Thursday, August 30, 2007

The book I read

"I'm writing bout the / Book I read / I have to sing about the / Book I read / I'm embarrassed to admit it hit the soft spot in my heart / When I found out you wrote the / Book I read so" Talking Heads.

I've been very lucky in my reading choices over the past few weeks. I'm not so precious about novels any longer that I have to read to the end even if the novel is boring me, but I've finished all of these recently:

The Good Life by Jay McInerney. In Manhattan's TriBeCa, Corrine and Russell have survived separation, infertility, and the birth of their twins via a sister's egg. On the Upper East Side, Luke has got off the wealth accumulation merry-go-round and is seeking his purpose in life in the slow lane, much to the horror of his high-living wife. Then, on a bright September morning in 2001, a plane hurtles into one of the Twin Towers and the lives of these two couples collide. A searing, well-paced, well-judged novel of love and loss in moneyed Manhattan and finding one's way through catastrophe.

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates. The Grime sisters of New York would have had happy lives had their parents not divorced. Over four decades, Sarah and Emily grow into very different women. Sarah settles for a suburban marriage while Emily flits from one man to another in the city. This being a Yates novel, neither of them are very happy in their choices. A nuanced yet unflinching and unsentimental portrayal of regret, disappointment and loneliness.

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster. Another New York novel. Nathan is recovering from lung cancer, divorced and estranged from his only daughter; his nephew Tom is on an extended hiatus from his lacklustre academic career and life in general. When they both stumble upon each other in a Brooklyn neighbourhood, their lives intertwine in funny, warm and tender ways and together they become embroiled in mystery, intrigue and fraud. This is a tale of broken dreams and of human folly so brilliantly written that as the last pages came into view, I read slower and slower. Auster knows how to write deftly-plotted literature and this has joined my list of all time favourite novels.

Naoko by Keigo Higashino. Factory worker Heisuke works hard to provide for his beloved wife Naoko and young daughter Monami. So when he learns they have become involved in a catastrophic bus crash, his content and placid life is rocked to its core. His wife is dead; his daughter is in a coma. Except that when his daughter awakes, it is Naoko's personality and memories that live on. Well-paced, simply written and emotionally charged, I read the ending on the Tube tonight and began to cry. An amazing discovery considering I picked this up at Daunt Books in Marylebone on a whim because the cover was so eye-catching.

I love having piles of unread novels on my bookshelves - the variety makes it easy to pick a book depending on mood. In my pile now? The new Haruki Murakami, the new William Gibson (which M is reading now), a Tokyo crime thriller, a Mumbai crime thriller, some Japanese short stories, some modern Indian and American literature, and some Indian chick lit.

What are you reading and what's in your "to read" pile now?

14 comments:

childwoman said...

During the last month, I have finished, Mitch Albom's Tuesday's with Morrie. Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpretar of Maladies. Jeffery Archer's Cat O'Nine Tales.

I am now reading, Khaled Hosseni's The Kite Runner.

My 'to read books' are, Kiran Desai's Loss of Inheritence, F.Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby (actually, I want to re read it) and Rupa Gulab's Chip off the old Block....

Sha said...

I have now completed Loss of Inheritance. It was so beautifully written so now my to read pile includes her Hullabaloo novel but I htink I will try and find The Brroklyn Follies you read first. Nice blog!!

childwoman said...

Hey...I just finished The Kite runner...oh my, what a book...amazing...I had to choke my tears many times,while reading this book...its not faint hearted for sure.!

LĂ©onie said...

I'm reading "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" by Salman Rushdie, which is amazing. I'm finding the experience of reading it so intense. I've always struggled a bit with Rushdie but this is astonishing...

Planethalder said...

Some good reading suggestions! Thanks Childwoman, Sha and Leonie.

Olivia said...

i am currently over 25 books behind on my unread pile.

Today I finished a book that leapfrogged over the rest, and which I bought on impulse last weekend at WHSmith Paddington Station: Next, by Michael Crichton (love him!); also Imperium, by Robert Harris (a friend bought me Pompeii a couple yrs ago).

I am also reading, on and off, "A Return to Modesty" by Wendy Shalit, and every day a bit of "Vanity Fair" by William Thackeray.

Hypatia said...

Just finished Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut - I was prepared for something weird and masculine, like Philip Roth writing an episode of the X-Files but not prepared to have enjoyed it so much. I'll hopefully read more Vonnegut soon, but I'm going to try The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster next. So far, I'm enjoying it.

I've abandoned Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey for now - something about his style is irritating me and I'm finding it hard to care very much about the very alien lifestyle and landscape of the book. I'll try again once I'm done with the Auster, though I think I'll want something British soon...

Planethalder said...

Olivia - good luck with Vanity Fair!

Hypatia - M's got a stack of Vonnegut on our book shelves - he loves him. Maybe I should try them out.

I love The New York Trilogy - I've read everything by Auster except for some book about a dog which I couldn't bring myself to read. Hope you enjoy Auster!

kate said...

ahhhhhhh, yes . . . . piles of books are such magic! i just took out a huge stack from the local library . . . books on chinese and cuban history as research for a project i'm working on, and the new william gibson which i started last night :) did you know he has a blog??? just bits and pieces of snapshots . . . he saves his words for his books :)

Planethalder said...

Kate, you are a tease - a book you're writing on Chinese and Cuban history? Can't wait to hear more!

M is a huge Gibson fan and he reads Gibson's blog avidly whenever the great man actually posts something. We both heard him speak in London in 2005 and then we were meant to see him speak last week again in London but we both were working late so couldn't go :-(

Olivia said...

Not to worry, it's my second time with Vanity Fair. I usually put a book aside and then reread it about 3-5 years later. As I will have grown and matured each time, the second reading is completely different to the first!

Do you find that?

Planethalder said...

Hi Olivia - I wish I could say that I know what you mean but everytime I think about re-reading a personal classic, I spot another book I need to read off my to-read pile! I have a short list of my all time favourite novels that I must read again - I'll list them in a post soon (why don't you too?).

Silent One said...

Have both of Mr Hosseni's books recently and enjoyed both. Am reading Difficult daughters by Manju Kapur now. On my to-read list are Salman rushdie's Shalimar, The Crown which I am finding very very hard to begin and also have Love in the time of Cholera.

shweta tripathi said...

hi planethalder... i loved reading jhumpa lahiri... my best was "she"... cat o' nine was fantastic... i think am a short story reader anyway coz i enjoy them most!!!!! try reading the vine of desire by chitra banerjee divakaruni.... its enjoyable but only if u like some of the likes of interpretar of maladies..