Thursday, February 13, 2014

2013 Kruzoo Family Reading List/Quasi Christmas Letter Excuses

As each day passes in Madagascar it becomes more and more apparent that the Kruzoo is not going to be sending out our much self acclaimed, universally celebrated, ubiquitous Christmas letter this year. 

Between the timing of moving to an island in the Indian ocean with two babies this fall, to finding out we are having a third (baby boy) addition at the end of April, to having to grow our own food, to having to walk 8km to work, to not having running water, to the increasing price of postage but ultimately due to a general malaise and an inability to order envelopes and stamps in time we have resigned ourselves to the fact that there we won't be doing our yearly mass mailing of 200 Christmas letters.  

Despite the absence of a physical letter in your mailbox we did want to share a few random points about our past year (our yearly highlights will come this summer):

1.  We were still super stoked to celebrate Jesus' birth this past Christmas.  Thanks to Gramma Dee we even had a very nice fake Christmas tree to decorate.  Macee and Betty got to watch Santa Claus ride in on a cart pulled by two Zebu's (i.e., Malagasy longhorns).  They were both terrified to sit on his lap.

In an interesting twist, Macee has an illustrated children's bible that she likes to flip through.  The illustration for many of stories features a white-bearded man (picture, for instance, a robed Moses parting the Red Sea)--Macee will turn the pages and excitedly exclaim "Bonjour Santa" when she sees each of these men.















2.  We still watched Elf and Christmas Vacation this winter and thought of pithy, ironic, and sardonic ways we could incorporate their dialogue into our letter

3.  You will most likely be getting an actual goodness-to-life-real-physical birth announcement from us this summer with a picture of baby Jackson after he's born (in South Africa!) at the end of April!

4.  Technically, it's summer here right now so it really makes more sense for us to wait till our "winter" this June/July/August to send out our yearly letter!

5.  But most importantly, we have included our list of books that Emily and I read (some together and some separately) this past year.  We would hate for everyone to miss out on that!

***Oh yeah, we have Skype and it works great here!  We are 8 hours ahead of the East Coast right now and would love to talk/catch up with any of you!  Tuesday and Thursday mornings are a great time to catch Macee and Betty having breakfast (their 8AM breakfast is 9PM on the West Coast), or during their dinner time on the weekends (their 6PM dinner Saturday/Sunday night is 10AM for the East Coasters).  Just shoot either of us an email for our Skype names:)

The 2013 Kruzoo Family Reading List




 


OUR TOP PICKS
  •  West with the Night by Beryl Markham--see Jack's review here.   An aviation pioneer--the first woman to fly from Europe to North America solo--an accomplished horse traininer--illicit lover of the Duke of Gloucester--writer without equal.  These monikers alone describe the  the central character in the best autobiography you've never heard of.  And West is one of the best written books--ever.  Hemingway's evaluation of Beryl in a letter to a friend should rocket this novel to the top of your amazon wish list: [Beryl] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers.
  • The Prodigal God by Tim Keller.  First off, as an English major I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know the correct definition of the word prodigal.  From the parable in the Bible, I always thought it referred to someone who screws up and comes back around, hat in hand.  I couldn't be further from the truth--prodigal means someone who is wastefully extravagant, who spends their resources recklessly and freely. The author takes this parable and uses it as a framework by which to illustrate God's reckless and extravagant love for both sons in the parable.   For the skeptic and believer alike this short book will challenge your conception of true religion and Christianity at large.  On our Yearly Re-Reading List.
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  A riotous look at the fictional-ish journey of one Nigerian woman to the college campuses and social circles of the US.  Tuck a copy of Adichie's deft and funny tale into your bag to read this summer a la plage ou a la piscine.  Among her many insights into our culture is the American propensity to give visitors a full tour of their home--in Nigeria you will never get past the kitchen and living room.
  • The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) by Adam Johnson.  This incredible story falls firmly into the book category fiction-ish.  This lengthy tome is part spy caper--swashbuckling romance--scathing indictment--political commentary but is fully engaging.  Johnson imagines the narrative arc of one ordinary North Korean citizen who struggles for an identity amidst a government imposed monolithic culture.  This arc spans the globe from North Korea to Japan to Texas--you won't be disappointed.
  •  Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela.  I started Mandela's autobiography a few weeks before his passing after watching it gather digital dust on my kindle bookshelf for over a year.  My reticence to dive into this book stemmed from a general disdain for dense, bloated, self-important celebrations of one's life often captured in autobiographies.  My misgivings could not have been more misplaced.  More a serious of chronological vignettes than a traditional biography, Madiba beautiful and humbly tells not only his story--but that of South Africa.   Click here to read a poem Jack wrote after reading this book.
Honorable Mentions:
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Ishiguro has an ear for the naivete of youthful aspiration and a heart for tragedy--a great story.
  • Ender's Game: 1 (The Ender Quintet) by Orson Scott Card.   A million times better than the mediocre movie.  Start with this one and revel in reading the whole series.
  • Warrior's: Life and Death Among the Somalis by Gerald Hanley.  Read everything that you can get your hands on by this gifted author.  As Africa threw of the chains of colonial oppression, Hanley examines the Somali experience through the eyes of a british soldier stationed there.
  • Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain.  An insightful and side-spliting fictional look at the American obsession with "supporting the troops."
  • People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry.  A pretty creepy (true) story that examines a seedy sub-section of Japanese culture.  Incredibly well-written but I wouldn't recommend it for your small town book club.
  • Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee.  One of South Africa's premier writers of our time.  This story is about pride, lust, and the rural aftermath of a post-apartheid South Africa.
  • Foe by J.M. Coetzee.  Wow.  What a weird book.  Coetzee reimagines the Will Robinson Crusoe story.  I know it means something deeper and if I was getting graded I could figure it out.  
  • Crossroads by W.M. Paul Young.  Thought-provoking but not as good as The Shack.  
  • The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry.  A favorite book of one of my younger brothers. This is a meandering examination of memory, reconciliation and regret.  Don't expect a page-turner.  
  • The Boleyn Inheritance by Phillippa Gregory.  Emily will have to add her .02.  But I know she liked this one.
  • The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.  This one is a tear-jerker--read it in the privacy of your living room.
DON'T READ:
A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe.  Unless you enjoy spending a whole book despising the main (and pretty much the only) character--don't waste your time on it.  Oe's redemptive efforts in the last three pages are a copout and ring blaringly hollow.   Nobel prize winner-schnobel prize winner is what I muttered when I finished this novel.  I even hesitated to mention that I read it all--but realized that if I could prevent one person from stumbling across this and buying it--I should.    You will notice I didn't even link to it right here--that's how dumb I though this book was.  BUT I may give the author one more chance and read another of his books this year (but he's on thin ice).

1 comment:

  1. I sooo disagree w/ your characterization of, THE MEMORY OF OLD JACK. I cried and underlined and pondered marriage and the agony of wrong choices and thought of my Dad a lot. AS a wife, there were many lessons learned on how NOT to treat your man and for young men, how NOT to choose a wife. Oh, well.. Great Christmas letter!

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