Monday, May 4, 2009

Wrapped Up in Books

For an avid reader, like myself, the long-awaited summer always brings rays of sunshine and a plethora of books to lose yourself in - I love it. So, in true blogging fashion, I have decided to post my first list...*pause for effect*...yes that's right Five Books You Should Read This Summer, fyi I don't really buy into the whole light summer read category, I read just as many "heavy" books in the summer as winter and same for "light" books. Now the airplane read is a different story...I completely understand wanting an easy, fast read for travel...convoluted? Anyway, in no particular order FIVE BOOKS YOU SHOULD READ THIS SUMMER:

POISONWOOD BIBLE -Barbara Kingsolver
Subtle and complex; very rewarding and beautiful. This book follows the Price family from Southern living to the Congo on a Evangelical mission. The tumultuous emergence of the Congo into the post-colonial era, parallel with the tumultuous experience of the family. The book may be read as a stab against religion and patriarchy, but I disagree, it is deeper and much more than that - don't be dispelled thinking it anti-God. Okay, it was on Oprah's book Club list, gasp, but really it isn't mainstream fluff, trite or contrived...just appreciable on many levels. Ambitious, successful and beautiful.

Hilarious, heartwarming, brilliant. I LOVE this book - okay I love all the books on the list, but this one holds a special place. A young Jewish man (non-coincidentally also named Jonathan Safran Foer) sets out in the Ukraine to find a woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. He is accompanied by his tour guide, the incredible delight, Alex (whose "premium" English is a highlight of the book, simultaneously mauled and gloriously funny...he calls Jonathan "Jon-fen" and constantly uses improper synonyms, for example "I fatigued the thesaurus you presented me, as you counseled me to, when my words appeared petite, or not befitting." As the internet axiom says, parts are laugh out load funny...imagine his Russian accent for the perfect effect in your head.), his psychosomatic blind grandfather and his "seeing eye bitch" Sammy Davis Jr Jr. This book really is a treat, but it's not all laughs, as the book delves into the devastated Eastern Block landscape and past. Sidenote: I feel the movie adaptation is well done, and also a good see.

I first read this gem as an impressionable 15 year old, and have picked it back up many times since. This book really is a breathtaking interpretation of the prolific theme: search for self. The protagonist, Astrid, begins her journey at age 13 and we follow her through adolescence. I should mention, this book is not for the faint of heart, parts are...R rated. There is so much beauty and utter devastation in this book. It will make you want to cry, laugh, and...cheer I guess is the right word. If you have seen the movie, it does not do the book justice (though I liked the movie, I had to think of them as separate entities). This really is a GOOD read.

Where Do Feelings Come From? Dr. LeDoux's non-fiction answer to some very interesting questions regarding the nature of human emotions, sentience and the mysterious connections between the brain's biology, its chemistry, and our "being." Questions like: What happens in our brains to make us feel fear, love hate, anger, joy? Do we control our emotions, or do they control us?" are answered. Our nature is so complex, and how interesting to think about our reactions and even "personality" as a biological function of our nervous system. This book was very enlightening, engaging, and accessible to the neuroscience layman.

Part autobiography part Kurt's hilarious, witty outlook on life, art, politics, himself, and of course America. This book is great and a quick read, very funny, very real, very RECOMMENDED.

A few notable mentions: Life of Pi - wow, intense social commentary, The Bell Jar - follow the breakdown of the protagonist and Plath herself, deep penetration into the dark corners of the human psyche.

My pick for the Classic read of the Summer:
Hands down, I cannot describe how much I love this book, but it's more than love, deeper and more encompassing of so many feelings. Did you ever see Love Actually? Remember when Emma Thompson's character is explaining how Joni Mitchell taught her how to feel? In some respects I feel the same for this book. I laughed, I cried, I loved, I learned, I hated, I smiled, etc. Yes, this book is very long, but please please please don't get the abridged version; experience this majesty with all its intended words (yes Hugo will go on for many many pages about the battle of Waterloo, and French sewers, but this will all add to your knowledge, the story, and an character development). If you have seen the movie, be prepared to be blown away by the is that much better. It actually took me awhile to even appreciate the movie, you really do get to know your characters in the book, so when in the movie a character reacted a way they would not in the book I felt betrayed...but that's my own issue. Buy this book, read it, love it.

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