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).
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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