Lest you all think I've abandoned my own reading habits, I've decided to post a few of the great books I've devoured this year. My list should come with a disclaimer: with one exception, all of these books were read for what I like to call "pure entertainment value." There is no East of Eden here, in other words. In the midst of working on my thesis, I've taken to reading lighter fare-I'll often sit with my book or Kindle (which I have taught A to call "mommy's book") while my little guy plays, a pastime that wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable or successful if I were reading something that required a bit more attention.
In the Woods, Tana French. A totally riveting Irish detective thriller that I could not put down. It's like a better version of The Lovely Bones, and much more complex than most average titles in the genre. Tana French has several other titles to her name, but I've heard from a very reputable source (sister-in-law H) that it's the best.
The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe. The subject is certainly sad, but I found the reading of this memoir therapeutic, given my own life experiences. Will Schwalbe writes of the informal "book club" formed between himself and his mother Mary Ann as she goes through treatment for stage iv pancreatic cancer. They read everything from Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar to Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist to Stieg Larson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Every chapter is based on one central book, neatly interwoven with the conversation between mother and son. Usually, the subject matter of one book leads to discussion about others, and in the midst of it all, Will Schwalbe is the recipient of a wonderful gift-the opportunity to spend time with his mother, unobstructed by the inevitable stresses and hustle and bustle of daily life. There are several books that I became intrigued about reading after finishing the book, and I took it upon myself to find an appropriately old copy of Daily Strength for Daily Needs, the devotional that Mary Ann clings to throughout her treatment. In the preface to Mary Ann's 1934 edition, bishop William Lawrence wrote "Since this little book was published empires have fallen, theologies have been rewritten, wars have been fought and standards of life have changed, but men are still men, their yearning in times of disaster for comfort is still keen and the call for courage strong..." Gems like this one from the selected novels in the book club are scattered throughout the memoir.
The Stand, Stephen King. I've figured out that I am a sucker for end-of-the-world, dystopian futures, plague-infested type novels. See The Passage, The Twelve, Divergent trilogy, World War Z, etc. The Stand is probably the grandfather of all these other works. A massive tome, particularly when you choose the uncut version, which includes some hundreds of pages not part of its original publication, I was in a funk for days when I finished it. There is definitely some meandering, which is not unusual given the sheer volume of the work, but for the most part, I was completely intrigued from start to finish. I've only read a few of Stephen King's books (Misery and The Shining), but they pale in comparison. Even though I know it won't be the same, I'm going to start Under the Dome soon, if only to recover from finishing The Stand.
Life after Life, Kate Atkinson. My gossip guru, Lainey Gossip, is not only the source of infinite knowledge regarding celebrities but is also quite well-versed in compelling fiction. She wrote about Life After Life and described how she read through it in one busy traveling weekend, taking it with her everywhere, from elevators to press conferences. It is the never-ending story of Ursula Todd, who seems fated for death throughout her life. My beloved sister-in-law H likened it to A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book-naturally I immediately purchased that one too.
The Twelve, Justin Cronin. I waited with baited breath for The Twelve, the second book in Justin Cronin's trilogy. I've written about the first title, The Passage, in passing, and while it would be useless to provide a decent plot summary that would not make me sound crazy (search for the cure for cancer/eternal life leads to disastrous consequences, turning vast majority of the population into zombie/vampire hybrids), I can say that yet again, I am in a state of anxious anticipation for the eventual release of the third and final book.