Thursday, May 27, 2010

Late Spring Reading

The end of the month is nigh, which means it's about time for a new "What I'm Reading" post. By the by, Gentle Reader, these posts don't generate a lot of comments, so Ahem! I'd like to invite you to share your thoughts on a book you've also read. Or suggest similar titles, or just recommend a book you liked.

  • Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris - This is that rare book: an easy read that is laugh-out-loud funny, peopled with detailed characters, subtle plotting that catches you up without your realizing it, and a conversational style that belies its careful wordsmithing. It appears at first to be an office comedy of manners, set in a Chicago advertizing agency housed in a Magnificent Mile skyscraper, but is actually a serious exploration of the darker elements of the human condition. This book is the Catch-22 of cubicle-dwellers. Highly recommended.
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn - An updated telling of The Beauty and the Beast, told from the Beast's viewpoint--actually, Kyle Kingsbury, a vain, shallow NYC prep school teen who is cursed by a petulant witch to take a hideous form until he finds true love. While a few of the parallels seem a little forced, on the whole Flinn makes a good yarn out of it, and a quick read. If I ever do a book club for the boys at my high school, this would be a great book for them.
  • Dave Barry's Greatest Hits by Dave Barry - A collection of his humor columns published in 1988, this is Barry is top form, ruminating on being in the Christmas pageant as a child, sharing his rock-n-roll ode to Tupperware, exploring the efficacy of religious beliefs, and more. Reading his column was one of the best things about having a newspaper subscription back in the days before the internets.
  • Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden - A ripping yarn the formative years of the Mongol leader, the first installment of a trilogy. It seems well-researched, and is a riveting read from page one. The young hero, known then as Temujin, experiences more hardship and brutality than seems possible, and it serves to make him stronger, while he tries to regain his status as a khan's son and ultimately to unite the Mongols from small warring tribes into a nation to stand against the Tartars. Highly recommended.
  • Deep Blue Night by Choe In-ho - The title story tells of two fallen Koreans in America--one a singer brought down by marijuana use, the other a writer--as they conclude a roadtrip around California, driving Highway 1 south along the Pacific coast. A Korean story outside Korea, yet the sense of place is as well-developed as the characters. The second story is a very slim piece (less than 2000 words), "The Poplar", which rises to a tall tale. The village blacksmith is a great highjumper, but he loses the spirit of it when his three chidren drown, the older two in turn attempting to rescue the younger. Later, he plants a poplar tree in his yard, promising to jump over it each day as it grows, until finally its top is lost in the clouds ...

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