Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

First of all... Alex... I need to hear abou your Knights Templar reading list.

Secondly, The Joy Luck Club. This book is about 4 Chinese women and their 4 daughters. Written in vignettes, each woman gets to tell her story. Some are tragic, some are hopeful and all underline the cultural differences between mother and daughter. You learn about the experiences that shaped each woman's life and how that goes on to shape their daughters' lives.

This was a really easy book to just pick up, read awhile and put down... it doesn't pull you through a cohesive story because it's written in vignettes, but when you're actually reading a section, it's very engaging and interesting.

So, not a page turner - but enjoyable.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

Stephen Clarke followed me around Paris for a year and then decided to write a book about it. No, I'm serious. They go to restaurants that I went to, bookshops that I shopped at - I swear that every observation he makes about the French people (from the way they run, to their attitude in September, to the very Parisian "shrug") all of it is something that I thought at one point in time or another.

If you want to see an absolutely PERFECT characterization of the French from an English (but it fits for Americans too) perspective. Read this book. And if you've spent ANY time in France, I feel like this will totally hit home. Merde.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

I've read some serious books lately, so this was a refreshing and quick read. Any Jane Austen fan will appreciate the situation Courtney finds herself in: After a tough break up, she wakes up one morning to find that she has been transported into the life of Jane Mansfield, a woman living in early 19th century England. She somehow convinces everyone around her that she really is Jane and manages to live in this new life, learning as she goes. Of course it wouldn't be a Jane Austen knock off novel if there wasn't some sort of sticky relationship situation to figure out. The book is a no brainer, but it's fun and nicely narrated.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

I am usually not a fan of books set during modern wars, but this was an exception. As an American, WWII evokes images of Pearl Harbor for me. Very seldom have I stopped to think about European front, aside from the Holocaust. Therefore, it was eye opening to read this novel about the German invasion and occupation of France. The book is split into two parts (before the author, a Jew living in Paris, was killed she intended for Suite Francaise to be a five part novel); the first part follows several different groups of people on their exodus from Paris to the countryside as the Germans make their way into the city. The second part concentrates on a small, German-occupied village and follows two different households as they harbor conflicting feelings about the Germans who are living in their houses: Should they hate them simply because of their country of origin, or should they hold themselves to a highers standard and treat them as if they are just normal people? The most gripping facet of part two is the story of a woman who has burgeoning feelings for the German officer living in her household, but knows nothing can ever come of it. What is so striking about this book is the realness of it all. Seeing as how the auther herself ended up being a victim of this very war, it is written through knowing eyes. War is war, and there are no happy endings, but this is most certainly a worthy read.

Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov

Oh Lolita... this book is really fun. If you like highly controversial topics. Like pedophilia, and rape, and murder. Sounds great right? Its narrated by Humbert Humbert - the pedophile. He is basically telling his side of the story, about how he seduces little 12 year old Lolita. Its sick and twisted. And unbelievably intriguing. Which is why this book is on every Top 100 list that you can find. You are disgusted and repulsed by everything that Humbert says, but at the same time you are fascinated. Looking into the mind of a psychopath - but identifying and understanding him as well. It isn't a graphic book, even though you know exactly what's going on.

Not really a light read, but very interesting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

After delving into the world of Cal Stephanides, you will have no doubt as to why this novel is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Easily the most well-narrated novel I have ever read, I couldn't help but feel as if the story was being told directly to me as if I was having a conversation with the main character. In the grand scheme of things, the main idea is about a hermaphrodite; the narrator was born Calliope Stephanides, only to become Cal at 16. But as a whole, this novel is so much more. From the sordid history of his family tree, to the riots in Detroit in the 1960s, no question is left unanswered. The stark honesty of Cal's words is what really makes this a page turner. If you have nothing to read at the moment, there is no other book I would recommend more highly than this one.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

I may not agree with all of Steven Levitt's theories - but he certainly presents interesting (and rather persuasive) points of view on lots of varied topics. He talks about things that I think we are naturally curious about - crime and drugs... but he compares these topics with seemingly unrelated (and mundane) subjects (ie. teachers and real estate agents). And in the end, he comes to a conclusion that is very well thought out and reasonable (if not a little controversial) - he forces you to see things in a different light.

And even though it was written by an economist (which sounds totally boring), it is actually fascinating. I really enjoyed this book.