Category Archives: Memoir

Drown by Junot Diaz

Drown is a collection of short stories about growing up in the Dominican Republic. They are told in a stream of consciousness sort of way with absolutely no quotation marks. Usually lack of quotation marks bugs me, but because of the conversational way the book is written, I think it worked okay not to have them. Sometimes the stories are quite crass and there’s a fair bit of bad language. I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t really like it either.

3 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 116
Pages Read in 2019: 29,936
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The Diary of “Helena Morley” by Helena Morley

Helena Morley, born in 1880, kept a very detailed diary from 1893 until 1895 when she was an early teen growing up in Brazil. It was originally published in Portuguese and then later translated into English. It’s an interesting glimpse into the life of a young teen. There are numerous footnotes explaining words that weren’t translated, who people and places are, and anything else to aid in understanding her diary. The translator always wrote I and Anotherperson instead of Anotherperson and I and that pretty much drove me crazy while reading it. If you are looking for a translated book to read, this is a good enough choice.

3 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 114
Pages Read in 2019: 29,583
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Auschwitz Belongs to Us All by Marta Ascoli

Marta Ascoli was a Jew living in Italy when Hitler’s forces invaded. Auschwitz Belongs to Us All is her story. It is short and told from a kind of technical, distant view. You can tell how traumatized she still was when she wrote the book. As with all Holocaust survivor stories, hers is heartbreaking and totally worth taking the time to read.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 104
Pages Read in 2019: 26,376
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Juniper by Kelley and Tom French

Juniper French was born at just 23 weeks 6 days after a placental abruption. This book is the story of her many months in the NICU, full of triumphs and setbacks, combined with a lot of thoughts and feelings from her parents as they tell it in alternating chapters. Both of her parents were journalists and so they easily wove facts and statistics in among the terror, grief, excitement, and love they went through having such a tiny, sick baby. I enjoyed the book a lot. It was very well-written and even knowing that Juniper survived, I was completely engaged wondering what she would have to overcome next. I recommend it to anyone who likes memoirs.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 99
Pages Read in 2019: 25,373
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All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Covering his first two years as a vet from the time he arrived to work for an established vet until he got married, All Creatures Great and Small reads like a collection of short stories, sometimes about life in Yorkshire and sometimes about attending animals. The pace is slow, really helping to get the a feeling of life on the early mid-1900s English countryside. It’s an enjoyable book, I only wish he had been a little heavier on the veterinary part of his life. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about animals.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 97
Pages Read in 2019: 24,807
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A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa

Born in Japan, the author and his family were “repatriated” to a country none of them had ever been to before: North Korea. They soon discovered the promises of utopia and free healthcare, food, shelter, and a job were pretty much all lies. A River in Darkness tells a sad tale of trying to survive (and sometimes trying not to survive) and starvation under a brutal regime. It’s told simply and is relatively short so it read fast, but it’s an important story to help those on the outside know what life in North Korea is like. I recommend it to people interested in North Korea.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 91
Pages Read in 2019: 23,121
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Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca? by Alan Parks

Moving from England to Spain to breed alpacas might be crazy. But as Alan Parks discovered, it’s also incredibly rewarding. Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca? chronicles the first few years of their adventure. If it could go wrong, it probably did. Written with typical British self-deprecating humor and wit, this book is quite an enjoyable read. Some chapters end with a bit as if it was written by one of the animals and I found that weird and distracting. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys travelogues, and particularly travelogues written by British people (which are the best ones in my opinion).

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 80
Pages Read in 2019: 21,531
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