In January I signed up for Reading for a Cure, a great challenge issued by Wendy, doyenne of the book blog Caribou’s Mom. The idea behind the challenge is raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, a renowned non-profit that funds research, state-of-the-art equipment and instruments, parent and patient care, and support for doctors at a number of leading pediatric hospitals. All you have to do is read–something most of us love to do anyway!
You can go to Wendy’s site for details, but in a nutshell, you don’t have to read any certain type of book to participate. To raise the money, you simply pledge money per book or per page, and you can participate for any period from a month to a year. It occurs to me that this might be a rewarding challenge to do with your kids.
I’m having fun participating in this; it’s making more mindful of what I read and encourages me to set aside time for reading instead of goofing off in other ways. And this month, there are some great book giveaways going on through March for everyone who has either signed up for the challenge, is sponsoring someone in the challenge, or makes a donation in March to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Upcoming prizes include Emily St. John Mandel’s debut literary novel, Last Night in Montreal; Shanghai Girls, Lisa See’s novel of two Chinese sisters sold to husbands in the United States in the 1930s; two “Jack McClure” thrillers by Eric Van Lustbader, First Daughter and Last Snow; and a set of Patrick Taylor’s heartwarming tales: An Irish Country Girl, An Irish Country Village, and An Irish Country Christmas. Here’s where you sign up.
As for me, I’ve read some especially good books since the challenge started in January. Maybe it’s good luck as well as a good cause.
Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold. In 1923, washed-up magician Charles Carter gets a new lease on life when he becomes a suspect in the strange death of President Harding. This hilarious, suspenseful novel combines mystery, offbeat humor, great period details, and genuine human emotion.
Across the Endless River, by Thad Carhart. The life of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, a young frontiersman who happens to be the son of Sacagawea, is forever changed when he is invited to travel to Europe as the guest of a German nobleman. This literary novel is light on plot but long on intricately described historical settings, three-dimensional characters, and thoughtful meditations on life’s compromises and the price of changing vs. resisting change. Link to my review.
The Commodore, by Patrick O’Brian. Everything is not what it seems in this 17th installment in the Aubrey-Maturin seagoing series. Roles are reversed as Stephen finds unexpected joy in first-time fatherhood, while Jack and his wife find their marriage coming a-cropper from jealousy. A new adventure begins as Jack takes command of a squadron charged with stopping the African slave trade, then makes sail for Ireland to stop Bonaparte’s invasion.
Trail of the Spanish Bit, by Don Coldsmith. In the 1540s, young Spanish officer Juan Garcia becomes separated from an exploring party on the Great Plains. To survive, he is forced to make common cause with the Indians, who have never met a white man or seen a horse. This terrific novel, first in a series by Coldsmith (who died in 2009), takes a little-known period of history and makes it come alive through delightful details, humor, action, and insight into human nature. Young adults would enjoy this book too. I’m thrilled to have discovered this series.
High Spirits, by Dianne Salerni. Maggie and Kate Fox are just two bored young girls in Victorian-era New York when they decide to start communicating with the dead. Soon their “spirit rapping” becomes a sensation, launching them into lives of celebrity and deception. Salerni’s straight-forward, fast-paced writing makes this little-known true story a page-turner. Who knew that spiritualism was so closely entertwined with the intellectuals behind abolitionism and women’s rights? Originally published by the author, the book has been picked up by a traditional publisher and will be re-released in May with the new title We Hear the Dead — a success story, and well deserved.
Boone, by Robert Morgan. Ever since I started learning about George Rogers Clark and the early settlement of Kentucky, I’ve wanted to learn more about Daniel Boone. I’m about halfway through this recent biography, which paints Boone as a lively, thoughtful romantic. Far from being caught up in the tides of the history through which he lived, he blazed his own trail — literally and figuratively — on his way to becoming a legend.