One of my favorite parts of this time of year are the year end booklists that various sources, such as the New York Times, publish. I scour these to create my own list of books to read over break. Of course, I always end up with far more books than I can actually read, but I find some excellent books that I would not have read otherwise. I thoroughly enjoy having access to both the Norman Public library and the OU library, not to mention Interlibrary Loan. Here are some of my favorites from this past year, not ordered by preference:
Alif the Unseen: An absolutely amazing book set in a fantasy world inspired by the Middle East that involves technology, ancient books, political upheaval, and the world of the jinn.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore: A wonderful tale of books, technology, and quirky characters that several people recommended to me and that fully lived up to expectations
Miss Burma: Historical fiction set in Burma/Myanmar during the struggle for independence. I learned a lot about the history of Burma and the ethnic conflict that has erupted recently in the violence against the Rohingyas.
Death Comes for the Archbishop: Historical fiction about the opening of a Catholic diocese in the American Southwest after it was taken over from Mexico with a focus on character.
A Tale for the Time Being: You might not realize its science fiction until the end, but the interlocking characters’ stories are delightful.
American Gods: I enjoyed the weaving together of story and place, as well as the general creativity.
Three Day Road: Historical fiction about two Canadian Cree men who fought in World War I.
Vincent and Theo: After visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam a couple of summers ago, I wanted to learn more about his life. This book takes a very personal approach, emphasizing the relation between Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo, based on the letters they wrote throughout their lives.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: An extremely moving story of Sherman Alexie’s life growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation and of his complicated relationship with his mother
Daring to Drive: The story of Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi activist who became a face of the women’s driving movement in Saudi Arabia.
Bruchko: The story of a missionary in Colombia and Venezuela who emphasized that conversion to Christianity should not require Americanization or Westernization
Butterfly Mosque: The story of an American woman (the author of Alif Unseen) who converted to Islam and moved to Egypt
Seeking Allah Finding Jesus: Nabeel Qureshi’s story of conversion, including his beliefs about Christianity when Muslim
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood: I enjoyed reading this autobiography of Moroccan author before traveling their this summer.
Languages, Linguistics and Other Non-Fiction:
Diglossia and Language Contact: Language Variation and Change in North Africa: An indepth look at the languages spoken in North Africa and their influence on each other. I learned so much about the particular situations described and about language contact and diglossia in general.
Vanishing Voices: A saddening and inspiring discussion of endangered language in a historical and environmental context.
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: A well-researched analysis of the gospels in their historical and cultural context. I particularly enjoyed the section on Jesus and women.
The Secret Life of Pronouns: A description of a psycholinguist’s research into what people’s use of language tells about them. I was initially skeptical but his experiments were quite convincing.