Read Harder Challenge: Tech, War, Romance, Existence

For this month's Read Harder Challenge, Karen had to read a book about technology and war.  Had to being the operative words.

Karen: I have been dreading this month's challenge. Two topics that I have zero interest in reading about. As a Luddite, even though I use a computer all day every day at work, I don't want to use tech gadgets in my personal life. No smart phone, no computer, no GPS. Luckily, I found the physical book The End of Absence which looks at the reality that as a society, we are hitting a point where many people will not remember a time before the Internet took over our lives. Currently, if you need to wait in line at the store, or wait for a bus, or wait for your order to be taken in a restaurant, not many people are able to just sit and wait. Instead, there is a need to be "busy" and look at one's phone. Spending an hour looking up at the clouds is not something kids today can even contemplate doing. Finding a date through a mutual acquaintance is a quaint idea - today, it's all about online dating and meet-up groups.

The author did a "tech fast" and spent thirty days not using technology. While he showed all the signs of being addicted to the behavior of checking his e-mail and phone, he did manage to steer clear of it for the entire month. But this wasn't ever going to be a game changer for him - he's a freelance author who needs to use technology to do research, write his articles, contact editors, etc. While he might think about checking his phone a million times during the day, this challenge wasn't going to change his habits in any meaningful way.

Reading this book made me sad to think about what we are losing in our society. And it made me feel even less inclined to add tech to the free time in my own life.

Thoroughly depressed after reading the tech book, I realized I had to read a book about war. For unknown reasons, when I was elementary-school age the teachers in my Hebrew school decided it was absolutely necessary to read about and watch many (and I mean way too many) pieces about the Holocaust. I realize that this is a topic of great importance. However, when you are eight and insist on taking a bath instead of a shower because you've watched images of gas chambers, it is all too much. Therefore, as an adult, I have chosen to avoid reading about war. I realize I have a great luxury in doing so, living in the U.S. far away from many atrocities that are happening around the world currently. I don't take this luxury lightly.

That said, I'm really glad I read Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale. While it started off a bit romance-oriented, it turned into a gripping story about what survivors need to do during wartime. And it showed the compassion and courage of those who helped others survive. Plus, there's the strong woman savior that the Nazi's never believed was responsible for helping British and American airmen escape through the Pyrenees Mountains.This books was a page turner, a heart breaker and a good reminder to me that you never know someone's history (the son in the story never knew what his mother did during the war) and as with many of these reading challenges, it is good to read outside of your comfort zone.

Betsy read one book about love and one book not about love.

Let's start with love. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour is about a young woman in college named Marin. She's away at school in New York where all the students have left for their holiday break. Marin has no where to go. Her parents are long dead and the grandfather she'd been raised by - Gramps - has recently died. She's in love with an old friend, Mabel, who's been texting and calling for months, trying to get her to come back to sunnier San Francisco and move in with her and her parents. The story begins with Marin preparing for Mabel's visit. They're alone on campus, a snow storm ensues, and the two are forced to confront Marin's grief and fear, their romantic history, and how to move forward. This LGBTQ romance novel is geared towards teens, but I hardly noticed as I dove into this touching coming of age novel that bounced from east coast to west, cold to warmth, dark to light. Grab a tissue box for the last few chapters!  I was not prepared when I began to learn more about Gramps, his pain, and an opportunity for Marin to feel a mother's love.

The other book I read was a book of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. Yeah, that was tricky to find. I stumbled upon Wislawa Szymborska's View With A Grain of Sand. I'm always curious as to how people are able to translate poetry or music lyrics - how can they possibly achieve the same feeling and structure and pace, while also usually having to rhyme much of the time! Wislawa's poetry covers a great deal of ground -- life and death, autonomy and force, earthiness and miracles. She dabbles in religion with wit and grace and I found the work to be a fascinating journey through the absurdity of existence.

Here are some handy links to help you follow the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge all year long. 

Find out about the Read Harder Challenge and print out your own form to keep track of your reading:

Get reading ideas for each of the challenges from library staff and the Tucson reading community:

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