8/24/2006

Book 'Em

NYC Beauty of Views From A Broad tagged me after her post on Favourite Books. I immediately went to my Blogger profile to see what kind of books I like. I wrote a long entry and hit the pretty orange button and oops, all that I had written disappeared. Here’s a recap for those of you who weren’t living in my brain at the time of this tragedy.

When I was a young lad, I read Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick and then I read it some more. It took me to some strange places and made me think, wonder, worry and laugh. I still have a copy and after reading it again as an adult I was a little less impressed but still fondly remember the daydreaming it caused. Blade Runner, the film, was based on this book and is a favourite too although as always, there were changes from the book.

This next guy, well, what can I say? I loved him before Oprah did. I even wrote him a fan letter which is out of character for me. What’s more surprising is that he jotted a lovely note back. Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance is a tale of struggle and humanity lost and found amid the chaos of 1970’s India.

The characters are so well realized and the writing so vivid that I found myself quite worried about them. I wanted to give them advice and stop them from certain torment any time I saw them heading for a wrong turn. But nobody ever listens to me. Family Matters and Such A Long Journey are well worth the read too.

As wondrous a debut novel as any I’ve ever read, Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald is a dazzling and evocative saga following a Nova Scotia family through some intense and turbulent trials. The writing is just amazing. If I knew how to properly describe it, I’d be busy writing my own book.

I once had the pleasure of seeing Ms. MacDonald perform in her excellent play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) and that too was a very enjoyable experience. I don’t want to say this but I’ve started her latest novel several times but have not been able to progress. I will try again hoping the magic is only temporarily lost on me.

Running With Scissors was a book given me by a friend and primarily bought for the funny cover shot of the boy with the box on his head. Augusten Burroughs’ harrowing childhood adventures are now well known and a film is to be released starring some big name talent. I laughed, I cried, I was impacted. Many of my unusual childhood recollections pale in comparison with the ones outlined in the book but still, I identified.

What I admired most was the way the author was able to so successfully temper the horror with humour. I wondered how he made it through all that in one piece. And then I read his follow up, Dry. Everything made more sense.

There are so many books that have moved me in the last few years like Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Paul Auster’s Oracle Night, and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Although I didn’t finish it until on the way to work this morning, I had already decided to go with another Auster book for this list, The Book Of Illusions. By the time I was about 1/3 of the way through it, I felt like I had read a couple of good books already. Mr. Auster is a masterful storyteller and artist and this book is going to stay with me a long time. It has suspense, drama, hope, love, loss and a lot more going on and is just what I'd been wanting in the last few books I'd slogged through.

I could go on and on with my silly love letter but for now, I’ll close and say thank you to all who have kept me in such good company.

I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony so please feel free to share some of your favourites in the comment box or enjoy the home game.

43 comments:

Erik said...

Brilliant choices, especially "Fall On Your Knees," which appears to be criminally lesser-known down here. My own nominees would also include Richard Russo's "Empire Falls" (stunning in its compassion, scope and clean, sturdy language), Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (a childhood favorite in which I find some new dimension of tragedy, melancholy and redemption every time I read it) and James Baldwin's "Another Country" (which manages to explore gender, race, love and loneliness in what may be the most passionate, poetic prose I've ever read). Oh, and anything ever written by Iris Murdoch.

NYCbeauty said...

Ooooh, I forgot about Fall on Your Knees....great book. Love those Canadians!!! Oh, and I always write my posts in Word and then copy and paste after too many freakin' posts went to la la land!!!
xo
jw

Tenacious S said...

Dale, I was advised to not read The Lovely Bones at the time I had picked it up. My mom had just passed away and I think people thought I was in too fragile a state to handle the at times graphic nature of the book. I, of course, did not listen and plowed into it full steam ahead. That book now has stuck with me as one of the most beautiful and insightful pieces of literature on the subject of death. I found comfort in the imperfectness of the reactions of the family and realized that stoicism isn't the expected response to tragedy. I learned that each person deals with tragedy in a manner that suits their personality. There is no correct way and no set amount of time. Sure, some reactions have collatral damage, but there is hardly a "right" way to do grief. I thought the family in this book was perfect in its imperfection. Maybe because I was already at the point of despair, the book did not bring me down. I never cried and felt it was more healing than anything else. How's that for an Oprah book review?

Dale said...

Thanks for your choices Erik, I've got a feeling I'm going to have lots more reading to do now. When's your book coming out?

Glad you approve NYCB, your choices were great too but I'm glad I scooped you on that one!

Tenacious S - I'm so glad you gave me your review. Your comment is close to what I would say I felt about the book but you put it more eloquently than I'd have been able to.

