08 July 2006

book recommendations

This week I read two novels, which is something I haven't done in a long time. First, I hardly have time to read that much anymore, though summer is nice, because sometimes all you can do in the too-hot heat is lie around and read for a while. Second, I've been reading so much non-fiction lately that I haven't really been interested in fiction for a long time. So taking the time to dive into a couple of novels was really nice.

I read Song of Solomon first; I haven't read much of Toni Morrison's work, but what I've read, I've really enjoyed. Her prose, her language, is beautifully written, and the story was moving. The second book was White Oleander, by Janet Fitch; also a moving book, in a different way.

What I didn't realize before choosing these books was how similar they'd be. They're very different, in writing style, in setting, in plot, in characterization. But the central theme to both novels is of a character figuring out who to be beneath the shadow of his or her family and past. That both main characters were children strongly affected by their parents gave me cause for reflection as well.

I'm not very good at briefly re-capping plotlines, so I'll just say that if you like well-written, compelling novels with interesting characters and moving plots, and if you don't mind a little (or a lot of) sadness along the way, check out these books. Also, interestingly enough, both books have been chosen for Oprah's Book Club, so if that sort of thing matters to you, well, there you go. That's not why I chose them, but to me it's a good sign anyway. I won't read a book simply because Oprah said so, but I've found that the books she chooses are typically very, very good; wonderful, even.

Also, on the kid front, James has been obsessed with Dr. Seuss's The Lorax lately. I've read it to him several times over the last few days (every time we finish it, he immediately asks me to read it again) and he loves it so much he's even attempted to read it himself, which, for a book of its size (72 pages, according to Amazon), and his reading level and attention span, is pretty impressive. It's a nice little environmental tale, with all the charm of any Dr. Seuss. I remember loving it as a kid, too, so it's no surprise to me that James loves it so much.

Any books to recommend, for adults or kids?* We read just about anything around here.
*I love asking questions on my blog, because no one ever answers them. Don't worry, I like talking to myself. Don't think that just because you're reading this, that I'm talking to you.


Anonymous said...

hello dear i have some wonderful recommendations for you.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (probably the best book I've ever read though not quite my favorite)


The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (I'm not Christian but he is so amazing. this one's a quick read at about 150 pages and worth every second)

and here's a side suggestion because I never read modern fiction
Empire Falls by Rick Russo
(this book actually wona pulitzer. it's about small town U.S.A. and actually turns into somewhat ofa mystery novel.)

That's all for now. I hope you're well. Are you going to Sean's in August? That would be wonderful.

Love me

ren said...

Boo hoo hoo, no one leaves notes for Heidi.

All I have to say is don't ever see the movie version of White Oleander. Even if you're not comparing it to the novel (which I liked a lot) it sucks like bricks don't float.

I'm still hooked on non-fiction, but I just read a book called "Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf" or something like that. I don't remember the author's name off-hand, but I could find it if you're interested. He lives in Rochester, so the whole book takes place in your neck of the woods, and it's all farmy goodness.

Oh, but I'll second Melissa's recommendation of Empire Falls, if you haven't read it. Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors - read anything you can find. It's just like taking a trip home, except you don't have to worry about running into people you don't want to talk to.


kim said...

Empire Falls and A Prayer for Owen Meany - yes, yes, yes. Both are excellent and I have a copy of the latter if you'd like to borrow it. I recently read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which was also quite lovely.

As for nonfiction, if you're up for something provocative, check out To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing our Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan. You'll get to hear why someone with a maid and a nanny thinks being a housewife is the world's greatest calling. Ha.

kim said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that I am a literary snob who thinks Oprah's Book Club is actually a great thing. I don't specifically seek out her recommendations, but every one I've read has been good and she's chosen many classics and difficult reads. It's wonderful that she encourages so many women who might not otherwise read thoughtful books.

Anonymous said...

i've been meaning to read "white oleander" for a while now. and i read morisson's "the bluest eye" a couple of years ago and i remember i couldn't stop reading it. great narration too.

believe it or not, i have not read anything that wasn't on arthur miller or modern american drama for at least 9 months (that's what writing a thesis does to you). but i was talking to my mum the other day and she found noelle chatelet's "la femme coquelicot" very moving... it's about a seventy-years old lady who falls in love. according to amazon and google, this book hasn't been translated to english yet, but maybe it will be soon and you can keep an eye for it.

have i recommended "balzac and the little chinese seamstress" to you before? i might have. but just in case :) also, "don't call it night" by amos oz has beautifully lyrical language, i can't for the life of me remember what i thought of the story... but the language really touched me.
love you,

** awww, i do!! belatedly, but i do! just had to point that out ;)

Anonymous said...

p.s. cunningham's the hours? even better than the movie.