Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Books to Love

I've been able to get back into a reading groove, and I thought I would list out my current suggestions of good stuff to read if you like novels, in case anyone else is having difficulty finding goodness.
1-Bel Canto: By Ann Patchett. I've rambled on and on about this woman's brilliance and this book is currently my absolute favourite. Vivid, great characters, great story, great writing. I want to write a book like this (well, I just want to write a book, and beggars can't be choosers, but if I could have written any existing book, this is the one I would want in my name). I think the best word to describe the writing is 'lyrical'. Warning: you have to be up for a bit of sadness.
2- March: Little Women may be a classic, but every time I've tried to read it, I've found it absolutely insufferable. It's pretty ironic, then, that I loved this book about the father of those "Little Women" and his imagined experiences while he was away during the civil war. The character attempts to be so noble, it makes your heart ache. And yet it shows a lot of different view points: man vs. woman, north vs. south, black vs. white. A very different tone than Bel Canto, and, I thought, a harder book to read. But excellent.
3- The Book Thief: I'm reading this book about a little girl growing up with her foster parents in Germany in World War II. Her family is poor. They're also hiding a Jewish man in their basement. It's devastatingly sad, and yet the writing is so creative, and so lively and so so so different than anything else I've read in a very long time. You know the books that take "normal" things in childhood and magnify them and make them exceptional. This is one of those books. I can't put it down.
4- Catch 22: I read this sometime last year - borrowed off K's bookshelf, and I loved it. Set during the Vietnam war, following American soldiers. The best way to describe this book is irreverent and absurd. And so much fun in such a strange way.
5- The Glass Castle: This is a true story by Jeannette Walls, more of a biography than anything else, but it reads like a novel. Absolutely impossible to put down. You can't believe all of this happened to a real, modern day public figure.

Some general observations:
I seem to love books set during epic wars: WWII, Vietnam, you name it. I think just having those settings, something so huge that all of us are so aware of and devastated by in some capacity, lends these books a huge gravity, and helps us confirm all the tragedies of war. I do, however, find it sad that we don't seem to feel the same devastation towards the wars and battles and conflicts going on write now. It's like we can only ever see the human suffering in hindsight, and we tell ourselves 'lest we forget' even as we 'forget' the pain and loss of life happening in our time every day every minute every second. I wonder why we always have to look back before we admit wrong.
I also love books that go through whole lives and/or whole family histories. Another one that comes to mind is "Fall on Your Knees" by Anne-Marie MacDonald. She covers three generations of a family in the book. The plot is not a plot as such, but an entire lifespan. I completely admire people who can thread out such a long story.
I read the kind of books I wish I could write, in style and tone. This is why Ann Patchett appeals to me so much, because her writing is a similar style to mine, only a million times better. Same with Ann Marie MacDonald. Same with the author of The Book Thief. Maybe it's a bit self-centred, but the other reason I do it is because I am so impressionable, I start writing like whoever I'm reading, so it's easier to read in a similar style than a totally different one I have no hope of imitating.

Anyone with other good book suggestions? Next on my list are the Joseph Boyden books. He's Canadian, the books are about WWI and family relationships, and they've won awards. Right up my alley, I think.


Hannah said...

"The Anatomy Lesson" by Phillip Roth is supposed to be good:

I asked for it for Christmas, but got an actual 'anatomy' book by accident. LOL. This book is supposed to be a comedic/drama fiction story.

BARAN said...

salams u hav very nice blog...i just try visit n leave ur comment n guides.

noha said...

Hannah, thanks for the suggestion. I will have to add it to my list...
Baran, thanks for dropping by. Hope you enjoy

lost said...

Catch 22 is an all time favorite of mine

noha said...

Lost, yeah, it's honestly one of the best. So hard to describe to someone who hasn't read it. No matter what you say, you won't be doing it justice...