Fourteen books about freedom

This is a list I came up with during the first two weeks of semi-quarantine, posting a book a day on my personal Facebook page. I found it an uplifting exercise, and I hope you enjoy it as well!

Day #1: The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
This is a small book full of big ideas, starting with one that doesn’t seem so fantastic these days: what if the world is a game being played by powerful entities who keep themselves invisible? And how can we free ourselves from this manipulation, and take back reality for ourselves?

The storyteller is Jamie, a boy who chanced on the game-players (known only as Them) and was cursed to “walk the bounds,” moving from world to world through the multiverse without ever entering play. He’s given the hope that he may return home, though, and hope is an anchor … for what, exactly, only comes clear at the end.

Day #2: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
As he was growing up in the final years of apartheid in South Africa, child of a black mother and a white father, Trevor Noah’s existence was literally illegal. His perceptive and funny look back at his experiences provides an incredible education for the reader — in large part due to the mom who insisted he had a right to live. “She taught me to challenge authority and question the system. The only way it backfired on her was that I constantly challenged and questioned her.”

Day #3: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
My favorite SF novel is this fable about a spartan planet settled by idealistic separatists and the scientist who believes the future lies in reconnection. It’s full of profound thoughts, and some amazing quotes that keep reverberating in my head right now. “You cannot take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”

Day #4: Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif
Out of one woman’s simple wish to be able to drive herself in a car comes this powerful account of the human misery and needless suffering created by a misogynistic society. What struck me most of all is how afraid most Saudi men are of women, terrified of their agency and empowerment. And this is a picture of every human’s fear of the vulnerable parts of ourselves, which we repress and imprison lest they take over and drive us into places we don’t want to go. When will we become strong enough, courageous enough, to let go of those fears, and go in a new direction?

Day #5: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
As I said in my recent post about the musical, this is essentially a story about how love and forgiveness are the most powerful forces in the world, and about the emergence of a prisoner into freedom thereby. The book is loaded with extra material (Waterloo, convents, French politics, sewers, etymology, etc.) but that’s the gist of it.

Day #6: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Frankl found freedom in the deadly depths of a concentration camp, through an inner vision of the bond of love that cannot be destroyed. He went on to help others to choose life over death, to find the meaning that can sustain us whatever our outer circumstances.

Day #7: Watership Down by Richard Adams
A group of rabbits undertake a perilous journey to find a new home when their own is destroyed by selfish, greedy humans. Along the way, they must escape and overthrow a totalitarian leader whose ideas about disease control have gotten out of hand. Hmmm….

Day #8: The Philosophy of Freedom by Rudolf Steiner
“Is the human being spiritually free, or subject to the iron necessity of purely natural law?” Or as biographer Gary Lachman puts it, does what we refer to as the human “I” really exist? Using pure, unprejudiced thought and perception, following this question becomes a path toward discovering in what way human beings can indeed become inwardly free and spiritually active — a discovery that has the greatest possible significance for our embattled world today.

Day #9: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Exiled by Queen Mary from her sister Elizabeth’s court, Kate Sutton encounters imprisonment of a darker kind in this YA historical retelling of the Tam Lin legend. The pitting of human moral strength against the lure of unholy power is subtly and effectively portrayed.

Day #10: The Book of Joy
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have known some of the most horrendous experiences human beings can inflict upon one another: exile, oppression, physical aggression, discrimination, and more. They are also two of the most joyful people on the planet. In conversation with author Douglas Abrams they share their wisdom about how to live more joyfully, with clear and practical guidelines that can be applied by anyone in any circumstances.

Day #11: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” It’s a startling statement for a woman to make in Victorian society, which saw female virtue as completely bound up in submission to others. But as she negotiates a world full of lies and hypocrisy, Jane seeks true human connection while maintaining a fierce commitment to her own integrity.

Day #12: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I usually hesitate to say “this is a book everyone should read,” but for Just Mercy I make an exception. It’s a deeply moving account of the staggering travesties of justice that occur in the not-so-United States, and of the humanity that nevertheless struggles to survive within the system. A beautiful work of literature as well as an unforgettable story.

