Is Goodreads changing the way you read books? For me it is becoming my place for word-of-mouth (word-of-review?) place to turn before investing in a newly released book. Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn is probably one I might have missed–it has been a while since I read a thriller. But then I started noticing it popping up in my Goodreads updates list with 4 and 5 star reviews. Since I figured half a dozen of my intelligent Goodreads friends couldn’t be wrong I gave it a download to the ole Kindle.
Bam. This book gets interesting fast. A wife is disappears on her fifth anniversary. Did the husband kill her? You hear his side of the story from day one moving forward, and then between his chapters you read her story taken from her diary moving from the time of their meeting forward to the disappearance. Did he do it? I say I haven’t read a thriller in a while, but I used to read a lot of Ann Rule type non-fiction true crime stories in the nineties (before reality TV killed the genre). This book reminded me a lot of those stories, ain’t nothing more fun than trying to figure out the mind of a sociopath (a nod here to one of my favorites by Ann Rule–Small Sacrifices). I also enjoyed the nod to today–the couple are former New York magazine writers who lost their jobs due to the dot com bust and come home to his hometown in Missouri to make a new start. I can’t give you much more than that without reading this thrill ride, so I guess you’ll have to just trust me and pick it up yourself.
I can admire a writer who is not too flowery and verbose. I have always liked to get to the point rather quickly myself when writing an email or blog post. So I was curious to read Hemingway and check out his style since all I really knew was that it is spare and has spawned some Bad Hemingway short story contests. I know Hemingway was a reporter, a larger than life character, heavy drinker and he killed himself. I know the plots to many of his most famous works. But I hadn’t actually read any of his books.
I was at the library to pick up a few holds and decided to pull up Boxall’s list of 1001 Books and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises rose to the top. It was on hand so I picked I up. So now I’m going to give a shameless plug to a good idea of a Kickstarter project–Start Here. This is a book I want–a list all the great writers you’ve wanted to read with advice on which books to start with.
So I get why this book is famous–lost generation, running of the bulls in Pamplona, bullfights, but it did start slow for me. It took me a while to figure out who was who–Mike, Robert, Jake… especially in running dialogue. The first quarter of the book establishes that these characters are some pretty heavy partiers just kicking around Europe. Then finally some movement when they take off from Paris to Spain. They fish, they drink, they attend the fiesta in Pamplona, they fight, they drink. By the time they hit Pamplona I was hooked. I wanted to know why all these men were in love with Brett. And why Jake the narrator or any of the men put up with her. And then of course she essentially asks that herself with her “I don’t want to be a bitch” speech. It is truly a great story and captures the feeling of a time and place.
Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book my passage now on a Mississippi steam boat cruise.
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Bwahahahaha! My secret plan is working.
A few weeks ago I started reading a Secret Garden to my eight year-old. At first she was resistant–she is more Wimpy Kid and Super Diaper Baby and Baby Mouse. She doesn’t like books with too many words and not enough illustrations. So I bought a gorgeous version of Frances Hodgsen Burnette’s Secret Garden illustrated by Graham Rust. I told her she could pick a story and then I would read her a chapter from the Secret Garden. The first few nights were touch and go. “This book is dumb.” “Yuck, the Secret Garden! That is so boring.” And then we hit the chapter with a cry in the night. I read my one chapter and then she said I could go ahead and read one more.
Last night she fell asleep just as Mary found the door to the garden. But then tonight, a miracle. When I suggested she pick a story out, she told me to go ahead and read A Secret Garden.
I read just a little bit and then she admitted the book scared her a little. I’m sure she is still thinking about a hundred-room mansion with cries in the middle of the night.
It’s funny, for me, re-reading this as an adult there are two things I’m noticing. Number one–how frickin’ long this book runs on about green shoots and Robin’s twittering, move it along Burnett! Number two–that this is sort of like Wuthering Heights for children. Maybe because I just recently watched the BBC version with Tom Hardy as Heathcliff. But moors, cries in the night, grief, etc.
When I was in third grade I borrowed a copy of Little House in the Big Woods at the school library. By some strange coincidence that same day my Mom had borrowed a copy of Little House on the Prairie for me at the county library. I was so surprised. I read both books quickly and became obsessed with the series and the idea of living the pioneer life. I wanted to grow my hair longer and wear long skirts and dresses just like Laura and her sisters. I would imagine riding a horse or driving a wagon on my way to school. My Barbies served as substitute Lauras, Marys and Nellys. While other girl’s Barbies were trying out different fashions and driving their corvette, my Barbies were always striking out West in a covered wagon–which I was so excited to receive one year–a Jane West doll along with a plastic horse with actual covered wagon. My Barbies would set out across the backyard and make camp for the evening and live off land setting up to homestead when they reached a nice piece of level grass. The horror the day my father filled in the sprinkler run-off from our next door neighbors which was I was using as my Plum Creek.
Wendy McClure with her book the Wilder Life does a great job of capturing that little girl feelings for Laura and the Little House books as you follow along on her quest to discover more about Laura and the real-life she lived. She learns to churn butter, makes a hay stick and travels to different sites that the Ingalls and Wilders lived, visits museums, sees festivals, etc. You learn a little bit about Rose Wilder Lane–the controversy over whether she wrote the books or Laura did, and how the books are in the fiction section in the library. The editor in me would have liked some photos included in the book–her descriptions of photos aren’t enough, but luckily they are all only an Internet click away. And it wouldn’t have been all that bad if she would have included a recipe or two, surely permissions from some of the other books she mentioned could have been included. I did really enjoy the adventure with the extremist Christians on the Prairie. Her descriptions of Garth William’s illustrations also makes me hope that someone will do a similar book on him. She also has some good comments on the difference between the book and TV fans. I was never a big fan of the television series–I just couldn’t get over Little House in the rolling golden hills of California.
But overall, this is just the kind of memoir-project book I like. What do they call this genre? Maybe experiential memoir. Where the author sets out to relive, discover and learn, and you are along for the ride? There have always been books about a subject, but in the past decade or so it is as much about the author as it is about the subject. I think this genre could only come along in the post-blog Internet world–Goodreads has a good list for it called, “I Did Something For a Year and Wrote a Memoir about It.” I blame it all on Under the Tuscan Sun–certainly not the first but one of the most successful that spawned more. Combine this type of book with a literary topic or books and you’ve sucked me right in. It allowed me a few moments to recollect on my own obsessions.
If you are a fan, you have your favorites–what are they? My favorite in the series were the two later books–Little Town in the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years. Little Town most likely because Nellie makes a grand reappearance. And Golden Years because who wouldn’t want to be courted by sleigh or carriage drives at least once in her life? My least favorite was By the Shores of Silver Lake–I don’t know why, that one I always had a hard time getting through.