New Books Worth Reading

I recently read two contemporary books which each offered uniquely enjoyable and inspiring experiences, and learned of a third I want to read!

The first is Sophie by Tal Tsfany. It’s a children’s/young adult tale of a young teenage refugee from war-torn Syria and how she navigates her difficult life-problems in a U.S. small town with perspicacious intelligence, penetrating insightfulness, and tremendous courage.

Tsfany uses conversations with the title character, Sophie, and her friend Leo, and incidents at home, at school, and in the town to dramatize rationality, moral choice, independence, and integrity in an engaging way, not as a morality tale. I only wish the ending had more wrap-up in terms of Sophie’s subsequent life.

I found the story and characters engaging, and especially admired how the pivot point of Tsfany’s plot – the machinations of a do-gooder politician – dramatized the psychological as well as practical consequences of individualism versus collectivism. I would highly recommend this book for older children and adolescents. It could be a great gateway to discussing many philosophical issues and their ramifications in everyday life with them.

The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier is an adventure story and romance, in which Oxford philologist Diana Morgan risks everything to discover the truth about the ancient Amazon legend. The story is set in contemporary times and the ancient Mediterranean world simultaneously and the author cleverly intertwines the plots of each era for a spectacular climax.

She does this while drawing on her considerable knowledge in history and the classics to ingeniously re-imagine the events, people, and legends of the Greek, North African, and Asia Minor cultures. To the famous figures of Paris, Helen, Agamemnon, Hercules, and Priam, she adds a new heroine, Amazon queen Myrina, and she makes the reader see the well-known figures in an entirely different way, with the Amazon women crucial to the events of that entire world.  I found her view quite believable!

Mystery, skullduggery, ruthless competition in the world of antiquities, surprising reveals about family, friends, and lovers abound. Fortier’s women, ancient and modern, are highly capable, intelligent, and independent but with a delightfully adoring attitude to men who deserve it.  Not that men don’t encounter cutting criticism and resistance when such is due. But her treatment of both sexes is happily evenhanded, might we venture to say, objective? Quite a relief in this day and age from the slanted, man-reviling drivel which abounds.

Fortier paints a picture of life as an exciting enterprise, and humans highly capable of meeting the challenge, with romance as a delightful possibility – although some might find certain of the romantic scenes sounding a wee bit too much like romance novels. But it’s a minor problem, greatly overshadowed by the spirit of adventure, painted in exquisitely evocative language.

At the same time, she manages to cleverly offer classical liberal ideas that go against today’s collectivist grain. As a natural part of the dialogue, her characters question, for example, the campaigns against oil, repatriation of antiquities, and profit, as well as the incompetency of the government in delivering protection and justice is an integral part of the story.

I read this book right through, which only happens when the story really grabs me! If you try it, I hope you enjoy it too.

I haven’t yet read this new history, but I’m so encouraged to do so by the description!

A new history of the U.S. by Wilfred M. McClay, Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, offers a different approach than so many writers today.

“No one has told the story of America with greater balance or better prose than Wilfred McClay. Land of Hope is a history book that you will not be able to put down. From the moment that ‘natives’ first crossed here over the Bering Strait, to the founding of America’s great experiment in republican government, to the horror and triumph of the Civil War, and to the stirring election of Barack Obama, McClay’s account will capture your attention while offering an unforgettable education.”
― James W. Ceaser, Professor of Politics, University of Virginia

Hopefully, it will help counter Howard Zinn’s collectivist A People’s History of the United States, which has held sway over millions for the past 29 years because McClay highlights the tremendous value which the U.S. has brought to the world.

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