Friday, July 16, 2010


I’m officially back to reading again. My goal is to stick with it this time. Why?

1. I love to read and always have.

2. It’s nice to escape into another world.

3. In my spare time, I’m a writer. In order to improve, it’s a good idea to spend more time studying the craft.

Time has been an issue recently. I’ve also felt a distinct decrease in my ability to concentrate. I used to be able to read for hours on end. Not so these days. So I’m starting out with novels and hope to eventually get back to reading more serious non-fiction.

I have higher standards now. It bums me out to spend hours on a book that only turns out to be mediocre. It used to be sufficient to be entertained. Now I want literature. I want beautifully crafted sentences. I want characters that resonate with me. I want a world created that I can jump in to. I know I’m asking for a lot, but hey, my time is valuable these days.

Unfortunately, it’s fairly rare that I come across a book that meets these standards. A book that I can read from cover to cover thinking Wow, that writer has talent, this is a marvelous piece of work. If you have read some books like this, please, please share.

A few I can recall from the past year or so include:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I read this in Spanish, but based on the reviews on Amazon, people think pretty highly of it in English too. Exquisitely constructed tale set in Barcelona. A mixture of fantasy, mystery, love, adventure and tale of growing up.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This novel brings Nigeria, and Biafra, to life through a series of unique characters. Having just visited Nigeria, I can say she did a good job with the aspects I recognized. Not having been to Biafra, and not very familiar with the devastating war there, she also did a fantastic job educating me on the origins of the conflicts, the beliefs of those who lived through it, and the effects on the population. I plan to check out more of this talented writer’s work.

The Emigrants Series by Vilhelm Moberg. I heard about this author from a Swedish man I met traveling. His novels have made Minnesota legendary among Swedes. Now that I’ve read them, I can see why. Probably the most vivid depiction I’ve seen of the immigrant journey and the process of settling on the frontier was like.

The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley. Unique tale about a girl of Icelandic descent who returns to her roots, it both tells the fascinating story of a group of Icelandic emigrees in Canada, who escaped the aftereffects of a volcanic explosion, and a portrait of Iceland today. I went to Iceland shortly after reading this book and felt a certain acquaintance with the land as soon as I arrived.

A couple of other favorites:
The Road to Wellville by TC Boyle (I love TC Boyle!)
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Children of the Arbat trilogy by Anatoly Rybakov
Gods Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousmane
Segu by Maryse Conde
The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Fifty Russian Winters by Margaret Wettlin
How We Die by Sherwin Nuland
Gulag by Anne Applebaum
A Piece of the Action by Joseph Nocera
Journey into the Whirlwind by Evgenia Ginsburg
Shadows and Wind by Robert Templer
Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
The Feast of the Goat (La Fiesta del Chivo) by Mario Vargas Llosa
River Town by Peter Hessler
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
DNA by James Watson
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

What are the best books you have ever read?

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