i was surprised at how little reading i got done this summer, but of what i did finish, here’s the list and the ratings:
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri was up first. lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with this book back in 2000. it’s a small volume of large stories focusing on, among other things, Indian-American experiences both here and in India – identity crises of sorts, and the interaction of the characters within American culture, or naturalized Indian-Americans interacting within a “foreign” Indian culture. Lahiri’s writing is excellent and her stories are short but loaded with detail. i very much enjoyed this and went right into her second book…
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. This is a novel that takes many of the themes found in her volume of short stories and plays them out over a generation. also well-written, i liked her novel as well! (as an aside: we rented the movie – it was also good, but not as good as the book)
The Gathering by Ann Enright had me scratching my head. and in the end, i’m not sure why i finished it. it’s a story of repressed memories, mourning, becoming, understanding who you are – but i just didn’t identify with anyone or anything in the story. this was a Man Booker Prize winner a few years ago, the main reason i bought it, and it should have taught me a lesson…
but Â it didn’t. Â Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss was another one that i was left puzzed by in the end. i understand the historical and cultural significance of the setting, and vaguely understand the societal / class struggle, but the book just didn’t satisfy me. another Man Booker winner, and another thumbs down.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was up next. dad gave this one to me as an answer to getting away from all the “heady shit” of the previous four books. it was fun. it was interesting. it was entertaining. it comes to you recommended as simply a story – no moral, no point, no frills. i liked it and it helped me get my literary head back on straight. cleansed the palate, i guess.
Anil’s Ghost byÂ Michael Ondaatje was a winner. the first book of his i’d read, The English Patient, was my introduction to Ondaatje’s writing. set in sri lanka in the 80′s and 90′s, it’s another story of cultural and class differences (and warfare), loyalty, and mystery (ending in discovery). a definite thumbs up for this one – it wasn’t particularly “moving” but it was well-written (and frankly, “moving” stories don’t always make for “good” stories).
speaking of which, The Soloist by Steve Lopez was one of those “moving” but not “good” books. i get it. i understand the significance of what nathanael ayers represents as a mentally ill individual with incredible talent, the support system (or lack of it) around him, lopez’ struggles and the resulting good that came of this series of articles… i just wasn’t that impressed with the writing or the amount of time lopez devotes to himself. (in another movie aside: the film of this book was even less stellar)
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri is her latest. another collection of short stories + 1 novella, i had a recurring sense of deja vu while reading it. like her previous two, it’s very well written, and you get attached to the characters (she fleshes them out just right), but the themes are the same or similar to what we’ve already read from her. i felt like i was treading water and could almost predict what was going to happen next. Â do i recommend it? yes, but… only if you want more of the same.
The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery was supposed to be another break from heady reading. it sucked. i didn’t want it to. i tried, i promise. but. it sucked. too apologetic. too much time trying to convince me of the worth of the pig as a pet / friend / savior / ?? and not enough story. choppy, mired in slop, and all together unsatisfying, i put it down, picked it back up, and finally put it back down for good less than 1/3 of the way through. don’t waste your time or money. you can have my copy. burn it. want a feel-good pet story? buy Marley & Me.
Children of Men by PD James – thumb up and thumb down. it struck me as similar to The Road by McCarthy in the sense that the story was good up to the ending. then it… dived. it left too many questions, and was too easy. the idea was good but suffered from a lack of knowing where to take it? or maybe i just missed the point.
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. recommended to me by two folks independentÂ of each other, i took it as a sign and grabbed it from Amazon. it’s a Columbine-like story told from the perspective of the shooter / child. it sheds light on bullying and self-esteem issues, and as a teacher there was definite benefit from reading it when i go in and work with my students, and as a novel, it’s decent. it’s not written specifically to convince you of anything (it’s a bit of a mystery / love story / suspense put together), and it’ll never be a favorite, but it was worth reading.
this concludes our rambling take on summer reading.