Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Recommendations Strike a Chord

As I'm sure is true with all of you, there are people with whom I share similar tastes in books, people who, when they recommend a book, I listen closely.

(This is in contrast to people with whom I do NOT share a taste in books. A customer at the bookstore comes to mind. She came in and told me, "I just love Stephanie Meyer's writing!" I knew that this customer and I would not have much in common, reading-wise.)

But back to the people with whom I do tend to share similar taste in books. These are the people I ask what they are reading because I am curious about what they are reading, but also, and maybe even more so, because I am looking for a good read for myself!

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog recommendation of Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes. Here is her most excellent review:
It's okay, you can go read her review now. I'll wait.

Isn't that a great review? I absolutely wanted to read Me Before You when I read her review.

This is a person I worked closely with for years at the bookstore. I know that her reading tastes and mine align pretty closely. Rarely has she recommended a book that I've read and haven't liked.

Me Before You was no exception. I will say, however, that I perhaps did not love it quite as much as she did. I know it takes a lot (a LOT) for me to cry - or to laugh out loud - when I read. There was some crying when I read this one. And the characters (especially Louisa) will stay with me for a while. I really liked this book. I just don't think this book impacted me quite as much as it did my friend.

It got me thinking again how unique each of our interests in books are, which books strike us at certain times, which books absolutely resonate with us...and which may not, even if they resonate with someone else.

I read Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan a few years after it came out. I didn't see the end coming (spoiler alert!) - and I know I should have, but I didn't know Marley was going to die. I cried. I sobbed. I couldn't stop crying.

Was Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog the best written book I've ever read? No. But it struck something in me. At the time I was caring for my mother who had had a stroke and had very brittle diabetes. She was dying. When I was a kid, we had a dog, such a good dog, who had to be put down when he got ill. My dad had died a few years before I read this. Reading Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog brought up feelings for me about all of these losses in my life.

There are books that resonate in us, that strike a chord, allowing us to tap into certain emotions.

In addition, there are other books that I have absolutely loved that I've recommended that I know others have read and they have not loved them as much as I did.

This may be true about Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. I read it on our recent vacation and loved loved it. For me it brilliantly captured some of life contradictions and presented some life questions - can bad things result in good things, for example. The Goldfinch also captured the importance of art. And beauty. And it was a great read. Ah, I loved it.

Therapist is reading The Goldfinch right now and I realize that it may not affect her as much as it affected me. Which is fine. I love finding out how books affect people.


"Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself.... You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms."

Angela Carter

Which books have affected you deeply?

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Vacation Reading Recap

Even though we didn't read all of the books we took on vacation, we still got a lot of great reading in!

I started with Will Ferguson's 419, a novel about Nigerian scams. I would be interested to know how Ferguson came to write this book, as his other books are humorous memoir travelogues and this is quite a bit darker. A U.S. man dies in a car wreck. To the authorities, the wreck doesn't seem to be an accident. But why would this man be involved in foul play? Or try to kill himself? The man's son and daughter, Warren and Laura, discover how deeply their father was involved in a scam originating in Nigeria. Well done. Great read.

Then I read Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes. A friend had read and loved loved loved this book, recommending it highly. I really enjoyed this as well, reading about Lou (Louisa) as she finds out who she is...and who she isn' she stumbles into a caregiving position for Will Traynor, a young man who became a paraplegic in an accident. Warning - there might be crying. But it's good crying.

My favorite was Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. I'm glad we took it on the Nook, as it's a hefty volume, coming in at over 700 pages. In it, we go with Theo Decker as he spends an afternoon at a museum with his mother. That afternoon changes Theo's life. Tartt captures the importance of art and beauty, and also raises questions about life and good and evil. That makes it sound lofty and inaccessible, and it is neither. Great story, great read. I loved this.

The Newlyweds (Vintage Contemporaries) by Nell Freudenberger We got this at Powell's, the decision to buy influenced by blurb by Ann Patchett, one of our favorite authors. Amina, a woman from Bangladesh (a "Deshi"), comes to the U.S. to marry George, who was born and raised in Rochester, New York. While George and Amina communicated extensively via email, and George visited Amina in Dhaka before Amina made the move to Rochester, there are still things they don't know about each other by the time they get married. Well drawn characters kept me reading and Amina and George discover more about each other and themselves.

On the last half of the last flight back home, I started Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. Set in about the late 1800's, it follows William Bellman from childhood, when he and some friends encounter a rook, and then as William grows into adulthood and runs the local mill. I am still reading this and am really enjoying it. I'll have to report more on it when I finish.


Clicking on the underlined book titles will take you to Powell's page for each book. Clicking on the book covers will take you to Amazon's web page for each book. Purchasing through these links helps support the blog. Thanks for stopping by!