Latest Reviews

lost book of mormon cover
Shelving Books
storm surge cover
Murder at the Brightwell cover
The Woman Who Would Be King cover

Book Review: The Republic of Imagination – Azar Nafisi

The Republic of Imagination coverTitle: The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books
Author: Azar Nafisi
ISBN: 9780670026067
Pages: 352
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Nonfiction, Social Studies
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

In the fashion of Reading Lolita in Tehran, author Azar Nafisi turns her sharp literary eye to her adopted country of America, closely examining three different books: The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnBabbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter to discuss the culture of the United States.

Snapshot Review:

A gorgeous and moving read about American culture through the prism of three modern classics, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Novels is a thoughtful work of literary criticism that shows how novels remain relevant long after they have been published.

Full Review:

Azar Nafisi’s latest nonfiction book delves into an investigation of the United States, closely looking at different aspects of American culture through the lens of three different American classics. The book is structured into three sections featuring the three books—The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnBabbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Each section also deals with a different aspect of American culture.

The first, and in my opinion the most effective, is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In this section of The Republic of Imagination, Nafisi discusses the sense of American freedom and the spirit that American culture seems to be imbued with, juxtaposing this against the story of Nafisi’s close friend, who spoke out against the Islamic regime in Iran and has recently died. It’s a beautifully written testament to her friend, as well as a thoughtful analysis of Huck’s search for a sense of self over the course of the book. (In retrospect, this might have been the most powerful section of the book for me because it’s the only one of these three American classics I’ve read.)

The second part of The Republic of Imagination deals with Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, which Nafisi uses to discuss the Common Core Standards in the United States and how they are crippling the American education system. While this section was certainly interesting, it was so focused and topical that it was a little jarring and blended less with Nafisi’s overall exploration than the other two sections of the book. Still, it was certainly interesting, and though I knew most of the criticisms leveled at the programs, it certainly would be eye-opening for anyone not familiar with Common Core.

Finally, in the last section of The Republic of Imagination, Nafisi tackles The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, a book I know little about. I found this section fascinating, and while I found the Huck Finn discussion the most effective in terms of getting the message across, it was this third part I found the most interesting, simply because I learned a lot. Nafisi discusses in detail how the characters in this American novel are singular in their loneliness and want nothing more than to connect with others, a state that many Americans find themselves in. This discussion made me intensely curious about The Heart is a Lonely Hunter; I’ll definitely be reading it in the near future.

If you enjoy reading works of literary criticism and are curious as to how classic novels can be made relevant to our modern-day lives, then The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Novels is absolutely a great choice. It’s interesting how Nafisi often focuses on the central theme of escapism in American literature, and how so much of the United States’ culture is based on imagining something better, something grander. Nafisi is a beautiful, thoughtful writer, and this is a fascinating read.

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

BookTube: On Reading Diversely and Diversity in Books

Shelving Books

 

On today’s BookTube video, I take a few minutes to talk about reading diversity and why it is SO IMPORTANT to me.

Other BookTube videos on reading diversely:

Book Riot
Unputdownables
Rincey Reads

Book Review: The Lost Book of Mormon – Avi Steinberg

lost book of mormon coverTitle: The Lost Book of Mormon: A Journey through the Mythic Lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri
Author: Avi Steinberg
ISBN: 9780385535694
Pages: 288
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Nonfiction, Travel, History
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

In this memoir/travelogue, Avi Steinberg goes on a journey to trace the Book of Mormon, visiting the places where events in this religious book happened, providing his own unique commentary on various aspects of the religion, and reflecting on how the book is relevant to his own life.

Snapshot Review:

A hilarious, irreverent travelogue about Mormonism, Steinberg’s sense of humor is what really makes this memoir worth reading. Combined with the fascinating details he delivers about Mormonism, it’s really an unbeatable read for those interested in the religion (if you aren’t easily offended by snark).

Full Review:

The Lost Book of Mormon: A Journey Through the Mythic Lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri is a unique book that isn’t for every reader; it’s a book that you’ll likely love or hate, not much in between. Why? Well, author Avi Steinberg does not hold anything sacred when it comes to this book. It’s not that he makes fun of Mormonism by itself, but that he pokes fun at all religions. He has a hilarious snarky tone, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself laughing out loud, if you don’t laugh easily when it comes to religion, then this is probably not the book for you.

