family. A brother of theirs died years earlier, and there are themes of mourning and faith throughout. Neither story is as edgy as I found The Catcher in the Rye (if you follow my above link, you'll see I was so offended by Holden's mouth and attitude upon first read, only later perceiving how his actions stem from his unprocessed grief over a lost sibling). I struggled with how to pigeonhole Zooey, and his attitude towards his mother in particular was grating, but I found myself marking down several phrases and passages that struck me.
61) 10/11: Dear Enemy by Jean Webster
Daddy Long-Legs a few years ago, learning about it after I read Dear Mr. Knightley, a modern adaptation of it. Only recently did I learn that there was a sequel to the original work, and as it's in the public domain and a quick read, I picked it up.
It's also in an epistolary style and follows a friend from the first book who is charged with taking over the orphanage and ushering in updates and improvements. It's a pleasant, simple read, but I admit bristling at times as some of the language and beliefs haven't aged well (some of it might have been meant for humorous effect, but the talk of "idiots" that she places elsewhere and her flippant comment about the child of a lyncing victim sobered me up).
62) 10/12: Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
The premise of the book is that Lincoln is assassinated before his re-election. A couple states had seceded but were moved by his death that they return to the Union and the Civil War is avoided. Through negotiations, four states continue to have slavery to this day. Our protagonist escaped from slavery when he was younger, but now works for the government tracking down other escaped slaves.
The case he is given at the beginning of the book feels different, and as he investigates we see him relive his past and question his present.
63) 10/13: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Once I skipped the event, I wasn't sure if I was going to finish, but I was just invested enough to want to know the outcome.
Take a lighthouse keeper and his wife on a remote island. Have her experience repeated pregnancy losses. Then introduce a boat with a dead man and young baby aboard. Consider hiding the shipwreck evidence and claim the child as your own.
Here's the thing: I'm a rule follower. If there's not a good reason to break a rule, I'm not going to. But in this book, this HUGE infraction is made, and although I recognize it as fiction, I found myself tensing up, so frustrated at all that was going to transpire from this one decision. So many things could have been avoided but for that choice. Blame postpartum depression or whatever, but the stubbornness and pain that resulted had me all twisted up. I don't regret reading to the end, but my emotions were manipulated.
64) 10/17: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
A Prayer for Owen Meany (yet another book I've begun but have yet to finish).
What a read. It's like an international Forrest Gump storyline, weaving in countless historical individuals as we learn about why a certain centenarian escapes from the nursing home and begins a spontaneous adventure, becoming hunted by the law. His entourage grows, things have a way of working out seamlessly, and we break away regularly to learn of his earlier years (see also: how many historical meetings can happen before it's just too darn ridiculous?).
This book was an amusing read, but I found myself periodically wanting to roll my eyes because of the ongoing orchestrations. It's absurd. Entertaining, but absurd. You're either going to love it or hate it. But if you don't take it seriously, it can be a nice, lighthearted break.
65) 10/21: Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
Ramona books (also by Beverly Cleary). In fact, Beezus is a friend of his, with her little sister Ramona tagging along.
Henry is a good boy who just happens to make things complicated and repeatedly finds himself in amusing circumstances. Each chapter is a stand-alone, although they do build on each other. For instance, we learn in the first chapter about how he gets his dog (he eventually finds a way to sneak it onto a bus, although the dog doesn't stay hidden). Then, in subsequent chapters, his dog is at his side for the adventures.
I listened to this on audiobook and knew immediately my second-grader would love it. Sure enough, as she heard details of Henry's fish expanding in number or the antics of digging up earth worms, she had a huge grin on her face and would giggle.
66) 10/22: Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary
I don't think I'm going to seek out the further books in the series, only because I'm not the target audience, but if they cross my path as a read-aloud to my daughters, I know I'd enjoy it alongside them.
68) 10/24: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande describes how end-of-life care has evolved in our country. For instance, he reflects on the development of nursing homes, where safety is paramount and the decisions and structure seem geared towards making the family members feel comfortable with the arrangement without taking into account the desires of the individual who will actually be living there.
However, I felt encouraged by some of the alternatives that were discussed. There are cities and towns where there are support systems to allow people to stay in their homes until the end, with supplemented, affordable handymen, food delivery, and so on. Or take the Eden Alternative, created by Bill Thomas, where he addressed loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. It was fascinating to read how he introduced on-site childcare, animals, and live plants, creating responsibility and interest where there had been nothing before. The gains patients made were astounding. Finally, there were examples of set-ups where individuals had private rooms but shared living/eating quarters with about 10-12 others. They could wake and eat when desired but developed friendships with the others and had nurses who knew them and their desires intimately.
I appreciated how Atul Gawande, a surgeon, used this information, and the experience of losing his father, to change how he interacted with patients, using these four questions (developed by another) as a guide to treatment decisions: "What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes? What are your fears and what are your hopes? What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make? And what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?" (page 259).
69) 10/28: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don is a genetics professor and is contemplating marriage. As he's not seeing anyone and doesn't want to waste time by doing a conventional search, he creates a questionnaire that he believes will narrow down the pool to a small number of highly qualified compatible candidates. We witness the results, as well as what happens when he gets to know someone who would fail the questionnaire on multiple levels but becomes a good friend to him as they research The Father Project.
This was just an okay read for me. It paired as a nice alternative to Being Mortal (while that was an exceptional book, sometimes I didn't need to read about dying), but it is just fluffy entertainment with periodic bouts of cringing at the behavior of Don's best friend Gene.
70) 10/30: The Giver by Lois Lowry
I remember much of this book - it's commonly read in schools, and it wasn't until a reread in college that I learned not everyone perceived the ending as I did. In fact, some came to an opposite, darker conclusion.
Take a futuristic society that is highly advanced and controlled, and you have The Giver. Everyone is assigned a job, if you want a spouse or a child, you apply for one and are matched up. Nothing is left to chance, everything is observed and overheard. This society values, if not happiness and love, contentment and placidity and conformity. However, someone must have knowledge of the past, and that is where the name of the book comes in.
This is a great book for discussions. At what price do you want to seek serenity? Is removal from pain a requirement? What do you sacrifice in exchange? It makes me think of my mother, who has struggled for decades with depression. She is very creative and artistic, and her primary complaint about times she has been medicated is that, while it controls her mood swings and levels her out, she loses her creativity. For her, that is an acute loss and she would rarely think the trade-off was worth it.
I was actually surprised at how much longer the ending was than I recalled. I have a vivid recollection of the closing scene, but there was more preceding it from what I originally remembered.
I believe I heard the final book might make the ending of this one less ambiguous, although I don't know that for sure.