Saturday, July 28, 2007

Harry Potter No. 7 & What is the What

No. 11

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (Scholastic, 2007)

In order to be "spoiler-free" this will be necessarily brief. Suffice to say, I felt this was one of the better books in the series. Rowling did a very good job of tying up most of the loose ends. I did feel she moved too quickly through the last parts of the book, breezing through points where I wished to linger. My harshest criticism of the book is the Epilogue--I found it incredibly juvenile (it brought Harry Potter back to the level of mundane chidren's literature) and unnecessary.

No. 12
What Is The What by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, 2006).

To call this a "novel" might underestimate its truth and urgency. This is very much a work of non-fiction. The life of Valentino Achak Deng is representative of thousands upon thousands of lives in Sudan in its tales of struggle and oppression. While the book sensitively addresses a topic that is hurendous and heartbreaking in and of itself, the narration is not overly sentimentalized. Eggers and Deng weave in humor, joy, and small victories through the tragedies of the Lost Boys of Sudan.

Valentino Achak Deng is both evidence of the resiliency of the human spirit and a beacon of hope for the future. There are moments in the book that call us out of our comfortable existence, and there are moments when we recognize that from which we also seek refuge. It is a compelling read about the human condition and should be compulsory reading for anyone wishing to remain ignorant about the struggles of Africa. To ignore Sudan is to ignore humankind.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope

50 Book Challenge #10: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (Crown Publishers, 2006) 362 pp.

This book demonstrates eloquence, understanding, and an intense passion for this country and what it should stand for. Obama writes beautifully, with focus, but with the intensity of someone who is anticipating the arguments before they've been made. And that isn't such a bad thing, particularly for someone who is running for President. He does, however, need a better editor. Obama relies too heavily on anecdotes and sometimes gets a tad formulaic in his presentation of each chapter. The points are made, but then at times, run into the ground by an overabundance of examples.

That aside, the book is very well-structured. He wisely ends with "Family" to leave the reader with the best impression of a man who isn't afraid to extol his wife's domestic and professional abilities, but without the sense of hero worship. He's not afraid to express his love in real terms or to admit the struggles in their marriage. It is in this final chapter than the anecdotes ring most true.

However, for those that believe Obama is too "green" to be President, I'd hold off until you read this book. He has a better understanding of history, law, politics and social justice than most people on Capitol Hill. He's managed to move forward (up?) in his career, but has always had one foot firmly planted in the neighborhoods of his constituents.

It is a shame that those who do not support Obama are unlikely to read this book, as it is a revealing portrait...not set on changing political views, but opening up an honest dialogue...a dialogue very much absent from current American politics.