I'm never completely sure what I think about faith, religion and life but I do know that on finishing the book, I felt such peace and a feeling that maybe, just maybe, everything would be alright.

lulu said...

I read The Lovely Bones when it first came out, and again with my seniors this past Spring. We read almost the entire thing out loud. I was near tears at a few points, not because it was sad, but because of the beauty of the writing.

My students loved the book, although they tended to have very black and white reactions to the story. The mother was a "slut" and a "ho" and the father was a saint.

Beth said...

Love the list. Some I'm not familiar with, so I'm off to Amazon.

And don't you hate it when Blogger eats your post?

Dale said...

Interesting to hear the take your students had on it Lulu. It's a very moving book filled with wonderful language and ideas.

Glad to mention a few you didn't know of Beth. Let me know if you settle on anything. Blogger's generally been good to me so I'll not say too much but it did suck.

Tenacious S said...

I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I get Lulu's leftovers. I don't go to the library, I go to Lulu's.

jin said...

LOL...ok, so I haven't heard of any of them. This means one of 2 things: a) I spend too much time with my nose in a cookbook in the kitchen or b) I'm quite a bit younger than you.
;-)

Echo said...

Kavalier and Clay was a special treat meant to be consumed one small bite at a time. What a fantastic work...

mellowlee said...

More books for my blogger book list! Thanks Dale. Have you read any Wally Lamb?

Coaster Punchman said...

Have not read some of those. Will check them out. For some reason, The Lovely Bones did not move me as it did so many others. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind to appreciate it when I read it.

X. Dell said...

As a writer hoping to sell his own book one day, it pleases me to no end that someone has actually read enough of them to name five favorites. Hell, I'd be impressed if they read five.

Dale said...

You are lucky Tenacious S. Does she make you bring her bacon though?

Cookbooks are lovely Jin but so are other types of books. Good books don't have a best before date the way I do.

Absolutely right Echo. It's a treasure really. I read The Final Solution a few months back and enjoyed his use of the language. I'll be going back into K&C for a reread at some point.

I have Lee, I enjoyed She's Come Undone and found I Know This Much Is True a bit long and overdone. I liked the ideas but not necessarily the execution.

We've probably all had that happen CPman. I hope you do check them out and then let me know what you think.

The book selling game's one I'd hate to have to worry about, so much competition. I love to read but it's one of those situations where I read 10 books and then don't bother for months and then start reading again. Rest assured, I'd buy your book X. Dell probably no matter the subject. And then I'd read it.

gizmorox said...

I felt exactly the opposite about Wally Lamb, Dale. I didn't like She's Come Undone, but really enjoyed the other. Was a bit cumbersome, though, you're right.

And damn you for making me want to read more. I already have four books out from the library that I don't have time to read...

Dale said...

Keep ordering them up until you find time Giz! Interesting on the Wally Lamb switcheroo. I always have a hard time with the books that try and collapse your lung while propped on your chest reading in bed. Good ideas shouldn't have to crush your lungs.

sKincarver said...

I love Paul Auster but godamn hide the razorblades if I'm reading one of his books.
I need to check out this new one.
My potential demise could rest on your shoulders....

ziggystardust73 said...

I loved Running with Scissors. I was laughing so much I peed.

lulu said...

I really disliked Wally Lamb. I only read the first one, but I thought it was manipulative emotionally. And yes, good writers manipulate your emotions, but you really shouldn't be able to see them do it, I don't think.

Kavalier and Clay is possibly my favorite book ever. I've liked Chabon since Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and was really saddened when he delayed the publication of the new book. He was supposed to be here doing a reading this Spring, and all of a sudden it was off his tour schedule. ( I have a link to his website on my blog if you want to see some of his other writing)

I'm trying to come up with some books to recommend, but it's so hard to recommend books to people I don't know very well. I mean, I love Ring Lardner, but if you don't like sports, you won't. Do you like genre fiction? Mysteries?

It's so subjective. Like many of my friends like Dave Eggers. I have never been able to finish one of his books.

But anytime anyone wants to come over and borrow a book, they are certainly welcome. Just bring bacon,....or gin.

Dale said...

Although a man named Skincarver might be expected to travel with razorblades, I don't think you'll need to reach for one. Although there's death and loss, the story is about life.

Don't pee on your scissors Ziggy, they'll get rusty. But it was pretty funny.

Lulu, thanks for the great comment. It's incredibly hard to suggest books to people you don't really know.

And thank you for exposing my secret shame - I think Dave Eggers is a big gas bag most of the time. I finished A Heartbreaking Work...and didn't mind it. Tried another and gave up.

