The book update is long overdue, I am very behind my 100 books goal but I am steadily catching up. I’m only going to blog about the books that stood out these past few months.
Everything Ravaged Everything Burned by Wells Tower:
This collection of stories was superb. Wells Tower constructs sentences expertly. I constantly found myself reading individual sentences over and over, in awe at the punch a few rightly chosen words strung together produced. These stories were a thing of literary beauty. Books like this are not for everyone. There are pretensions that sometimes accompany the designation of being bookish. Some of these are: a proclivity to use big words (guilty), casual name dropping of famous authors in conversation (the serious ones and yes guilty again), earnest discussions about recent articles in the New Yorker or The New York Times, and a tendency toward literary fiction. What is literary fiction exactly? Basically it’s one long inner monologue of everyday mundane living. It often displays in heartbreaking detail the losing battle of life, the ridiculous coping mechanisms we use to get through life’s obstacles. There aren’t any loud explosions, no superheros, monsters, or epic romances. My favorite type of literary fiction contains stories of people getting pummeled by life and coming out on the losing end (i.e. anything by Richard Yates) or resigning themselves to mediocrity. This is a grim view of literary fiction but it is by no means comprehensive and does not do justice to the beautiful writing but again this type of story is not for everyone.
Recommended for book snobs (my favorite).
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder:
This book reduced me to blubbering tears on the train. I stopped wearing mascara the couple days I was reading this book in anticipation of the tears. Paul Farmer is an amazing human being. His very existence has changed my life. To read about a man who took a no nonsense approach to aiding those in need, who fought against the establishment bare knuckled, and also traveled miles and miles on foot to visit and treat one person. He is a superhero, if that sort of thing even exists. I was humbled by the way he treated the poor and desolate. He didn’t just acknowledge them in some sort of citizen high to citizen low demeanor but got down and dirty, became one of the people, advocated for them, became part of their families, he met their needs on various levels, he treated each of his patients like they were his own mother, father, daughter. It’s one thing to be generous with your money it’s a completely other thing to be generous with your life.
Recommended for everyone, yes you please read this book.
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene:
I haven’t quite finished this book yet. It was a bad idea to think this was good train fodder. I quickly had to relegate this to the weekend intense read shelf because I had to start taking notes to visualize the concepts he was writing about. Greene does a great job of breaking down superstring theory into manageable pieces for those who don’t regularly frequent the physics and math world. I’m really enjoying this book but really wish I had a theoretical physicists friend on call to talk to about it.
Recommended for math and science folks or those with even a fleeting interest in theoretical physics. There is a NOVA mini-series based on this book that is worth checking out.
There always seems to be a mystery thriller everyone is talking about and/or reading. Currently it is the Stieg Larsson trilogy. I read the first book Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last year and really enjoyed it. I waited for the 2nd book to come out in paperback before buying it. The story in this second installment was predictable and yet still really enjoyable. It was nice to get swept up in a world of intrigue. I can imagine the Bourne Identity type movie these books are going to make (I think I heard rumor of this getting turned into an American movie). The cliff hanger of an ending easily segues into the third book which unfortunately is still in hardback. I will wait a few months before picking up the third book and seeing how the adventures of Lisbeth Salander play out.
Recommended for lovers of mystery thrillers and those eager to get swept up in a mystery adventure.