Anyway, that's where I got Mudbound by Hillary Jordan, from a neighbor. It's the story of a few people, two brothers, the wife of one of the brothers and the black son of one of their sharecroppers. It's about racism, the draw of owning one's own land and the meaning of home. It's wonderfully written.
After that was Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (the lady who wrote The Time Traveler's Wife) which I picked up because I liked The Time Traveler's Wife. Didn't like this one as much. I found it annoying, though I can't really put my finger on why. It's about... ghosts, I guess. I think the problem was that I didn't really care for any of the characters, so it didn't much matter to me what happened to them.
Then there was An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. My mother handed me this one and, let me tell you, it's a bear to read, like pulling teeth. It also suffers from having generally unlikeable characters. Mother hated it too, however much that helps. It's the story of the destruction of a young man who thoroughly deserves a jab in the eye with a sharp stick, which made it difficult for me to care when he eventually got one. After nearly nine hundred pages of listening to the kid whine about how unfair life is, I'd have been glad to jab him myself.
Another neighbor handed me A Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. It's one of those books lots of people were talking about: a guy tries to live by all the laws in the Bible for a year, sort of. It was funny in parts, and an enjoyable read, but a little too gimmicky for me to get anything solid out of it. This is the guy who read the encyclopedia, so he's just got an air of I'm-doing-this-so-I-can-write-a-book-abo
An unfortunate side-effect of my compulsion is that I also feel obligated to read books that people lend my fiance if he doesn't get around to it (which he never does) which is how I ended up reading Unwind by Neal Schusterman. This one's a YA sci-fi novel which seems to be riffing on the abortion debate. It takes place in a future world where life is considered sacred except between the ages of 16 and 18, when children can be "unwound", that is, given entirely for organ donation, and the story follows three kids fleeing their unwindings and fighting for their right to life. I liked it. I especially liked it because it wasn't really making an argument either for or against abortion. I mean, it probably was, but depending on how you read it, it could come down on either side, and that made me happy and also, I think, shows the cleverness of the author.
And then, finally, because I needed a break, I read All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot. Mr. Herriot always makes me feel warm and cozy, probably because my mother used to read his stories to me when I was very small. This is the third book in the series and is, as the previous two, comprised of anecdotes from his life as a country vet in Yorkshire. Nearly all of his stories are happy, so it's a good book to retreat to when neighbors keep lending you depressing books about racism or abortion or capital punishment.