SALT LAKE CITY — We are officially halfway through 2020, and what a year it’s been so far.
Let’s face it, nothing feels like it did a year ago, or even six months ago. Even as businesses reopen and sports try to come back, everyone is still adjusting to a world where COVID-19 consequences are a lingering thought. One of the silver linings I've found in all of this is that it's forced me to slow down, reflect and do a lot more of the little things I always meant to do more of — like reading.
Welcome back to the KSL.com Book Club. It’s a book club with a twist where some of the KSL.com team members read a different book and then recap our picks at the end of each month.
This month's KSL.com Book Club features book picks from social media manager Yvette Cruz, content producer Katie Workman and copy editor Jordan Ormond. If you think of a book one of us might like based on our book choices and reviews, feel free to let us know!
Yvette’s pick: “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sánchez
“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” is a coming of age tale narrated by Julia Reyes, a teen growing up in a working-class Chicago neighborhood who can’t wait to leave it all behind one day to become a writer and explore the world.
It begins in the aftermath of Julia’s older sister’s death. Olga, as Julia describes it, was the perfect Mexican daughter, which Julia is not. She’s constantly compared to Olga and feels she’ll never be good enough in her mother’s eyes. One day while looking through Olga’s things, Julia finds some mysterious items that lead her to question what she really knew about her sister and whether she was as perfect as she seemed. The story follows Julia as she searches for answers about her sister’s life while trying to figure out her own.
As a far-from-“perfect” Mexican daughter myself, I loved this book and related to a lot of it. I thought Julia’s ambition, honesty (sometimes too honest) and loyalty to herself was refreshing to see in a character. Some of Julia’s straightforward thoughts had me laughing while others made me cringe. And I was moved during several parts as Julia recounted some of her life experiences.
I also appreciated that the book touched on compelling topics such as the complexities of immigration, growing up as a first-generation kid, navigating between two cultures, mental health and complicated mother-daughter relationships, among others.
Overall, the personal growth of several characters, including Julia's, was a beautiful thing to watch unfold.
Who would like this book? Anyone who enjoys a good coming of age story or anyone who has ever felt like they don't fit in.
"I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter" contains profanity, sexual content and mental health issues, such as depression and suicide, that some may find distressing.
What else I'm reading: I just started "A Map is Only One Story: Twenty writers on immigration, family and the meaning of home."
Katie’s pick: “Dune” by Frank Herbert
One of the most famous classics of the science fiction genre and a major inspiration for "Star Wars," Herbert’s “Dune” rockets through ideas of power, space politics, religion, environmentalism, and war.
Paul Atreides is a young heir to a noble family sent to rule an important trading planet known as Dune amidst an assassination plot against them. As he explores the new and hostile terrain, Paul also navigates political subterfuge, rising and falling from power, and foreboding premonitions of the future due to his own choices.
“Dune” is full of dense worldbuilding centered around a nontraditional science fiction environment. It’s an immersive, intense, and escapist novel, which makes it a good choice for those hoping for something to sink their teeth into something heavy and new amidst quarantine. I do recommend an ample use of Google for those wading through its lore, and a reread for those hoping to fully understand all of its Easter eggs.
Published in 1965, “Dune” is frequently ahead of its time in its discussion of resource wars and exploitation, slavery and nobility, and religion amid war, but its age and medieval politics also bring it to some flawed representations by modern standards. That said, the point of “Dune” is not to agree with or even like the characters, but rather to explore their difficult choices and relationship with the world around them. It’s nearly impossible to walk away from the story without new ideas to chew on, a few arguments, and a sense of hype and fascination.
Who would like this book? Sci-fi lovers and those looking for a dense quarantine read. Also, people who like reading books to prepare for movies, because “Dune” is receiving a major motion picture release on Dec. 18, COVID willing.
My next read: My DMs are open for book recommendations or send them to email@example.com
Jordan’s pick: “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much” by Allison Hoover Bartlett
I finally finished reading “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much,” and I have to say it wasn’t what I expected. From reading the synopsis, I got the impression this was going to be a “who done it,” where the author would take us through the detective process to find out who the book thief was and catch him in the end.
That is not what this book was.
The author lets the reader know from the very beginning who the rare book thief is. Ken Sanders, a rare book collector from Salt Lake City, did most of the detective work to track down John Gilkey; Sanders tells the author about him, and she decides to contact Gilkey in jail. The rest of the book is spent telling us about the author’s various conversations with Gilkey and Sanders, which occur over a span of a couple of years. In doing so, she tries to work out her hypothesis as to why he stole so many books. Then, the book abruptly ends.
While it was an interesting read to learn about the world of rare book collecting, and a little of the psychology behind why people steal, I didn’t find this book very captivating. And what happened to John Gilkey after the author stopped meeting him? We just don’t know.
I gave the book three stars on Goodreads: I’m glad a read it, but I wouldn’t read it again.
Who would like this book? I would recommend this book to nonfiction readers and those interested in human psychology.
My next read: I’m heading back to one of my favorite fiction series of all time: The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. Come back for my review of its first book: “The Eyre Affair”