1. Barrett, William E. The Lilies of the Field (127 p.)
2. Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart (148 p.)
January total: 275 pages
2015 total: 275 pages
I knew I'd need to lower my reading goals for the year once I switched over almost completely to classics & nonfiction, but sheesh; at this rate I'll need to halve the already-halved goals to have a chance of reaching them. In any case...
Lilies of the Field is a fairly quiet book about an itinerant African-American veteran who ends up building a chapel in the American southwest for a group of East German nuns. It's short, but gets in, says what it needs to say, and gets out. It doesn't need 700 pages of padding to get into everyone's head, describe dinner parties in excruciating detail, include lengthy asides of everything the other characters do while "off-stage", etc. I think it's an absolutely amazing book, and highly recommend it.
As is the case for many "classics" that go on high school required reading lists, I went in expecting I would most likely either dislike or be uninterested in Things Fall Apart, though was still willing to give it a fair shake. However, the first section, with its slice-of-life depiction of precolonial Ibo culture absolutely blew me away; I wanted to read more about those characters and their lives. The rest of the book was excellent, too, but as the title indicates, the protagonist's life is changing for the worse in those parts. The vibrancy of the culture that rings throughout the first part are first being eroded then by the end of the book are being actively destroyed, to be forcefully replaced with English traditions & religion rather than organically grafted into what was already a functioning society, so this very much isn't a book that leaves you feeling uplifted and happy--but like a train-wreck, you also can't look away. The frequent foreign terms and many very similar names made it a bit hard for me to read, but there's a glossary and cast of characters in the front that helped a lot. This one really should be required reading, at least for students of history & sociology, and fully deserves "classic" status. Absolutely highly recommended.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf