Thursday, January 10, 2008

3 categories of 5 books that must be read, considering it's the day of reading


Today is a day to read. I'm not sure how this is different from any other day for me but I'll seize any opportunity to talk about books.

So, instead of trading iPod Top 25 music lists, let's trade "Reading" and "Must Read lists." Because my list could go on for days, I'll limit it to books currently on my nightstand.

1. The book I just finished and can't put away yet because I loved it that much, the absolutely brilliant Must-Read:

(Click on the image to go see a sample chapter and reviews.)

It's a winter evening in Boston and the temperature has drastically dropped as a blizzard approaches the city. On this fateful night, Bernard Doyle plans to meet his two adopted sons, Tip the older, and more serious and Teddy, the affectionate dreamer, at a Harvard auditorium to hear a speech given by Jesse Jackson. Doyle, an Irish Catholic and former Boston mayor, has done his best to keep his two sons interested in politics, from the day he and his now deceased wife became their parents, through their childhoods, and now in their lives as college students. Though the two boys are African-American, the bonds of the family's love have never been tested. But as the snow begins to falls, an accident triggers into motion a series of events that will forever change their lives.

This is at its very center, a novel about what truly defines family and the lengths we will go to protect our children. As she did in her bestselling novel Bel Canto, Patchett beautifully weaves together seemingly disparate lives to show how intimately humans can connect. Stunning and powerful, Run is sure to engage any Patchett fan and bring her even more admirers.

I am a Patchett fan, no doubt. If you haven't read Bel Canto, you should. I found this book fantastic, as well.

2. The book I am currently reading:

(Click on the image to see a sample chapter and reviews.)

Six years after the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize—winning Empire Falls, Richard Russo returns with a novel that expands even further his widely heralded achievement.

Louis Charles (“Lucy”) Lynch has spent all his sixty years in upstate Thomaston, New York, married to the same woman, Sarah, for forty of them, their son now a grown man. Like his late, beloved father, Lucy is an optimist, though he’s had plenty of reasons not to be–chief among them his mother, still indomitably alive. Yet it was her shrewdness, combined with that Lynch optimism, that had propelled them years ago to the right side of the tracks and created an “empire” of convenience stores about to be passed on to the next generation.

Lucy and Sarah are also preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy, where his oldest friend, a renowned painter, has exiled himself far from anything they’d known in childhood. In fact, the exact nature of their friendship is one of the many mysteries Lucy hopes to untangle in the “history” he’s writing of his hometown and family. And with his story interspersed with that of Noonan, the native son who’d fled so long ago, the destinies building up around both of them (and Sarah, too) are relentless, constantly surprising, and utterly revealing.

I'm an enormous Russo fan and read everything he writes. I don't even read the jacket for a synopsis. If Russo wrote it? I read it. However, this book. I'm not in love so far. Perhaps it's because I'm only able at the moment to read a section of a chapter at a time. The book is written in three time periods from at least two points of view and it skips around. I'm not per se a huge fan of the shifting perspective, but it can work amazingly well in some cases. I'm not sure it has, yet. Still, it's well-written and engaging, to the point that I'm curious how all the pieces that Russo is laying out on the table before me fit together into a cohesive and meaningful picture. I trust that he'll accomplish that. However, it seems like Russo is enjoying leading me (the reader) around a little too well and is gleeful about the tie that binds this all, which is a teeny bit aggravating, when I think about it. There's a potential slight "cleverness" problem here. But I'll finish the book and then let you know.

3. The books upon which I plan to spend my Christmas gift certificates to Big Fat Bookstore (but you never know what might leap off the shelves at me):


"I spent five years of my life being treated for cancer, but since then I've spent fifteen years being treated for nothing other than looking different from everyone else. It was the pain from that, from feeling ugly, that I always viewed as the great tragedy of my life. The fact that I had cancer seemed minor in comparison."

At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer. When she returned to school with a third of her jaw removed, she faced the cruel taunts of classmates. In this strikingly candid memoir, Grealy tells her story of great suffering and remarkable strength without sentimentality and with considerable wit. Vividly portraying the pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasures of wanting to be special, Grealy captures with unique insight what it is like as a child and young adult to be torn between two warring impulses: to feel that more than anything else we want to be loved for who we are, while wishing desperately and secretly to be perfect.


The author of Bel Canto -- winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Orange Prize and long-running New York Times bestseller -- turns to nonfiction in a moving chronicle of her decades-long friendship with the critically acclaimed and recently deceased author, Lucy Grealy.

What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren't bound to by blood? What happens when that person is not your lover, but your best friend? In her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty, Ann Patchett shines light on the little-explored world of women's friendships and shows us what it means to stand together.

Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and after enrolling in the Iowa Writer's Workshop began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In her critically acclaimed memoir, Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy wrote about the first half of her life. In Truth & Beauty, the story isn't Lucy's life or Ann's life but the parts of their lives they shared together. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans 20 years, from the long cold winters of the Midwest to surgical wards to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined.

This is a tender, brutal book about loving the person we cannot save. It is about loyalty and about being lifted up by the sheer effervescence of someone who knew how to live life to the fullest.


The Abstinence Teacher is a rom-com every bit as classic in structure as the Tracy-Hepburn screwball variety (and, given that the press materials loudly proclaim that the film rights have already been sold to the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, its big-screen counterpart may well be coming soon.)

Our spunky heroine, Ruth, is a high school health teacher who, at 41, still looks good in a short lime green skirt and heels, and whose options for a hot Friday night are limited to beers and Indian food with her best gay buddies, followed by sleeping nude in her own bed, where she alone can appreciate the beauty of her "lean, muscular, lovely, unloved body."

After more than a decade of fighting the good sex–positive feminist fight for enlightened sex education -- promoting safe sex and making sure her students can locate and recognize the importance of the clitoris -- Ruth is ratted out by a student in her class for daring to suggest that "some people enjoy" oral sex. Initially, she is mystified by her transgression. But a new evangelical church, the Tabernacle of the Gospel Truth, has declared a holy war on the town, targeting the usual suspects -- evolution, the porn section at the local video store, and the poor, beleaguered novels of Judy Blume.

When Ruth spots Tim, the shaggy-haired coach of her daughter's soccer team, she takes him for a cute, aging hipster.

Unfortunately, it is not to be. Tim chooses that particular day to lead the soccer team in group prayer after a grueling match.

And we're off! The stage is set for a face-off between godless liberals and aggressive evangelicals, a culture war of Red vs. Blue to be fought on the soccer field, town hall meetings, and the living rooms of the holy and the heathen (which side represents the idealistic doctor and which the ambulance-chasing lawyer is up for interpretation).

And you?

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.


thordora said...

Sitting near my bed are The Portable Atheist (yes, he's a jerk, but I like collections of essays) David Eddings (I know, I know-but they're my guilty pleasure and I FINALLY got almost all of the books so I can read them in order, and without missing pages.) Re-reading a few Alison Weir books on Tudor england. Just finished World Without Us...and there's a stack in my bookshelf I've picked up here and there that begs to be read, esp Einstein's Wife...

now THAT was long winded. I don't read mu popular fiction these days, but the Patchett sounds intriguing, especially Truth and Beauty.

Mary Alice said...

I liked Empire Falls. Read it on a camping trip once. So engrossed I ended up covered in no-see-um e. I guess I should have been moving more!

Kyla said...

Hmmm, all the recent activity around here as knocked me out of my reading rhythm, but I have a Jodi Picoult book I was given at Christmas just waiting to be read. Of the recent things I've read, I'd say My Sister's Keeper is a must read. And the Lovely Bones, but I think I was the last person on the planet to read that one.

I've got a nice long list of recommended books that I'm going to check out from the library as soon as I have the time to read again. I'll add these, too.

Family Adventure said...

I got a slew of books for Christmas, but haven't really gotten started on any of them soon. Am planning to remedy this, and will report back if there are any winners. Love your reviews and have made note of these books for later. Thanks! Happy Reading Day!


Sober Briquette said...

bookmarking for later....

Magpie said...

I'm so far behind. I've books from LAST Christmas that I've not started, much less finished. I need a sabbatical.

Your taste in books is much like mine.

slouching mom said...

God, are you and I ever kindred spirits. I just started the Perrotta book, and the Grealy book is not only one of my all-time favorites, but is personally very meaningful, as my mother had cancer of the sinus cavities and had to lose part of her face (since reconstructed, thankfully).

And Ann Patchett, YES. Coincidence, or not, that she was Grealy's college roommate? Her book about her relationship with Lucy is wonderful.

I loved Russo's Straight Man, but haven't read anything else by him.

another good thing said...

Oh man, I so want to rob your bookshelves. I just read A Thousand Splendid Suns and the collected stories of Carol Shields. Currently have book marks in this month's issue of Tinhouse, A Handmaid's tale and am listening to the audiobook for Ian Rankin's The Naming of the Dead. You don't want to see my TO BE READ stack.

Julie Pippert said...

It surprises me DEEPLY that some people do not read part of a book every single day. I'm a bookworm from a family of bookworms so you how you gain an idea of normal from your own experience, and I think that's why. Also deep love of books is so ingrained I can't imagine anyone not having a Deep, and Abiding nearly Victorian spinsterish Passion for the written word.


Thordora, check your email. :)


Mary Alice, LOL. Read more Russo. But maybe inside, or with bug spray. LOL :)


Kyla, oh Lovely Bones was...amazing. Her new book is TRASHED. That's too bad.


Heidi, I look forward to hearing your reviews!


De...uh oh did I add more to your list? I already added Run so at least there's just four!


Magpie, absolutely you need a Sabbatical.


Oooh SM, what do you think of the Perrotta so far?

I've read snippets of the Grealy book and she has such a compelling narrative with seamless story weave, from what I can tell.

I love that they were roommates and workshop friends and on from there. I mean, how cool is that?

Let's run away to college, SM, and be roommates LOL. Boston or Pittsburgh, your call. :)

Add Empire Falls to your list.


AGT, once upon a time I had a friend who I trusted with my books. This is hard-earned trust because books Must be Treated with Utmost Respect. Nobody believes I read my books because they are so pristine. Anyway I trusted her. And we had marvelous book exchanges, and discussions and THEN WE BOTH MOVED.

I did about two years ago host a book trade party that went well. maybe it's time for another.

I'd love to see your shelves.

I really like Carol Shields. I haven't met anyone else who knows her!

What did you think of A Thousand Splendid Suns?

I still refer to Handmaid's Tale geez almost 20 years after reading it.

And Tinhouse. They are on my Submit To list.

thordora said...

If any of you haven't read Alice Munro, you should. (and I'm not just saying that cause she's also canadian. :) )

Gina Pintar said...

I read "Look me in the Eye" before Christmas. Very good. Read like fiction. An asperger's adult tells about his very interesting life.

Still reading bio-med autism books. Not much time for fiction here these days, I'm sorry to say. I have an ABA book up next.

Procrastamom said...

Just wanted to chime in and tell you that I LOVED A Thousand Splendid Suns. It was as good or maybe even better than The Kite Runner. The next time a Khaled Housseni book comes on the market I will buy it without even reading the jacket.

I haven't had a lot of time to read lately as I'm working full-time and upgrading my education at night, but because I was between classes over Christmas I managed to finally read The Time Traveller's Wife. I'm sure I was the last person on earth to read it, but it came highly recommended and was brilliant.

Sorry to hear that the latest Alice Sebold book is awful, as it's in my "to read" stack. Did it just get a bad review or did you read it?

I have added your recommendations to my slightly battered post-it-note-list that I keep in my purse and pull out for reference when I'm in the big-box bookstore. Thanks.

Lastly, Thordora is right about Alice Munro....her writing is amazing.

(Oh, also, just found your site through the Google Reader Sharing app and I've added you to my daily reads)

SciFi Dad said...

In no particular order, three books I have enjoyed and recommend to others:

God Is Not Great - Christopher Hitchens

Sophie's World - Jostein Gaarder

Red Dust - WD Valgardson

Mary-LUE said...


What is the What by Dave Eggers is a good choice.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a must. MUST.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines is one of only two books that made be bawl.

This is more of a past read books list to recommend.

I'm afraid to make a list of books to read for this year. I don't think I will be able to do it any sort of justice. I have heard great things about Patchett. I think Bel Canto is on an old list of books to read, along with Norwegian Wood, The Madman and the Professor.

Too many books!

flutter said...

Lucky by Alice Sebold

imbeingheldhostage said...

I am now stalking your blog-- I LOVE good read suggestions! I can add them to the leaning tower of Pisa(un/half-read books) currently by my bedside. I've been obsessed with the Philippa Gregory books (since I am living in England and can actually walk through the sights she mentions). Glad to have found you :-)

dharmamama said...

Do you know I couldn't finish Bel Canto because I was in a very vulnerable place, and knew Gen & Carmen wouldn't make it? I couldn't *stand* thinking of that - the passages of their 'reading lessons' were so... sensual and gorgeous. OK, it's been a few years, I might need to pick it up again!

Jodi Picoult's book "Perfect Match" stayed with me such a long time after I read it; I'm looking forward to "Nineteen Minutes".

Your mention of "Autobiography of a Face" made me think of "Change Me Into Zeus' Daughter" by Barbara Robinette Moss - have you read that one?

Loved Truth & Beauty.

Can't wait to dive into "Plum Lucky", my mind-candy escape. Yay! for hunky men. lol

I'm re-reading and studying and taking notes on Caroline Myss' Anatomy of the Spirit. It's so rich with knowledge and deep insights. Every time I pick it up, I get a buzzy feeling.

Just finished "Water for Elephants", then gave a copy to my Dad. What a good couldn't-put-it-down read.

OK, I'll stop here - I could go on and on and on....

Hey - did you get my e-mail about "The Glass Castle"? I wanted to mail that to you if you hadn't read it. (sorry to ask here - my e-mail originally got bounced back, so I wasn't sure you'd get one!)

letter9 said...

Currently reading: A Dictionary of Narratology

Currently awaiting (library books): I have 14 on their way to me. I'll spare you their titles. Suffice it to say none are available at Barnes and Noble.

Currently writing about: Sex and the City

(So at least there's that)

Mrs. Chicky said...

Ooh, book recommendations. Love them!

I'm reading "Into the Wild". Wow.

Gwen said...

I concur with the Alice Munro rec. And I don't even like short stories.

Also, (shock!) What is the What. Everyone should read that one, no matter what. (Did that sound bossy?)

And you don't know people who know Carol Shields? I'm surprised, I guess, although I don't know why.

I have a six foot stack of books beside my bed and an Amazon wish list that stretches for pages and pages. There will never be enough time in the whole world for me to get all the reading done that I want to.

But I hesitate ever to recommend anything because I think reading is so very subjective. How I feel about a book is so dependent on how I feel about life. I don't know how reviewers do it.

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

Thanks for the great suggestions! I actually owe someone a meme on this so I should post my recommendations. I have about 10 to-be-read next books at all times. Right now it includes "Water for Elephants" and "Look me in the eye". I like Bel Canto, but wasn't completely buying the story so I want to read another of her books (btw, a friend of mine went to school with them and everyone knew of the "girl with the face"). I last finished "Mrs. Kimble" which I really enjoyed.

Mimi Lenox said...

They all look wonderful, especially Autobiography of A Face.
You write phenomenal book reviews.

liv said...

okay, but really, with as many blogs as you read, the writing, the kids, the man, the, when on earth do you pick up a book????

you have 27 hours in your day, don't you?

Cathy said...

My all-time fave remains The Liars Club by Mary Karr.

Right now I'm reading Don't Sleep with a Bubba Unless Your Eggs are in Wheelchairs by Susan Reinhardt.

Waiting on my nightstand: Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout (author of Amy and Isabelle) and The Other Mother by Gwendolen Gross.

LaskiGal said...

Thank you all a million times over. I have been dying for new books to read. As an English teacher (on leave) I have gone through the classics and moved on to multicultural/world lit. But, I must confess, lately I've indulged in an offshoot of chic lit--mom lit.

Like Kyla, I've enjoyed Picoult. I also read Didion and have just finished an older Divakaruni novel. And fine, I'll list 'em . . . Jane Green, The Cinderella Pact (can't recall the author) and The Baby Book by Dr. Sears (sometimes it can be very poetic and moving . . .especially the chapter on high need babies--it had me in tears.

Laura said...

I will be adding a few of these to my must read list now, thanks to you!

Currently I am LOVING Bryce Courteny's Sylvia...I simply love his work and this new book is no exception.

Christine said...

dude, i haven't read any of these and i feel very UN-THINKY!!!

Running on empty

Jennifer said...

I have two of those on my library request list and the rest I haven't read. Hooray! I have more requesting to do!

The books that most recently moved me most deeply was A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah and A Thousand Splendid Suns which I loved, but also made me deeply sad.