What I've read lately, of sociological significance (2011 edition)
- Blue Nights, by Joan Didion (2011): An homage to her deceased daughter whom we learn about in The Year of Magical Thinking. She writes poignantly about parenting (and exquisitely about blue nights in her opening pages), but I wanted more details of what happened to Quintana.
- Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (2003, in English): I've read several memoirs by Iranian women, but not one like this; Satrapi engages us by telling her stories, of life in post-revolutionary Iran and as a young expatriate in Europe, in comic strips.
- Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005): An incredibly imaginative story of a subculture of young people whose destinies are set before they are born.
- A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: I read this sociological exploration of women's lives in post-colonial America, based on unusual data from a midwife's diary, several years ago. I am inspired to offer it here after reading a novel about midwifery in Nova Scotia this week (The Birth House, by Ami McKay, 2006).
- Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness, by Alexandra Fuller (2011): I loved Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight, for its recounting of the mundane challenges of living in Africa (watch out for that snake in your bed!). Those continue to amaze, as do the practical adjustments made by Fuller's parents to war and then life in post-colonial Africa.
- Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson (2010): An entertaining story, some sociological themes: ethnic/race relations and generational clashes. What really earns it a spot here is that it is the September book-of-the-month for the local English language bookstore's book club. See what English-language readers are reading in Aix-en-Provence!
- The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Wells (2005): This was sitting on the shelf in our French flat. Wells' childhood was materially impoverished but her parents were big, creative thinkers. Coincidentally, Allen's aunt recommended Wells' book Half Broke Horses.
- State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett (2011): Patchett is a wonderful storyteller, as in her earlier Run, and Bel canto
- A Singular Woman, by Janny Scott (2011): Obama's mother was truly a singular woman, and a single mother for much of his childhood.