|A Review byRebecca James|
|A Winter Reading List
This past weekend found my partner and me curled up on our Rehoboth couch, draped with a fleece blanket and weighed down by our ever-increasing furry menagerie. We hadn't been in Rehoboth since Labor Day weekend; since school started in our hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania, we've been doing our best to adjust to working life and lack of sun. Of course, anyone who was anywhere on the East coast last weekend knows it was not the best time to visit the beach if sun was what we were seeking. Allentown picked up nine inches of rain while Rehoboth gathered at least two.
Sitting inside our cozy living room, watching small rapids form in the run-off ditches leading into Spring Lake's small ponds, was the perfect time to pool our reading resources for an upcoming winter. The flowing water in rainstorms of this size is often described as "sheets of rain;" as the skies grew darker and the rain heavier, it was easy to see why. Our view of the lake was actually beginning to be obscured by the opaque "sheets" forming in the space between the deck above us and our patio. But the sheets we piled on ourselves on the couch were warm and the topic of conversation turned to books, as usual.
Since I'm the speed-reader, the books I pass along to Beth sometimes begin to pile up before she, who reads at a more human, non-English-teacher pace, can get to them. So I often go through the stack on her nightstand and "prioritize" her reading (yes, I fully admit to be mildly obnoxious to live with). In doing so, I re-evaluate what I've read and gain inspiration to follow up on similar topics and newer releases. So what follows is a list of what I've read in the past year or so, accompanied by my plans for winter reading on similar subjects, an "if-you-liked-this-let's-read-that" kind of list.
One of my favorite non-fiction books was the bestseller The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, a look at globalization and the twenty-first century. I liked the book not only because it was informative yet entertaining, but also because Friedman doesn't make an overt statement about being pro- or anti-globalization. He's clearly fascinated by the topic, but he indicates what is positive and negative about the issues surrounding outsourcing and other economic changes.
Because of my interest in this book, I placed another non-fiction bestseller on my winter list called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. This latest book, by the author of Guns, Germs, and Steel describes the environmental politics surrounding successful and unsuccessful cities throughout history.
Another favorite book of mine this past year was The Kiterunner by Khaled Hosseini. This novel was a gripping exploration of Afghanistan in the 1970s through 2001, the first novel to truly represent what this culture has endured. Its relationship to the United States' current involvement in the Middle East is undeniable. Because of this novel, I have just begun reading the non-fiction book Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. The author details a secret women's book club that meets in Tehran.
To step away from international politics, I try to keep up on major GLBT authors. I've always found Dan Savage to be funny; his books The Kid and Skipping Towards Gomorrah address current issues for the GLBT community using humor as a buffer. His latest book is The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and my Family. Savage, the author of the syndicated column Savage Love, searches for the true meaning of commitment as he and his partner and their six-year old son discuss marriage and family in the modern age.
Finally, to complement all this non-fiction, I plan to read Alan Hollinghurst's novel The Line of Beauty. Hollinghurst won the 2004 Man Booker Prize for his work. The main character is dealing with social class, gay relationships, and love in 1980s Britain. The web-based reviews I read were extremely favorable and indicated that the novel was both entertaining and well-written.
Last but not least, I need something a little lighter. Sellevision, the first novel of Augusten Burroughs, seems to be just the book to round off my winter list. At first, I brushed by the pink, smiling cover, but when I eventually returned to the novel, I was impressed. It's first sentence is somewhat intriguing ("You exposed your penis on national television, Max."), and Amazon.com, which handily includes language rating, noted the author's introduction of two "statistically improbable phrases" (hairy bitch and turkey loaf). I figure anyone who can include the three items in the same book, wrap it in a pink cover, and still get good reviewsall on a first novel is someone I need to check out. Apparently the main character is involved with the TV shopping network and it's quite good, but who cares?
So, with my reading (and Beth's) planned for the next few months, there is little to do but grab a cat and a book and hope for another rainy weekend at the beach.
Rebecca James lives and teaches in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She divides her time between Allentown and Rehoboth Beach.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 14 October 14, 2005