Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Recommendations

When it comes to books, I tend to gravitate to enjoying the classics. I’ll read recent works, but the details and background given in classics satisfy my desire to get inside everyone’s heads to learn their motivations.

However, in the last couple months, several of the recently published books I’ve read have been quite delightful. I’ll be brief, as I prefer to know as little as possible when beginning a new book, but I hope one of these might tempt you. Here they are, beginning with the most enjoyable.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This was by far my favorite. I had to read an excerpt based on the title alone, and then I was hooked. The majority of the book is composed of letters among the protagonist (an author) and others in the period shortly after World War II. By happenstance she begins corresponding with a number of Guernsey islanders about their experiences during WWII while they were closed off from war communications. The final section of the book deviates from the epistle format; while I understood the reasoning for this, I preferred the former exchanges. I tend to write down favorite lines and passages I come across, and this had a number, testifying to the authors’ skills to perfectly capture the way things are. The characters are endearing and believable and filled with life.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
It can’t hold a candle to The Kite Runner, but it affected me more profoundly, if that can be. The experiences of the women in Afghanistan through the regime changes are detailed, as well as their loss of freedoms and how others manipulated this for their own aims. It’s a depressing read, but I didn’t feel patronized with a manufactured happy ending.

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
This is the story of a friendship between a Chinese-American boy and a Japanese-American girl, beginning around Pearl Harbor and continuing through internment camps and beyond.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

I enjoyed Lahiri’s earlier work The Namesake, so that led me to pick up this book of short stories. Some are more gripping than others, but I appreciate Lahiri’s rhythm and the accounts aren’t formulaic. I respect an author who doesn’t shy away from portraying realistic endings.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The verdict is not yet in on this one. It’s the account of a woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and the transformations in her family relationships as her condition worsens. I haven’t been gripped yet, and I’m a third in, but it hasn’t been discarded either.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
If you humor me to jump back to books I read last summer, I also recommend this memoir that’s depressing and redemptive all in one go. I might rank this one highest of all, but it’s hard to compare memoirs to novels since their motivations are so different. Walls has experienced quite the life and yet it didn’t break her. Frustrating and hard for me to read, but valuable and one that has stuck with me.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
And another short memoir from last summer was one that has made the rounds. I cried throughout as I read his account of facing death and coming to terms of preparing for his imminent departure from his wife and young kids. He sprang to stardom after his lecture of the same name made the rounds on YouTube, and this book was borne from that response.

If you’ve read any good books lately, do share. I’m always interested in discovering new ones to read.


Carly said...

My 101 List ends in 109 days. I need to read 4 non fiction and 1 fiction, unless I forgot to update my meager list.

Katie B. said...

SUPER excited about reading some of these books this summer.

madalyn said...

Two of those books are already on my wish list! I'm glad to see that you enjoyed them!