It’s a new year, and the reading is good! Here are my favorites from this past month.
Evicted (Desmond): This book explores the experiences of individuals living in Milwaukee’s low-income housing. Author Matthew Desmond follows the tenants and landlords as they struggle in a vicious cycle that few will break from. Desmond’s storytelling abilities make this an engaging, if depressing, narrative, but Evicted is also an important look at the impact of income inequality and the changes we need to make.
Julia Vanishes (Egan): Julia has a special talent: she is able to vanish at will. This is a useful talent to have when one spies and steals for a living. In a world where witches are executed (including her own mother), Julia forces herself to keep her eyes on the prize: the riches she earns from her jobs. When Julia goes to spy at Mrs. Och’s house, she uncovers a house of strange secrets; her employer, however, is interested in a mother and her child, and Julia soon finds her loyalties and sense of self tested. I appreciated the unique setting and magic, and I liked Julia’s resourcefulness and grit. I am looking forward to the sequel.
Being Mortal (Gawande): We’re all going to die, so how do we maintain a life that’s worth living? Physician Atul Gawande uses a mix of personal narrative and research to explore the way medicine handles end of life care. Gawande questions whether we, as a society, have been focusing on the right things toward the end of life; medicine focuses on life extension rather than quality. This was an engaging and touching read, and it got me thinking about the kind of life I want for myself and my parents as we all age.
Behold the Dreamers (Mbue): Cambodian immigrants Jendi and Neni dream of having a better life in America. When Jendi becomes the chauffer for executive Clark Edwards, they think they’re on the way. Edward’s wife Cindy is kind to their family and even finds a summer position for Neni. However, when Clark’s firm becomes tied up in a scandal, the revelations and results will rock the worlds of both families. Behold the Dreamers is a bittersweet story about the experiences of two very different families; Mbue skillfully makes both families sympathetic while still exploring themes of class and race.