Steinberg comes from a background of Orthodox Judaism, so while he isn’t Mormon, he understands and respects religion in general. He’s always been fascinated by Mormonism (as I have—I can’t resist the idea of a religion that was born in modern times in the United States), so feeling a little lost in his personal life, he decides to embark on a journey. And what a hilarious and wondrous journey it is.

It’s interesting to be along for the ride as Steinberg travels from Jerusalem to Central America to upstate New York, as this is as much a personal spiritual journey for him as it is a rite of curiosity. Readers can sense him becoming more and more disillusioned as the memoir progresses, even if he doesn’t state it flat out. As he’s searching for the true sites of the Book of Mormon, he seems to be losing himself in the process. It’s an interesting dichotomy, and one that Steinberg writes well.

This is not really a religious book, despite how I many have described it in the preceding paragraph. The Lost Book of Mormon is certainly about a religion, but it’s not religious. As I mentioned, Steinberg pokes fun at any and every religion during his travels, and it’s absolutely hilarious to witness. I loved his snark and his sense of humor, especially as it was coupled with fascinating tidbits of information about Mormonism. I felt like I learned a lot while reading this book, while simultaneously being thoroughly and completely entertained.

If you are sensitive about religion generally, this might not be the best choice for you. However, if, like me and Avi, you’re an outsider fascinated by Mormonism (and you’re not easily offended), then absolutely pick up this book. It’s so well written and hilarious that I found myself quoting passages out loud to anyone who would listen. (I also live tweeted my reading of the first few chapters: this is how much I enjoyed this book.)

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

BookTube: 5 Comic Reviews (Sweet Tooth, Drama, Runaways, Seconds, Laika)

Today on BookTube, I review five comics that I’ve read recently.

Shelving Books

Sweet Tooth – Jeff Lemire (Vertigo, May 18, 2010; Powell’s, Amazon.com, Indiebound)
Drama – Raina Telgemeier (Graphix, July 29, 2014; Powell’sAmazon.comIndiebound)
Runaways, Vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughn & Adrian Alphona (Marvel, December 12, 2012; Amazon.com)
Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley (Ballantine Books, July 15, 2014; Powell’sAmazon.comIndiebound)
Laika – Nick Abadzis (Square Fish, September 30, 2014; Powell’sAmazon.comIndiebound)

Book Review: Storm Surge – Adam Sobel

storm surge cover

Title: Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future Author: Adam Sobel ISBN: 9780062304766 Pages: 336 Release Date: October 14, 2014 Publisher: HarperWave Genre: Nonfiction, Science Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: Hurricane Sandy, also known as Superstorm Sandy or Frankenstorm Sandy. It was unprecedented in many ways: […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: Murder at the Brightwell – Ashley Weaver

Murder at the Brightwell cover

Title: Murder at the Brightwell Author: Ashley Weaver ISBN: 9781250046369 Pages: 336 Release Date: October 14, 2014 Publisher: Minotaur Books Genre: Historical Mystery Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: Amory Ames fell head over heels in love with Miles, and she left her then-fiance, Gil, in order to marry the rogueish playboy. Now, […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King – Kara Cooney

The Woman Who Would Be King cover

 Title: The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt Author: Kara Cooney ISBN: 9780307956767 Pages: 320 Release Date: October 14, 2014 Publisher: Crown Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: In this biography of Hatshepsut, pharaoh of Egypt, author Kara Cooney pieces together the clues from this […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: Seven Wonders – Ben Mezrich

seven wonders cover

Title: Seven Wonders Author: Ben Mezrich ISBN: 9780762453825 Pages: 320 Release Date: September 2, 2014 Publisher: Running Press Genre: Historical Thriller Source: Publisher Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Summary: Jack Grady has been estranged from his brother, Jeremy, for years. While Jack is an adventure-seeking archaeologist, his brother, Jeremy, is much more at home with computers than out in the world. […]

Continue reading →
!-- Quantcast Tag -->