Tuesday, December 2, 2008

two months of books

Here's what I read during the past two months:

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. A book about an office and the quirky characters hiding in cubicles. One of my favorite parts was when a guy, who didn't want his doctor wife to be right about his depression, self-medicated by stealing a coworker's antidepressants. When you write it out like that, it doesn't sound so funny. One of my favorite characters is a guy who quotes Emerson and Thoreau and sends long, wandering personal emails and rants to the entire office. Too frequently. A fast read and fun.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, a Canadian author. Not sure what I think of this, even two months later. It's a circus book, set in the 1930s. There's love, rage, inequality. The author went to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo to research. So I learned a bit about circus life and circus trains.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. This novel is set in 1982 England and the narrator is a thirteen-year-old named Jason Taylor. I really liked this book. Jason is a guy that's on the outside at school. At home he's on the peripheral as his older sister gets ready to go to college and his parents' marriage is falling apart. But he takes his relationships as they come: we see him with his family, with another outsider from school, with an old lady who teaches him about poetry. There isn't a moral to the story and the end isn't the end, but I really liked Jason. I want to meet Jason when he's thirty.

The Power of One by Bryce Courteney. Set in South Africa, this book gives us a look at daily apartheid. The narrator, Peekay, is focused on becoming a boxing champion. The story spans about twenty years, beginning in Peekay's childhood. Great chunks of this book just made me sad. A student recommended it. I don't think I can read it again.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. A young adult book a lot of students read. Frequently compared to Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I think it's also one of the most challenged and banned books.

The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven, both by Barbara Kingsolver. Last year, I read The Poisonwood Bible and while I still think that's the best Kingsolver book I've read yet, I really enjoyed these two. The first starts with Taylor Greer heading west; when a woman hands her a toddler in a parking lot, she becomes mom to a girl she calls Turtle. The second book picks up with Taylor and Turtle in Arizona. Turtle's adoption is challenged and Taylor hits the road, taking her daughter with her. You can read The Bean Trees and skip Pigs in Heaven if you have to choose one or the other.

Sharp North by Patrick Cave. Futuristic, set in England. Don't bother reading it. You'll choke on all the red herrings. You'll keep thinking it'll get better and it won't. And at the end (I can tell you this because you aren't going to read it), the author just starts killing off all the characters. Oh, and characters that should have been dead suddenly reappear.

Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas. I liked this book but it's difficult to say exactly why. The unnamed narrator is looking for work in New York, trying to drum up rent and tuition for his sons' schooling. He flashes back to growing up in Boston, a black kid in the 1970s. He married a white woman and spends much of the book thinking about what happened to his marriage. The end is good. Really good.

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah. Another young adult book, this one centered on a Muslim girl who decides to wear the head scarf full-time. I liked the humor. The book tells a little about the Muslim faith and its practices and illustrates the difficulty of standing strong in what you believe.

Speak by Laurie Halse-Anderson. Probably one of my favorite young adult authors, this was the first book that brought Halse (rhymes with waltz)-Anderson attention. The narrator is Melinda, a ninth-grader who arrives to high school friendless after calling the cops to a summer party. But no one knows that the reason she called the cops was she was raped. She keeps that secret and it eats at her all year. The title says it: Melinda needs to learn to speak. I taught this book during my first year of teaching and will teach it again this next semester. I like this book because Melinda grows.

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. I'm actually going to write more on this later. An excellent, thought-provoking book. Like I said, though, more later.

1 comment:

Nate said...

Jason would have been thirty in 1999, so I guess you missed him.