Monday, November 30, 2009

The Help

Check out my top ten list to the right. It's been updated to include The Help. I'm not even sure where to begin I have so much praise for this book. It's been on the NY Times Bestseller list for 34 weeks, shortly after it was released in February 2009. Longer than any other fiction book currently on the list. This week it's #5. I've only known about The Help for a short time – about two months – but once I heard a little about it I added it to my list. I had the pleasure of listening to this one, and the audio version is one of the main reasons I am in love with this novel.

To begin with, each of the three main characters are read by different people. All three of them have that endearing southern charm and accents reminiscent of Steel Magnolias. In the first five minutes I was hooked and even laughing out loud. (It's always a good sign when I'm listening to a book sitting in my car in the garage.) Then I was listening while walking into the house from the car, then listening some more. Listening on a Saturday for five hours while I cleaned the house. I couldn't get enough, but at the same time I didn't want it to end. The end actually snuck up on me while I was cooking last Sunday evening. If I would have realized that I was so close I think I would have saved it for another day!

I could go on for several more paragraphs gushing about the characters and the outstanding plot, but that could get a bit nauseating to read. Instead I will include the Publisher's Weekly review (also for my reference when I look back on this one ten years later) and my insistence the you read this book immediately and share it with all your friends. Thank you, Kathryn Stockett, for such a lovely debut novel.

"What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it."

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tricky Business

Dave Barry reminds me of vacation. Whether it's south Florida or somewhere in Mexico, I find myself reading his column in the Miami Herald while hanging by the pool or lounging near the ocean. He's hilarious. I read Big Trouble quite a few years ago and I still laugh when I think about the frog eating the dog food. And when I saw Tricky Business sitting on the bookshelf in our "lending library" at work, I had to grab it. I was anticipating laughing out loud as much as I did the first time.

The introduction had me giggling. Barry wrote a forward to former readers warning them that this book contained "violence and the 'f' word." That readers shouldn't proceed any further if these things would possibly be offensive. I was hooked. The first chapter was about a lazy, unmotivated guy who lives with his mother, plays in a band and sleeps all day. All his mother wants to do is fix him waffles. I laugh. Then I get to chapter 2. And chapter 3. And so on. A little less than half way through the humor turned to violence. Big, bad and bloody. Really difficult to read, to the extent that I almost didn't finish. But the book was short enough that I ended up reading the last half in one evening and I was done and I don't necessarily want to think about it again. Maybe it's just me, but humor and murder don't really mix. Even though the tone was light the entire time, the subject matter became dark and nearly unbearable. There were certainly some characters that held my attention, like the drunk guy who never got his sea legs, but they weren't enough to redeem the decapitations and torture. Seriously!! This is supposed to be a comedy.

Sorry to say I can't recommend this one. I need to get back to Florida and just read Barry's column on the beach instead.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

The 20 Best Books of the Decade (2000-2009)

This according to Paste Magazine. I. Freaking. Love. Lists. Especially lists involving books, except that they usually make me feel like a slacker. For Paste's commentary, go here. Otherwise, you are about to be subjected to my thoughts:

klosterman.jpg20. Chuck Klosterman: Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story [Scribner] (2005)

Might add this to my list.

gladwell.jpg19. Malcolm Gladwell: The Tipping Point [Little Brown] (2000)

Sounds very interesting.

blue.jpg18. Donald Miller: Blue Like Jazz [Thomas Nelson] (2003)

Not on my list.

carlwilson.jpg17. Carl Wilson: Let’s Talk About Love (A Journey To The End Of Taste) [Continuum] (2007)

Really?? A book about Celine Dion?? Pass.

Netherland cover.jpg16. Joseph O’Neill: Netherland [Vintage] (2008)

Haven't heard of it. Boo for me.

ffnation.jpg15. Eric Schlosser: Fast Food Nation [Houghton Mifflin] (2001)

Not yet. Might be too scared to learn too much.

potter2.jpg14. J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter [Bloomsbury] (1998-2007)

I aspire to read these little ditties someday. But the list before them is entirely too vast right now.

atonement.jpg13. Ian McEwan: Atonement [Nan A. Talese] (2002)

Had this one as an audiobook from the library. Tried to listen a few times, but kept drifting off. Then when my iPod decided to erase all my music, etc., I lost it. Will probably try again someday though.

Slavery by Another Name.jpg12. Doug Blackmon: Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II [Doubleday] (2008)

Not really the kind of book I usually read.

MeTalkPrettyOneDay-DavidSedaris.jpg11. David Sedaris: Me Talk Pretty One Day [Little, Brown and Company] (2000)

Hilarious. Loved it. Think about it all the time.

Consider The Lobster cover.jpg10. David Foster Wallace: Consider The Lobster And Other Essays [Little, Brown and Company] (2005)

I guess Last Night at the Lobster doesn't count, huh?!

everything is illuminated cover.jpg9. Jonathan Safran Foer: Everything Is Illuminated [Harper Perennial] (2002)

Don't know it.

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING cover.jpg8. Joan Didlon: The Year of Magical Thinking [Knopf] (2005)

Sounds really good. Totally my type.

blankets.jpg7. Craig Thompson: Blankets [Top Shelf Productions] (2003)

Possible future list item.

Book Thief cover.jpg6. Markus Zusak: The Book Thief [Knopf] (2005)

I've had my fill of Young Adult novels this year, thank you very much.

Middlesex cover.jpg5. Jeffrey Eugenides: Middlesex [Picador] (2002)

Funny, touching and fabulous!!

gilead cover.jpg4. Marilynne Robinson: Gilead [Farrar, Straus and Giroux] (2004)

Haven't heard of this one either.

The Road cover.jpg3. Cormac McCarthy: The Road [Knopf] (2006)

Faithful readers of Read My Mind! know that I am obsessed with this book. It's also the hardest I ever cried while reading a novel.

heartbreak cover.jpg2. Dave Eggers: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius [Simon & Schuster] (2000)

List. Added. You're welcome.

Kavalier & Clay cover.jpg1. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay [Random House] (2000)

Do I have to read this just because it's #1??

So there you have it. Three. Lame. But I can make myself feel slightly better because these books span all genres and subject matter. Are there any that I haven't read that I simply must? Please weigh in.