May 02, 2003

Good Read

I was reading through some of my blogs and noticing a whining/negative tone, particularly toward books. I think it sounds like I don't enjoy anything that I read. So I thought I would do an entry on books that I really liked and would highly recommend to people.

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. Not to be confused with The Secret Life of Bees which is actually about bees, the insect, Bee Season refers to spelling bees. After years of being mediocre, Eliza suddenly realizes a talent for spelling. As her father works with her to help her win the national bee, her dysfunctional family slowly unravels and is exposed. Well, it sounds like kind of a downer explanation, but the book is really good.

My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. This book came to me through my friend Wendy, a Japanese-American vegetarian (for more on that, click on the "keep reading" link below). In it, Jane, a Japanese-American documentary filmmaker is hired to produce a TV show called "My American Wife!" to be shown in Japan to promote meat consumption. The book includes an expose of the meat industry requiring a strong stomach, but it's quite funny as Jane tries to subvert the program's intentions by selecting American families as they truly are (diverse, multi-racial, there's even a segment on vegetarian lesbians) instead of what her bullying Japanese boss thinks an American family should be. Ruth Ozeki recently released a new book All Over Creation which is on my list of books to read.

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. Wow, this is how reading should be. This fictional story of the real magician Charles Carter, set mostly in San Francisco during the prohibition is a fantastic, mysterious ride. The characters are rich and it's the kind of book you actually have fun reading.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I laughed, I cried, I stayed up ridiculously late to finish it in one sitting. The premise is gruesome--14 year old Suzy is murdered (this happens in the first 5 pages, I'm not giving anything away) and narrates the tale from heaven. You'd think this would be a downer read, but it's so uplifting as Suzy follows her family throughout the years following her death. There's a part near the end that I didn't like so much, but the rest of the book is just wonderful.

And, of course, your life won't be complete until you read Pulitzer Prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I simply cannot say enough good things about this book. A hefty tome, it's worth every last page, as it tells the story of Josef Kavalier and his cousin Sammy Clay, comic book artists in the middle of the Golden Age of comic books. Set against the backdrop of WWII (Josef barely escapes Nazi controlled Prague) this book will make you laugh, make you think, and make you want to read it all over again.

Those books should get you started :)

I certainly don't mean to define Wendy as merely a Japanese-American vegetarian. I mean, she is, but she's also a wonderful friend and very caring person. When she and her husband Marc lived in San Jose (they're now located in Denver and we miss them terribly) they were Scout's dogsitters when we'd go out of town. Wendy is quite definitely one of Scout's favorite people in the whole world. She does this ear scratching thing that sends Scout into absolute gales of pleasure that no one else has been able to duplicate. Also I think I still have Wendy's copy of My Year of Meats and she's been nice enough not to bug me about it :).

Posted by Shelby at May 2, 2003 01:07 PM