I'm going to try and get more Chabon time in and I do have a compilation of short stories that he edited somewhere at home.

I don't like the see through manipulation either but I thought there was enough else going on to keep me interested in She's Come Undone. I also remember it being the first time I got mad at seeing the big O that is Oprah on an otherwise pleasant looking cover.

It's hard for me to define a specific type of writing that I like and so I keep my options open. My tastes change with the wind. Other favourites lately include Freakanomics, Stiff, The Final Confession of Mabel Stark, and The African Safari Papers. You mentioned sports and therefore might like The Horn of a Lamb also by Robert Sedlack.

Gin and bacon, got it.

Chancelucky said...

Wow, now I really feel like I have to catch up on my offline reading. In a Non-literary bent, my most recent "wow" this guy is really fun to read was Majic Man, Max Allan Collins.

chelene said...

I want to read A Fine Balance for sure.

And I hated Wally Lamb (sorry, Mel). Good grief, She's Come Undone was horrible. Not Nicholas Sparks horrible (The Notebook made me consider self-decapitation), but horrible nonetheless.

Chancelucky said...

Wow, guess I need to catch up on my offline reading. Not-literary, but most recent oh wow, this guy's fun to read experience for me was Majic Mann, Max Allan Collins.

Dale said...

You tell her Chelene. And I'm glad to see that not every woman on the planet swooned over The Notebook.

You'd better keep up ChanceLucky or we'll take our books and go home! I just took a quick look at that CL and you should be talking to X. Dell maybe!

Ben Heller said...

I saw "Bladerunner" before I read the book and as the movie is one of my all time favourites I was surprised at how good the book is. You're right it is different, but still a great read.

Dale said...

I loved both as well Ben, each had something really cool going on.

My original post had a few different books from points in my life and then Blogger ate it so the next morning at work, I just rambled on and cobbled some thoughts together.

lulu said...

I would not even read the Notebook. COme on, you *know* it's going to be crap just by looking at it. Life is too short to read crap, even if you read 3=4 books a week.

Dale said...

Way to go Lulu. Rail on.

PJ said...

Thanks Dale, for more books for my list! I know I can trust your recommendations as many of the books on your list were the ones I would put on mine. The few that I have not read will be next on the stack. I have been recommending A Fine Balance and Fall on Your Knees for a few years as two of my favorite books ever. One book that is the only book I ever read twice(at least read twice intentionally) is "Memiors from an Antproof Case" by Mark Helprin. That too is one fine book. Happy reading.
PJ

Dale said...

You're more than welcome PJ. I'd like to see more of what's on your list too.

I've already checked Amazon for the Helprin book. I hadn't heard of him but he's now on my to-do list.

I'm glad you enjoyed those two fantastic books as much as I did. They really are works of art.

Take care,

Dale

PJ said...

Hi Dale,
I love to share good books...If you liked Augusten Burroughs (Running with Sissors, Dry) don't miss his most recent book of essays, which I own but cannot find right now. Even better than his books are books by David Rakoff. He is like the smarter version of Augusten. He has two books of essays, Fraud and Don't Get too Comfortable, extremely funny (like David Sedaris). Try Fraud first! I typically read only fiction 'cause I wouldn't want to accidentally learn something, but I must say two othernon fiction books I have loved, also very funny, are "Stiff" by Mary Roach (about the lives of dead bodies) and "The Sex Lives Of Cannibals" (author forgotten, book unlocated). I think you would love them. Sorry to be so long winded!

Dale said...

PJ - I have Augusten's newest Possible Side Effects but haven't read it yet. His novel Sellevision was pretty funny too and I liked Magical Thinking.

I'm a fan of David (and Amy) Sedaris and know of Rakoff but haven't read him. He's Canadian but lives in NYC I think? I did hear an audio reading of something he did and thought it was good. Maybe I'll have a look around for Fraud and see how it goes.

Funny you should mention Stiff, I finished it about a week or two ago and enjoyed it very much. I'll check out The Sex Lives of Cannibals, sounds like a can't lose title.

No need to worry about being long winded. Oh, and I hate accidentally learning stuff too, haha.

Anomie-Atlanta said...

Philip K. Dick is good stuff! Have you read Ubik? Do you read Margaret Atwood or William Gibson?

Dale said...

Philip's pretty good Anomie but yes, Margaret Atwood definitely has some great books, I'm not a total fan but I like some of it. Gibson's Pattern Recognition I liked and found cool. That was him wasn't it? I'll look it up and correct myself later.

Abby said...

A couple of interesting books I've read recently:

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
King Dork by Frank Portman

Dale said...

Thanks for the suggestions Abby, I'll definitely look them up.

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