2017 Reading Challenge update #3

A Wrinkle in Time

I chose A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle as my book to read from the 1960’s. Like some of the other books that I’ve read this year, it was aimed at the youth market. I didn’t know that when I bought it, but it became obvious early in my reading. I don’t have a problem with that since I had never read it before. Some day I’m going to figure out how I missed reading all of these good books for so many years. As I was reading this book I kept being reminded of the fictional books by C.S. Lewis. L’Engle wrote two or three subsequent books in this series, and I plan on reading them someday. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have a bookcase full of books to be read, so it may take me some time to get back to this series. I am glad that I picked this one up.

Interpreter of Maladies

Next I finished reading a book of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri titled Interpreter of Dreams. As I was reading I kept asking myself two questions. 1) Why don’t I read more short stories; and 2) why hadn’t I heard of Lahiri before? I love this book. Each of the stories deals with people of Indian heritage, and most of them have migrated to the U.S. But that is just what is on the surface. These stories are pictures of the lives of ordinary people who are reacting to the world and the people around them. No one is extraordinary, and yet I was so taken with each character that I was drawn into their world. The cultural differences between me and the characters didn’t really matter. I could understand why they reacted the way the did. I shall be buying more books by Jhumpa Lahiri. Perhaps the next one will be a novel, but I do need to read more short stories.

My Song

The autobiography that I chose for this year was My Song by Harry Belafonte and Michael Shnayerson. It is the lucky thirteenth book of the challenge. I have been a fan of Mr. Belafonte since I first heard his music in fourth grade. My teacher brought in his Calypso album and would play it when we couldn’t have recess outdoors due to rain. The first album of his that I bought was his first Carnegie Hall double album.

In later years I became aware of his work in the Civil Rights movement, though he wasn’t as high-profile as Dr. King, James Farmer Jr, Roy Wilkins, Medgar Evers and others. According to this autobiography, Mr. Belafonte was a major behind-the-scenes mover.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Mr. Belafonte spends so much time writing about himself since it is an autobiography, but I was disappointed that he didn’t spend more time talking about his family. But it was a god read, and I enjoyed the book.

On Tyranny

When I finished Mr. Belafonte’s book I decided to take off a few days from reading. Those few days turned into three weeks.  But I snapped out of it and picked up On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. This book was not on my radar until Cindy and I saw the author on Morning Joe talking about his book in connection with the recent presidential election and subsequent events.

I’ll state here that if you are a fan of President Trump, you will not enjoy this book. If you do not like the president you will enjoy the book. If you are still not sure, this book can give you a historical perspective to work from.

It is a short book with short chapters. The chapters are shorter than most of James Patterson’s books, if that helps you understand. The epilogue is longer than any of the twenty chapters.

I especially liked the chapters on professional ethics, being kind to our language, and learning from peers in other countries. As in all things, I liked the book but you may not.


I chose a mystery as the fifteenth book in my reading challenge. I had planned on reading a book first published in the 1940’s, but it would have taken more brainpower to read than I was willing to expend right now. So instead I picked up a mystery, Tatiana, by one of my favorite authors, Martin Cruz Smith..

This is the eighth novel with Arkady Renko as the protagonist. The first, of course, was Gorky Park which was published in 1981. In this novel Renko is searching for the murderer of a Russian Mafia chief and is also looking into the disappearance of the body of a journalist.

Russian gangsters, government corruption, investigative journalism are all part of the mix. I always seem to ask myself at some point in one of these novels if Renko is one step ahead of everyone, or if he just muddles through until it all comes clear to him. I’ll read the Renko mysteries as long as Mr. Smith keeps writing them.

In case you don’t know, or have forgotten the challenge that I set for myself you can find it here: https://classicalgasbag.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/2017-reading-challenge/. What have you been reading?


3 thoughts on “2017 Reading Challenge update #3

      1. You should start with Namesake, if you’re going to try a novel next year 🙂 There’s also a movie by the same name. I think Kal Penn is in it.

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