We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

WeNeedtoTalkAboutKevin

One sentence summary: The first sentence of the back of the book sums it up really well: “Eva never really wanted to be a mother – and certainly not the mother of a boy who ends up murdering seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday.”

The good:  I simultaneously identified with, and disliked, the protagonist.  I alternated from feeling incredible sympathy for various characters, to feeling distaste for each of them.  It’s not often a book elicits such mixed feelings about the characters, which I think speaks to the author’s ability to create realistic, deep, multifaceted characters.

The bad: If you’re currently expecting a child and feeling a bit ambivalent about your impending parenthood, I’d recommend skipping this one until your child is older and you are certain your ambivalence hasn’t turned him or her into a monster. (I’m only half kidding here – this book could cause some sleepless nights for parents-to-be).  If you’re on the fence about wanting children, this may push you right over the fence to the “no children” side.  Which is perhaps where you should be if you’re that unsure.

Should you read it? Absolutely, you really should.  You might think you don’t want to read about a school shooting, but ultimately, it’s not really about that.

Related Reading: The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

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International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time by Bob Harris

Bank of Bob

One sentence summary: The book is a memoir of sorts, following Bob Harris as he travels around the world, following up on micro-finance loans he has made through Kiva.

The good: This book has got it all – international travel, issues of poverty and social justice, micro-finance, and features one of my favourite non-profit organizations (Kiva.org).  It’s an easy read and gives a good overview of how micro-finance works.

The bad: I found his attempts to draw comparisons between the poverty and people he meets to his own family a bit cringe-worthy, but these moments were few and far between.  For a book that could have easily turned into an over the top story of a Westerner ‘saving’ poor people in developing countries, Harris manages to stay fairly down to earth.

Should you read it? I’d say, probably.

Related Reading: Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus

(Want to try Kiva?  Click here and you’ll get to make your first $25 loan for free!  Geez this sounds like a paid ad, but I swear it’s not.)