RHC 2017: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a book about war.

“Looking another human being in the eye, making an independent decision to kill him, and watching as he dies due to your action combine to form one of the most basic, important, primal, and potentially traumatic occurrences of war.” (Loc 883)

Well, this one was about as much fun as it sounds. I really wanted to just read Grunt by Mary Roach, but I accepted the mandate to read things that challenged me, and so I wound up with this book-length study of what killing someone does to a person – On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and in Society by Dave Grossman.

There were a number of things I appreciated about this book. Grossman is a former lieutenant colonel and West Point instructor, and this stuff is not theoretical for him. He writes with deep sympathy for the men and women who carry out violent orders (as well as for soldiers who are unable to do so) and recognizes the immense physical and psychological distance between the people giving those orders and the soldiers carrying them out.

RHC 2017: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a book about books.

This book checks off so many boxes for me – crumbling old buildings with on-premises walled-off basement crypts, sordid doomed romances, lifelong obsessions, out-of-control bibliophilia, a gorgeous and gorgeously realized setting, whole-heartedly ridiculous melodrama, tangled up subplots involving all kinds of lovable eccentrics, and much more. These are things that I enthusiastically show up for, and so I was surprised to find myself repeatedly asking, “why am I not enjoying this more?”

This was supposed to be a treat read, and instead, I spent most of September bogged down in it. This is a well-liked book, too, and it ranks as one of the internationally bestselling books of all time. I can’t put my finger on why it was such an unexpected chore for me.

I felt sour toward The Shadow of the Wind almost immediately, due the early appearance of a mysterious labyrinthine location called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The idea was that every out-of-print book (in the world I guess?) made its way to those shelves to await the coming of its One True Reader. The plot of the book kicks off when the young hero Daniel selects a mysterious volume eponymously titled The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. However, it soon becomes clear that a shadowy figure is systematically burning every volume of Carax’s work, and Daniel is launched on a mission to uncover the truth about the writer.

RHC 2017: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.

UCA is hosting the inaugural C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference this year. I am a woman, I would like to be a writer, and the conference is being held at a very low registration cost within easy driving distance of my house – this sounds like my best shot to attend one of these things while keeping my impostor syndrome at bay, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

The conference’s opening keynote speaker is Tayari Jones, and I was happy to see that I could line one of her works up with Read Harder (the year’s getting away from me and I’m not going to have time to read much that isn’t challenge-related). I chose Silver Sparrowbecause at the time it was the most recent of her three published novels. Her fourth book An American Marriage will be released next February.

I really enjoyed Silver Sparrow. This was one of novels where John Gardner’s “fictional dream” was in full effect. I found myself completely lost in the world of the book, and I genuinely enjoyed spending time with its two protagonists – fierce, independent Dana and shy, gentle-hearted Chaurisse.