Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Summer Reading List

Schecky is having so much fun recording his books for his Summer Reading List, that I thought that I would play along!

So - here's what I've been reading since the long weekend....

Apex Hides the Hurt - Colson Whitehead
A small town, suffering from a crisis of identity, hires a nomenclature consultant to assist in a town rebranding effort.

I had read a good review of this somewhere, and thought it had real promise.
I was distinctly underwhelmed. I was hoping for some wickedly clever musings about the premise of "what's in a name" and how our identity ties into who we are as a people. I didn't find it here.... I suppose the town is supposed to be the focus of our attention, as the characters are fairly flat (whilst supposedly larger than life) and underdeveloped. For example, the narrator is unnamed throughout the book. I think this is supposed to be some sort of pointed commentary, but it's just an annoyance...

Honeymoon with My Brother: A Memoir - Franz Wisner
Finding himself newly single, having been jilted by his fiancee in the week leading up to his wedding, the author decides to have the wedding party anyway, sans bride. He then invites his brother to go on the honeymoon with him. This decision leads to 2 year, 50+ country trek around the globe

Loved this. Very clear, descriptive writing style. There is a fair amount of introspective navel-gazing: "what does my life mean", "what could I have done differently", "am I the man that I want to be"? However, the fresh, quick style of the book keeps these interior musings from becoming whiny or grating (as they so easily could have done in the hands of a different writer.) This book is part travel diary, part self-help - yet always enjoyable.

If You Could See Me Now - Cecelia Ahern
This book is notable because its author is the daughter of the PM of Ireland. This is the only thing notable about it. Ironically, this should-be-whimsical story about a woman who falls in love with an imaginary friend is all too plodding and predictable.

My mother always said if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. I wish that I could say that I am enough of a grown-up to heed her wise words. However, the truth of the matter is that whereas I wish I could think of a clever and witty way in which to pan this book, I just can't muster up the energy to do so. Let's just leave it at: extremely predictable, and completely mediocre chick-lit.

Sweet and Low: A Family Story - Rich Cohen
Cohen, the disinherited grandson of the inventor of Sweet'N Low, tells a sweeping story that spans three generations of his family, includes the history of artificial sweeteners, chronicles the rise of America's diet-obsessed culture, and exposes Enron-style corporate malfeasance! Quite a lot of stuff in its 250+ pages...

I enjoyed this, although I admit that I almost gave up on it - it's kind of a slow starter. But about 100 pages into it, I really got hooked and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Daniel Isn't Talking - Marti Leimbach
Melanie is an American living a seemingly-charmed life in England. She has a handsome husband who provides well for his family, and two gorgeous young children. And if her in-laws haven't fully accepted her, well - so what? (Even if they have only penciled her in on their fancy calligraphied family tree of which they are inordinately proud?) And then, Melanie learns that her youngest, her son Daniel, is autistic.
And everything changes....

This is a beautiful, deeply moving book. It isn't always the easiest read - at times I found myself actually tearing up - but I am so glad that I read it. Every word seemed to ring true... (and no wonder: I did not realize this until after I had finished the book, but the author has a son who has been diagnosed with autism. )

This novel is not going to be for everyone, it's not a touchy feely, warm-fuzzy kind of book. Yet it does a wonderful job of exploring the depths of Melanie and taking the reader through her emotions and trials and her ups and downs. And even though we see Melanie truly despair at times, she never comes across as maudlin or unsympathetic. I found myself admiring her quiet reserves of strength. I also found myself wondering if I would handle myself with half as much grace in that situation. It made me thankful for the blessings that I have.....


Laurie said...

If you hear someone enter the front door tonight around 1:00AM do not be alarmed. It is only your newest neighbor come to borrow a good read!!

autum said...

Thanks for the reviews. I love to read but have a difficult time picking out something on my own. I rely on recommendations. Based on this I think I'll pick up Daniel Isn't Talking. In fact just leave it by the front door. Laurie and I will be by later to pick up someting to read.

autum said...

Not someting, something.

capello said...

Oh, I might have to put "Honeymoon with my Brother" on our book club list.

I've heard "Daniel Can't Speak" is wonderful, but hits a little too close to home.

The Caretaker said...

D'oh! You got some comment spam.

I put "Honeymoon/Brother" on my hold list at the library. Thanks for the list!

bekka said...

wow. you are reading!

go reader. go reader. it's your book. party like it's your library.

several of those look great. i'll have to follow up on them. the honeymoon one i've wanted to read for a while, but the others were new to me!

blair said...

Thanks so much for these books and reviews, I was in need to new material! These look great.