by Sarah Vowell
Sarah Vowell has earned a well-deserved reputation as a historian with a great sense of humor. Her sarcastic jabs are laced in with the facts, giving the reader a history lesson with some serious bite. In her latest book she covers the Americanization of Hawaii and the events that led to its annexation in 1898.
Vowell includes her own experiences as she researches the material. I loved the occasional comments she included from her young nephew, Owen, and his reactions to what he sees. Vowell also makes a lengthy reference to Moby Dick in the book. I happened to be reading that at the same time and so I loved that!
It’s not my favorite book of Vowell’s, but I’m a fan of her work and I’ll read whatever she writes. I love that she makes me laugh and she teaches me so much at the same time. I knew very little about Hawaiian history and this was a great introduction.
Pair with a viewing of the Oscar-nominated film The Descendants.
Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
Everyone and their brother seems to have read and reviewed this one, so I’ll keep it short. An American senior in high school is sent to a boarding school in Paris. She falls hard for a cute boy named St. Clair and complications ensue.
The story is well-written and fun. Anna is a movie buff and I adored all the references to old classics. The voices of the teens felt very real and their banter felt familiar. This book was the perfect breath of fresh air after wallowing in Moby Dick for a month. It’s a sweet story, packed with teen angst and hormones. I particularly loved the friendship that developed between Anna and St. Clair. That’s so important in any relationship, but it’s usually not included in books. I also loved all the descriptions of Paris. It made me feel like I was back there exploring it for the first time.
I will note that I think the cover is awful. It’s so cheesy! I never would have picked it up if it wasn’t for all the rave reviews around the blogosphere.
Pair with a viewing of the Oscar-winning film It Happened One Night and Paris Je T’aime (two of my favorites).
News from the Home Front 1939-1942
by Joyce Dennys
This was original published as serialized letters during World War II. They are written from one childhood friend, Henrietta, who is married and living in Devonshire, to another, Robert, who is on the front lines. Henrietta paints a sweet picture of the Devonshire community where she lives. She tells him about how the war is affecting them and about the causes everyone is taking up in the war effort.
It reminded me a bit of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. It shows what happens to a tight-knit community when it’s thrown into a war. You still have your regular life, but everything takes a backseat to the war. The book manages to find humor in the midst of a serious situation, providing levity in a time that people desperately needed it.
“And then, suddenly, the sheer incredibility of this war struck me, as it does all of us from time to time, like a blow.”
Pair with a viewing of the Oscar-winning film Mrs. Miniver