Day #13: Momo by Michael Ende
This was the subject of the eighth grade play that we got to see just before school closed. It’s a fantasy about sinister grey men who live off of the time they steal from people by persuading them to focus on delusory goals like fame, money, and glamour. The child Momo, who always has time to listen to her friends and knows what is really important, must defeat the grey men through the power of the heart.

Day #14: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
In her own words, blind and deaf Helen Keller tells of her dramatic transition from helpless anger and frustration into peace, joy, and love through the gift of the word. It is a powerful example of how freedom does not reside in physical liberty, but in our connection to the world of meaning, the Logos.

During this period of physical restriction I’ve enjoyed thinking about of some of my favorite books. It’s made me realize to what extent they have been lights in the darkness for me. I would love to know what you think of any of them and what would be your own choices.

Link Love: July 2016

Review of the Month


This month, I had to pick a review that simply made me laugh: Jenny’s hilarious tear-down of The Little Paris Bookshop at Shelf Love. There’s no accounting for taste, as this has been an international bestseller with some rave reviews — but I think I’m going to trust Jenny’s opinion and stay far away.

Otherwise, here’s what I gathered this month — a pleasant miscellany for you to enjoy, I hope.

Reading New England

  • From Adventures of a Bibliophile, a review that might inspire me to finally read Walden.
  • At Relevant Obscurity, reading Little Women for the first time as an adult sparked some thoughtful commentary.
  • Penni of Penni’s Perceptions was enthralled by Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes, making me feel I really need to read something by this New Hampshire author.
  • Avid Series Reader reviewed two books that sound like perfect vacation reading: The Martha’s Vineyard mystery A Deadly Vineyard Holiday, and Newport, an intriguing historical mystery set in Rhode Island.
  • With his review of Presumed Puzzled, Carstairs Considers introduced me to another mystery series set in Connecticut. And he loved the start of a new series set in Vermont, Toasting Up Trouble.
  • WildMoo Books shared a review of Disappearance at Devils Rock, “a creepy novel that calls to mind the Puritan mythology of the devil living in the wilderness of New England’s forests.”
  • From Kissin’ Blue Karen, a Connecticut-based thriller that deals with memory and trauma, All Is Not Forgotten.


Blogging Matters


Adventures Abroad

  • Jean of Howling Frog Books did a fabulous multi-part summary of her trip to the UK, but my favorite installment was this one about visiting the Manor at Hemingford Grey (the real house behind the Green Knowe books by Lucy Boston).
  • An interactive map of Hidden Iceland has some surprises in store.
  • Spend the night in a historic Welsh library for some sweet literary dreams.
  • Closer to home, how a writer’s reading formed her love of New England.
  • A New England landmark is Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, The Mount. Thanks to Bibliophile by the Sea for lovely pictures.


Bookish History


Image of the Month

HedgehogsWhat are these hedgehogs doing?
Visit the British Library blog to find out.

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Link Love: June 2016

Review of the Month


Thanks to Books and Chocolate for an insightful review of a vintage novel, The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time, and now I’m even more excited about it — sounds like a perfect summer read.

And I’d also like to thank those who continue to participate in the Reading New England Challenge. If I’ve missed any of your reviews, don’t hesitate to let me know — and be sure to use the State Post and Genre Post linkups, now back after technical difficulties briefly took them down. Here’s what I came across this month, along with other posts and articles that caught my eye.

Reading New England


Literary Locations


Blogging Questions


Lovely Lists

  • There are so many interesting lists for the 20 Books of Summer challenge floating around, but this one from Consumed by Ink has some exceptionally unusual and fascinating sounding titles on it.
  • It’s great to know that Scott of Furrowed Middlebrow is working on publishing some forgotten classics, but in the meantime he has some splendid suggestions for some other old favorites that are now back in print.
  • For a different take on the TBR list, Annabel’s House of Books is showcasing hers in color-coordinated chunks. Here’s the luscious-looking Indigo selection.


Image of the Month

Fairy tale illustration by the Swedish artist GAN, found here.

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer