Books,  Fiction,  Non-Fiction,  Reviews

The Books of the Longest Summer

I’m back.

What’s my excuse this time for being gone so long, you may ask. Well – nothing that sounds justifiable. Summer, which is only now ending for me, was long. I have never counted September as summer, but when the graduate school you are attending is on a quarter system everything changes.

Although summer was long it was not the painful, restless length of childhood. My summer was full of classes in race and the media, TEFL certification, moving three times, a wedding, a road trip, HGTV, and, last but not least, books! I also had the opportunity to interview Indira Johnson about her latest public art project Ten Thousand Ripples. I plan on writing an article about the interview and posting it on Sitting in the Stacks for everyone to read.  For those of you who are interested in the project and waiting for my article is too much, the Loyola University Museum of Art has a Ten Thousand Ripples exhibition through November 3.

Summer is now over. In two days I begin graduate school and am reveling in the joy of discussing religion, politics, culture, and public life on a regular basis. As with any ending before a new beginning, it is nice to reflect on the past events. In keeping with Sitting in the Stacks’ genre this reflection will be about the books of summer. If you’re interested in my road trip from the summer visit A Lensview of the World. 

*Sorry these reviews are not up to the usual standards. It’s been over 2 months since I’ve read some of them.

Book #1: American Gods by Neil Gaiman


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Neil Gaiman did it again! American Gods was an enthralling read that engages the reader in contemplating what happens to gods when immigrants come to the United States. Gaiman also asks, is it possible to create new gods in a consumer society?

Through the story of the newly released convict Shadow and his new, mysterious boss Wednesday, American Gods travels through the Midwest and seeks to answer the age-old question — do gods exist?

I highly recommend this book. Gaiman is an excellent writer who approaches deep, existential questions about gods, the power of belief, and the meaning of a name with humor and wit.



Book #2: River God by Wilbur Smith




River God transports you back in time to ancient Egypt through the eyes of the beloved slave Taita. Through Taita the reader experiences the immense love of childhood friends turned lovers, the glory and melancholy of a nation at war, and the intricacies of Egyptian culture and religion.

As an author Wilbur Smith’s knowledge and vivid language bonds you to the characters and scenery. His writing plays out in your mind like a film. It was nearly impossible for me to put this book down which proved problematic as I read it while getting TEFL certified. Smith also captures the fascinating world of Egyptian religious ritual, which enamored me to River God even more as a religious studies scholar. Anyone who has an interest in history, Egypt, or religion should read this book immediately! Do not be daunted by its immensity (it’s 528 pages), because in one sitting you will find you may read the book in its entirety.



Book #3: Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer



Albion’s Seed is the book I am currently tackling between readings for school. This tome (it’s 898 pages) covers four distinct British cultures and their presence in the American colonies. David Hackett Fischer explores the Puritans of “East Anglia to Massachusetts,” the nobility and cavaliers from “South of England to Virginia,” the Quaker migration from the “North Midlands to the Delaware,” and the Scotch-Irish from the “Borderlands to the Backcountry.”

As a history professor, Fischer delves into the intricacies of these cultures that continue to define the noticeable regional differences in the United States today. Fischer’s writing is approachable and stimulating. Albion’s Seed does not read like a dry history textbook, but rather like a ride across the American colonies. Fischer uses anecdotes, vivid examples, and detailed research to convey each culture’s distinctiveness. Each section of the book covers different “ways” of each society, such as speech ways, family ways, sex ways, religious ways, work ways, power ways, and freedom ways.

I have only read the Puritan part of the book, but I can say with assurance that Fischer’s approach to early-American history is engaging and educational. I am looking forward to reading Albion’s Seed page by page as I struggle to find the balance between reading for school and reading for pleasure.



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