Somewhere In The Suburbs regularly posts about books she has read. I am a voracious reader and the ersatz leader of a local book club, so I figure I should be posting about what I read. I routinely have 3-6 books on my nightstand.
On-deck right now (in no particular order):
The Blessing of A Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel: The author of this very useful book uses Jewish teachings to raise self-reliant children. She offers concrete advice about finding a way to lovingly reassert our moral authority and spiritual mentorship over our children.
When The Brain Can’t Hear, by Teri James Bellis: A professor’s discussion and description of auditory processing disorder. Redmond Mom recommended this book, as she is very learned on the subject.
Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson: A modern-day suspense narrative combined with the elements of a traditional detective novel and psychological character studies.
The Places In Between, by Rory Stewart: A young Scotsman reports on his adventures walking across Afghanistan in January of 2002, shortly after the fall of the Taliban. One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2006.
Night, by Elie Wiesel: A first-person tale of the Holocaust by one of the world’s premier authorities on the subject. It’s been sitting there for a while, but I need to read it.
Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani: I don’t even remember how I came to read Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap trilogy (Big Stone Gap, Big Cherry Holler, Milk Glass Moon). It may have been a review in The New York Times. At any rate, I found these books about an Italian-American woman stranded in rural Virginia. A compendium of reviews called the series quirky and comforting, Southern Cinderella stories combining 1970s nostalgia with Appalachian local color. All true, and I gobbled up each book. Lucia, Lucia is not part of the series but is a window into New York of the 1950s. It promises to be a fast and luscious read.
I just finished re-reading The Catcher In The Rye for tonight’s book club. I hated the book the first time around, and it didn’t get any better this time. My only hope is that the woman who insisted we read this classic shows up tonight (for once). I’ve always found Holden Caulfield to be an insipid, self-absorbed, spoiled boy; I never identified with him at all. [Note: the woman who insisted we read The Catcher In The Rye did not show up for book club last night. I just voted her off the book club island.]
What I’ve read in the past year:
The Whole World Over, by Julia Glass: A captivating story about how the past impinges on the present, and how small incidents of fate and chance determine the future. It is the story of baker, Greenie Duquette, and how her predictable New York life is uprooted when she suddenly accepts a job offer in New Mexico. The author examines Greenie’s and her husband’s lives and the lives of rich secondary characters who cross their paths.
The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory: The story of Catalina de Aragoña’s stunning and cunning rise from Infanta of Spain to the first of Henry VIII’s wives. A thorough, fascinating and accurate piece of historical fiction. I also read Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen’s Fool, both of which are terrific. I’m putting The Boleyn Inheritance on my list of books to read this spring.
Heat, by Bill Buford: A non-fiction account of a writer’s transformation into a line cook under the tutelage of Molto Mario Batali and his mentors. Buford’s apprenticeships reveal the pleasures and the real human cost of making food and why people cook. Eggbeater recommended this one; thanks, Shuna!
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson: An excruciatingly long narrative about WWII code-breakers and their legacy. Recommended by my BIL, the MIT PhD. Need I say more?
The Jew Store, by Stella Suberman: Biography of a New York Jewish family’s migration to a small town in the Deep South. It was fair.
Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer: Wizard insisted I read these books about faeries come to battle the bad guys on the surface. They are inventive and creative works of fantasy.
Twelve Mile Limit, by Randy Wayne White: The Sanibel Island author’s latest story of intrigue and danger in Southwest Florida. I also read his Dead of Night. I really like the local color of White’s work, and I’ve read just about everything he has written.
The Expected One, by Kathleen McGowan: A modern-day tale of the legacy of Mary Magdalene. I was looking for the next DaVinci Code, but I did not find it in this book.
The Elements of Style, by Wendy Wasserstein: The late, great playwright’s venture into narrative fiction. A parody of the lifestyles of the super-rich, as seen through the eyes of a New York pediatrician. Too much Jackie Collins, and too little of Wendy’s wit. Blech.
The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud: One of The New York Times’s 10 Best Books of 2006: “This superbly intelligent, keenly observed comedy of manners, set amid the glitter of cultural Manhattan in 2001, also looks unsparingly, though sympathetically, at a privileged class unwittingly poised, in its insularity, for the catastrophe of 9/11.” I thought it was an overwritten glimpse into the lives of a bunch of spoiled 20-somethings. Crap.
Intuition, by Allegra Goodman: A fictional account of the inner-workings of cancer research and the perils of relying on gut-instinct instead of scientific fact.
The Brooklyn Follies, by Paul Auster: I found this one in The New Yorker. They didn’t love the book, but I think Auster is a masterful writer.
After a “sad and ridiculous life” in the suburbs, Nathan Glass retires, gets divorced, and moves to Brooklyn to die. To pass the time, he decides to write an account of mishaps and mistakes, beginning with his own—”The Book of Human Folly.” A chance encounter with a long-lost nephew leads Nathan into an unlikely second act, involving a longer-lost niece, her runaway daughter, and a host of lively Brooklyn caricatures—a gay used-bookstore owner, a tough widow, an H.I.V.-positive drag queen—all in the midst of unlikely second acts themselves. Nathan narrates increasingly absurd events with persistent cheer.
I checked out a few other books from the library this past year but never finished reading them. I may get back to those titles, but I’m sure I’ll add tons of others to my “To Read” list.