Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More Book Talk

As I looked through my bookshelves, I found more books that I read last year. I continue my reading thread today.

For One More Day, by Mitch Albom: I don't know why Mitch Albom's books are so intriguing. They are short little volumes that pack huge emotional wallops. For One More Day is yet another thought-provoking little work that reads like it should be true. It is the memoir of a down-on-his-luck man who tries to kill himself, but instead finds himself spending one last day with his (deceased) mother. In a Dickensian mode, the mother shows the son what a positive impact she and he had on others' lives and how he just can't give up that easily. Add this to your reading list.

The Templar Legacy, by Steve Berry: A great book, particularly for Dan Brown fans. This novel follows former government agent, Cotton Malone, as he unravels complicated conspiracies and esoteric brainteasers surrounding the ancient religious order, the Knights Templar. This was a captivating read and slaked my thirst for more Code-like fare.

The Rule of Four, by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thompson: Another Da Vinci Code wannabe. The novel is as complicated and complex as the code it purports to reveal. Don't bother.

Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell: What was she thinking? Julie Powell is hardly a cook let alone a writer. This is actually a blog turned into a book. It should have stayed a blog, where no one had to pay to read it. Powell's writing is disjoint and crude; the book is no testament to the grande dame of cuisine, Julia Child. To coin a phrase, "mal appetit."

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith: I'll be very frank. I don't like much British fiction. P.D. James, Ian McEwen, Susanna Clarke ... they put me to sleep with their verbosity and micromanagement of the narrative. I was skeptical about reading On Beauty, despite its winning Britain's Orange Prize for Fiction. This is a novel of race and identity, family dynamics and adultery, and academic rivalry and competition. I enjoyed the premise of the book -- white English professor married to proud black American woman; raising their kids in present-day America -- but the story wandered and finally collapsed in the end.

Possession, by A.S. Byatt: Two contemporary scholars, each studying one of two Victorian poets, reconstruct their subjects' secret extramarital affair through poems, journal entries, letters and modern scholarly analysis of the period. I've had this book for years. I originally bought in my Anne Rice years, thinking it was gothic fantasy. It took me months -- again the aversion to BritLit -- because of the verbose, overwritten style. I didn't love it, although The Washington Post and The New York Times did. What do I know?

Gods in Alabama, by Joshilyn Jackson: A beach read at best. It's the story of a young, Southern woman who returns to her hometown to confront the demons of her past. File this one under chick-lit; read it if someone gives you a free copy like I did.

Beloved, by Toni Morrison: I remember trying to read this book when it was first published in 1987. I couldn't get through it, not even a few pages. I returned it to the library and didn't think of it again until last spring. In May 2006, The New York Times deemed Beloved the most important work of American fiction in the last quarter-century. I chose it as the summer-read for our book club, and I was not disappointed. It is not easy or comfortable to read this book, but you must read it.
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.
Happy Reading!

2 comments:

Robin said...

Beloved is, indeed, a very powerful book.

I have Rule of Four in my stack of books to read. Sounds like I should put it at the bottom of the pile.

Jason said...

My friend Njoke & I had an online discussion about On Beauty here:
http://hubpages.com/hub/On_Beauty_Zadie_Smith

It sounds like the book was a disappointment for you, but we'd still love your comments if you'd care to share them with us.

Thanks!
Jason