Tag Archives: recommended

My Reading Wheelhouse: the books that give me the vapors

 

Cat leaping toward books in a bookshop
My spirit animal in action

 

Being such an avid reader, I have grown to understand those types of books which make me weak in the knees, give me the vapors, and generally have me leaping in the air to grab any book that fits my specific loves.

In no particular order, I love the following categories.  I included some examples of how I describe them.  These books may not have all been 5 stars but they fit this concept, in my mind at least.

 

What I want to attempt to read more of in the future:

  • Short stories– What I tend to find is that many short stories pack a punch with strange twists or awkward interactions at the center.  I don’t generally enjoy those as they leave me a bit sad and cold.  I like more emotive than plot based short stories. I read The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpha Lahiri and it was a bullseye for everything I was looking for in a short story collection.  It was evocative, thoughtful, poignant and very beautifully written.  I fell in love with the cover of the Clarice Lispector work of Complete Stories and so when I read some fantastic reviews of it, I went out and bought a copy. I anticipate that the hunt for more lovely short stories collections will be something that I continue in 2016.
  • Non-fiction tales about death and dying– Not really the party pleaser of topics, but recently I have been drawn to a more nuanced understanding of death, dying, grief, and all the things that go with it.  Not for any specific reason, but I think reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara last year opened this door on the nature of suffering and questions of the inevitability of death.  I have a few books waiting in the wings for when I feel able to devote the mental and emotional space to reading them.  They are: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and an ARC of the  newly released When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
    • Science Fiction– I am late to this party.  There have been a few scifi books that made indelible impressions upon me (I’m talking about you, Dune !) but it isn’t a genre that I felt confident in exploring.  But last year’s Read Harder Challenge had a science fiction book as one of the tasks and in researching it, I found a treasure trove of material.  I was swept away by Moxyland by Lauren Beukes.  It was fun, sporadic, modern and filled with action.  I also read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell which blew my mind with the plot complexity, the rich characters and the depths of the themes explored.  This year I have ventured a little deeper into the genre with N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon.  That book came from a discussion of The Sparrow I had at a party and it was suggested that I look into her work.  What a revelation!  It hit so many of my most loved categories- lush writing, a swashbuckling tale, with political intrigue thrown in. I am looking forward to the second book in that series.  And then I just read an amazing book, which is probably no surprise to anyone else in the reading world… Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. What a stunning read!  And in all fairness, it isn’t a straight genre read or a straight literary fiction book, but something in between.  But that in between was magical.

Any suggestions along the themes I listed above?

Book Review: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

I really wanted to start 2016 off by reading a really good book.  But it’s hard to know if the one in your hands is going to deliver on the hopes and promises.  It’s always a gamble, but sometimes you win the jackpot with a book.  And that is how I felt with this lovely, thin tome.

Let me get the first jarring bit out-of-the-way: it’s an epistolary novel.  If you are like me, that can turn you off more than entice you into the book.  I think it’s very hard to do something like this without it feeling gimmicky.  I am happy to say, once I got adjusted to the style, it made more sense and became a fun part of the book, not a distraction.

This is a witty, charming, and utterly delightful story of a correspondence between a bookshop in London and a single New Yorker, on the hunt for inexpensive but clean books from 1949 through 1969.  Her voice is clear and authentic.  She is a bit wry and has a brusque but generous personality that jumps off the page.  I smiled on page  3 and quite literally laughed out loud on page 5.  The shop owner’s voice is a fantastic counterpoint with his staid, and buttoned-up propriety in his correspondence.  And just as you are following these two people and their communiques, then new characters write letters and get introduced to the fold as the employees of this charming book shop in London.

What I loved in this little book was the intimate look back to a different era, and the ways people communicated and reached out to each other.  The caring shared among these people was palpable.  And the resounding themes that you are left with were of friendship, kindness, generosity, and the passage of time.

For this book review, I highly recommend this book for people who:

  • like post WW2 novels
  • want a cozy and life-affirming read
  • for book lovers
  • for people who love character driven stories

Have you read it?  If so, what did you think?  Please let your comments below.

84, Charing Cross Road Book Cover 84, Charing Cross Road
Helene Hanff
Literary Fiction
Penguin Books
1970
Paperback
97
http://amzn.to/1ZuSvNA

It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene's sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.