I did a lot of reading this month, though I still have some moderately hefty stuff to get through if I’m going to finish my book queue by the end of May.
1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (5/5) – I first read this book as an assignment when I was a freshman in high school. I remembered really loving it, but it had been a long time. I was not disappointed (not that I expected it to be). Unlike some Dickens, this doesn’t feel stretched at all. Everything in here feels totally essential. The edition I had featured both endings and I am absolutely in the camp of those who prefer the ending Dickens originally wrote to the revised one (though the revised one does have the better ending sentence). Anyway, this book is an absolute masterpiece.
2. The Physics of Baseball by Robert Adair (3.5/5) – I had been meaning to read this for years. I actually bought it the summer before Cate and I got together. It was fine. Much of it was really interesting, but it was not very accessible to the layman. I had to really take my time with it. Additionally, he occasionally takes a long time to say something that could be said much more succinctly. Interesting, just not great writing.
3. Tales from the Perilous Realm by J.R.R. Tolkien (4.5/5) – A bunch of Tolkien stories, that, for some reason, I’d never read (except for Leaf by Niggle, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post). The fairy tale aspect of these stories is much more closely tied to the “real” world than his more famous books and it works very well. They are almost universally wonderful and perfect stories for children. I can’t wait to read some of these to my kids. My only complaint is an almost total lack of female characters.
4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (5/5) – This book is depressing. Really depressing. It was also brilliant. I suppose that’s obvious because of this book’s status as modern classic and all. What I found most striking was the honesty of it. Morrison isn’t pulling any punches. The entire book is an exploration of things that most people would rather not talk about.
5. The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner (4/5) – This book was a disappointing 4. It’s very good, but her research is less than thorough (if I catch mistakes you’ve made in writing about physics, you have done something wrong). The characters were very interesting, though and I enjoyed the constantly alternating narratives. They made the presentation just right and kept everything flowing nicely.
6. Skydog: The Duane Allman Story (3.5/5) – I’ve been in a Layla place lately and I’ve been going back exploring the people who were involved in that album. Much of this book was good, though it was balanced terribly. He cuts through Duane’s entire childhood in something like 30 pages, but that’s not the worst bit. The worst bit are the 40 pages (out of 250) that take place after Duane dies, but before the end of the book. If someone wants to know what’s happened to Allman Brothers since Duane died, they can go to the Wikipedia page and get something about as interesting. Really jarring and a terrible choice for the ending of the book. That said, the middle 150 pages or so are very well done as they neither indict nor excuse Allman’s choices. Rather, they are laid out plainly so that we come to our own conclusions.
7. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (5/5) – Jhumpa Lahiri has only written three books. I’ve read two of them now. She needs to write more because she’s one of the best writer’s I’ve ever read. There is nothing unnecessary in her stories. She writes without gimmick or sensationalism. These stories are beautifully, beautifully real. I feel as strongly about her writing as I did when I discovered William Maxwell. You need to go read her and you need to do it right now.
Spring Book Queue Update:
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
The Chateau by William Maxwell
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
A Gesture Life by Chang Rae Lee
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Zoli by Colum McCann
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
Tales from the Perilous Realm by J.R.R. Tolkien
Daugther of Fortune by Isabelle Allende
Libra by Don DeLillo