March was a good month for reading! I was lucky to spend a glorious week in sunny Rocky Point, Mexico over Spring Break and got a lot of school reading done. I did manage to fit in a couple of books for pleasure as well, but my reading was really focused on class. Since I was able to read so many books this month, I will once again be splitting my post into two to keep it from being overwhelming. Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest!
For those of you who missed my initial post on this topic, I have decided to embark on a most enjoyable challenge to read 52 books in 2013. I have chosen to participate in the Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge in which I select my own goal, and a book a week is what I came up with as truly doable this year. Each month I will give you an update on where I am in the challenge and what books I was lucky enough to indulge in. I’ll also include a link to Amazon.com for each book in case you would like to pick a read up for yourself.
In the month of March I have read six books and according to the graph on Goodreads, I am at 35% of my goal, which is seven books (12%) ahead of schedule! Thanks to a very full schedule of school books I have had no problem keeping up with my reading goal and am now even ahead of the game. At this time last year I was barely keeping up. It feels good to be reading books that I might not otherwise have picked up. Of course I still have my favorite authors and genres, but I feel blessed to be introduced to amazing works of literature.
Without further ado, here are my reviews of this month’s first three Book Challenge reads.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe- Completed March 11th
This novel is split into two stories centering on the main character of Okonkwo. First comes a sort of fable that ends with Okonkwo being exiled from his native land or a period of seven years. The second story follows a clash of cultures as European missionaries begin to take over and convert the native people. Throughout the book I was torn between sympathy for the ill fate of Okonkwo and frustration at his very obstinate behaviors. While I can understand the fear and mistrust that comes with finding European missionaries in his native lands, he doesn’t make things any easier with his violent outbursts. This is a sad novel with a heartbreaking ending. On a side note, Chinua Achebe passed away on March 22nd. I feel lucky to have been exposed to his literary masterpiece.
Gates of Injustice by Alan Elsner- Completed March 12th
In his book Gates of Injustice, Elsner brings the realities of life behind bars to the forefront of public awareness. A system meant to rehabilitate and bring justice is corrupt and unjust in its fundamental running. A place where the convicted are sent to be punished is cruel and unsanitary, an incubation cell for disease and hate. Not only must an inmate fight his own personal demons living in a cell for 23 hours a day, but he must also fight the demons of racial unrest, corrupt prison guards and officials, and rampant sickness and disease.
In the opening of the book we are introduced to the two toughest Sheriffs in America and are witness to their battle to be the meanest. I’m shocked and dismayed to be an Arizonan with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in charge. Serving rotten food to inmates suffering extreme heat in tents in the Arizona desert hardly seems to be the straight path to rehabilitation.
The rampant mistreatment of the mentally ill sent unjustly to our nation’s prisons is perhaps the most shocking of ills. Psychiatrists making little in salary have little interest in the overall mental health of the prison population and suicide is all too often an inmate’s answer. How can a mental health professional stand by with good peace of mind and watch as inmates struggle with sanity and lose the mental health battle to suicide? It is such a blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life.
Almost as shocking is the fact that prisons are forced to hire the least effective and poorly trained medical staff for taking care of an inmate’s physical health. Doctors don’t even have to be board certified and are often uncaring and poorly paid. It’s a crime in itself to allow an inmate to catch a basic cold and receive such poor treatment that they ultimately die of pneumonia. It is a prisoner’s right to receive competent medical care, yet many die needlessly after having their basic medical needs neglected.
Elsner points out that if prisoners are allowed to work to gain an education while incarcerated, they are more likely to succeed in re-entering society upon their release. Taking away rights to higher education for drug-related crimes only pushes the inmate further into a life of crime. If they garnered education and valuable work and life skills while in prison, perhaps they might not be left to the circumstances that got the to prison in the first place.
On a last note, I agree with Elsner that at some point society has to quit punishing prisoners. Once they are released we need to support their opportunities for success. They should be able to vote and qualify for housing and educational assistance. With these basic rights come education and the power to make a lasting change for the better. Without them, prisoners will only re-enter a lifestyle that brought them to prison before.
I found Elsner’s book to be necessary reading in order to understand what is going on in our prisons around the country. Reforms obviously need to be made and we need to open our eyes to the gross injustices of life behind bars. We cannot continue to treat our fellow human beings in such a brutal way with a blatant disregard to human life.
May Cause Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein- Completed March 12th
I’ve read Gabrielle Bernstein’s two other spiritual guidebooks and have found her to be inspirational. Unfortunately this book does not live up to the expectations I have for her work. I found the book to be repetitive and preachy. The daily meditations are monotonous. I felt the overall message is important, but it could have been boiled down to a shorter book with a general guide for meditation at the end. I also found the section on tithing with the gentle hint that the author accepts tithes to her website extremely off-putting. Within the nonsense there were some wonderful lessons. I’ll share four of my favorites here:
1. It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life, but being grateful for the bad things can open our hearts to love.
2. Forgiveness is important, not just forgiving others, but ourselves.
3. When we attack ourselves, we attack the world. When we love ourselves, we love the world.
4. When you change your mind about your body, your body changes.
When all is said and done I wouldn’t recommend this book. It is too long and fails to deliver the same level of spiritual insight that the author set forth in her previous books.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the conclusion of this month’s Reading Challenge Update!