Monday, May 2, 2011

Off the Top of My Head Reading - part II

A few weeks ago I gave you the first part of my reading list, which you can find here.  These are books that I would recommend to anyone if you wanted some good reading.  It is not all inclusive but like the title of the post implies these are off the top of my head.  Maybe someday I will compile a top 100 list but for now this will have to suffice.  I included the links in case you find you want to investigate them further.

Bastard Out of Carolina (Paperback) by Dorothy Allison.  This one is a gut-wrenching, tear-producing story about a young girl in a severely dysfunctional family in Greenville, SC in the 1950's and 60's.  I should warn you that it is about sexual and physical abuse that the main character, Bone, is subjected to at the hands of her stepfather with her mother's knowledge and acceptance.  For me this novel was really tough to get through but it was so good I couldn't help but finish it and then I have reread it a few times over the years.

People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks.  This novel is a fictionalized mystery about the Sarajevo Haggadah which is a real illustrated manuscript dated to 1350 containing the traditional Jewish Passover Haggadah text.  If you're curious you can check out Wikipedia for more details on that.  The main character, Dr. Hanna Health, is a scientist who is called in to examine the manuscript.  In doing so, she finds clues that lead her to try to discover the where and the who about the manuscript.  I loved this one because it gave glimpses into other cultures that are not often found routinely in American fiction and as you can tell I like a little history with my mystery:)  You may have also read March, the author's Pulitzer Prize winning book or her debut novel Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague.  Both are also excellent and worth picking up.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  If this book doesn't make you  believe in vampires nothing will.  The first time I read this book it was so good I lent it to a friend, who first lent it to her niece, and then lent it to another friend and I haven't seen it since.  I liked it so much that I picked up another copy through a book swap and have read it again.  Don't be shocked but it is another historical mystery.  I love these things.  I like to learn a little and get a good story at the same time.  This author also does a nice job describing some of the lesser known (at least they were to me) architectural treasures in the Eastern Bloc.  I will warn you, though, this is a long book at 720 pages.  Totally worth it though.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  I know by now just about everyone has read these, but if you haven't you should.  It's a basic bad guy after young girl who meets good guy and they solve mystery together.   However, the characters are so unique that you can't help but be drawn into this thriller.  Unlike most of the books I read, this is a modern up-to-date series that tackles journalism, computer hacking, lesbianism, open marriage, international travel, and some serious sexual violence.  It is not for the weak of heart or those uncomfortable with the above topics.  If you can handle those then you are in for a treat as this series is one of the best I've read in a long time.  I bought these on my kindle and thank goodness because as soon as I finished the first book I had to get the next one, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and then I bought The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest a few nights later.  Trust me.  The only thing that will disappoint you is that the author died before completing the last books in the series.

Cry, the Beloved Country (Oprah's Book Club) (Paperback) by Alan Paton.  I read this long before it was an Oprah book but it makes me happy that she does from time to time bring really great literature to the masses.  This novel is just so spectacularly written in beautiful language that it will stay in your mind for a long time.  His writing makes you love and appreciate South Africa.  It is profoundly sad and compassionate and moving and all those adjectives that describe great literature.  Even though apartheid no longer exists in South Africa the character's stories are still pertinent today and that is another mark of greatness; that the story would still have meaning even though the circumstances surrounding the characters has changed.

I'd love to hear from you if you have read any of these or if you get them now if you liked them.  Leave me a comment with some of your favorites.

~ Gold Shoe Girl ~

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