I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and I have actually read some really, really good books. One of the benefits of spending more time at home, I guess, is that I have more time to read. In case anyone else is looking for something good to read, you could try one of these out:
1. The Help - This book and the next one are hands down the best books I've read in several years. An enlightening look at life among society women and their black housekeepers in Jackson, MS in the 1960s. Wonderfully told and good to the end. I'm a book cheapskate and prefer checking books out of the library, but I bought this one in hardback and am glad I did.
2. Cutting for Stone - I bought this one mostly because I knew it had been written by a doctor, and it also had some good reviews on Amazon. I found it to be incredible - the author manages to weave medical knowledge and practice right into the story in a poetic way. Maybe if you are squeamish or non-medical this wouldn't appeal to you as much, but I absolutely loved it. I couldn't put it down on vacation. The story itself was enthralling - full of love and sadness and redemption. I'll definitely be reading this one again and again.
3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog - This novel, translated from the french, was at first a little slow moving. Maybe because there are lots of philosophy references that I didn't totally get. Once I got into it, though, I really loved the story. It centers around a rather fatalistic 12 year old and the door(wo)man (person?) of her apartment building - a highly educated and somewhat snarky widow. I picked this up on the recommendation of World Magazine, and it made me think I should dig back into their archives for other book recommendations.
4. The sweetness at the bottom of the pie - Although I'm not really a person who reads mysteries, I loved this book. The protagonist/detective is an 11 year old girl with a bike named Gladys. Anyone who names their bike Gladys you know is going to be imminently likable. I enjoyed this one so much that I briefly considered buying the hardcover version of its sequel. But since the paperback is coming out in December I decided I could wait. But just barely.
5. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - This was a paperback swap selection, about foot binding and friendships between women in China. I'd say I enjoyed this book a decent amount, though compared to all the other really awesome books (See #1-4) I've been reading, it just didn't quite compare. And I put it back on my list of books I was willing to trade on paperbackswap, but definitely worth the read. I'd say put it on your "to get from the library" list.
6. Friday Night Knitting Club - Another swap book. And another book I'd say was decent, though probably not quite as good as Snow Flower. I didn't love it, but looking on amazon now I see that there's a sequel. If I can find it on paperback swap, I'll probably read it. I can't pinpoint exactly why I didn't love it - I think it's just not as well written and the characters aren't as rich as some of my other recent reads. I'd call this one a pretty good beach read.
7. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim - I first got acquainted with David Sedaris from listening to This American Life. He always had the funniest stories on there. He's written several books of memoir, and this is another with these short anecdotes about different part of his life. They are sometimes funny but also occasionally heartbreaking at the same time. I really enjoy his books, and if you can get past the frequent cursing and occasional crassness, you probably would, too. I didn't like it quite as much as Me Talk Pretty One Day, but still highly enjoyable.
8. A Long Way Gone and Half a Yellow Sun - These were my two recent reads about war in Africa. A long way gone chronicles the true life of a former boy soldier from Sierra Leone. Half a Yellow Sun is a novel set during the time of Nigeria's Civil War during the 1960s. In reading them, I realized that I know shamefully little about African history. And that war is hell. They are both really good, if you can call any book about war good, sad and heartbreaking and even horrifying.
9. Run - Ok, this is one I actually read a few months ago. I picked it up from the library essentially on a whim because I'd read Bel Canto and loved it. Unfortunately, usually when I pick up something from the library on a whim it ends up being not that great. This, however, was awesome. I loved it. It was a great story with an ultimately happy ending.
Ok....so that ended up being sort of a long post. I'm currently reading Jane Eyre, which I've never read. I'd say I'm liking it so far. And I've got 3 or 4 more swap books headed my way. I'm working again starting on Friday, so I'm guessing the reading will slow down a little.
Anyone else out there with some good recommendations?