I’m inspired by recent events to share a taste of my reading so far this year. The books I’m going to talk about may or may not be the best in any academic sense of the crop I’ve read so far this year. What these books were and will always be are a reading experience. If you’re on Jon’s blog you know what I’m talking about. That perfect mix of environmental and mental factors working with your appreciation of the words in front of you on the page. So here it is, the year so far:
My first favorite of the year was a borrowed ARC of Pelecanos’ DRAMA CITY. Jon and I were in Baltimore , stranded for an extra four hours in the airport. Rescued, I was. Mechanical problems be damned, I was in D.C. with the man who writes it best. The character strokes and nuances of the book were vintage G.P. but the read was streamlined. If you’d have told me in advance I’d be a fan of a full frontal plot from Pelecanos after the wonderful epics of the last four years I’d have been skeptical but the sparseness won me over within pages and an inconvenience became stolen moments in time
My first surprise of 2005 was this year’s Elizabeth George. Many of you know of my pre-marriage book buying strategy. George was one of the few always purchased in Hard Cover at Casa Flannery. WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS is a special book. George maintains her series integrity while paying it forward. I found this her most intricate book since PLAYING FOR THE ASHES. I read a lot more now than I did when George was a must buy. Still, I’ve yet to miss reading a title in year of publication. So trust me, the broo-ha-ha started about this book is justified and it’s one that deserves to be talked about.
My second favorite reading experience of the year belongs to Michael Parenti. SUPERPATRIOTISM stole a weekend from Jon. Parenti’s analysis of current day knocked my socks off as his books often do. If there is a more articulate person writing from the left today I haven’t found him. Anyone interested in not only political but societal changes brought about due to “patriotism” will enjoy this read.
And then came the weekend when I had a pile of twelve review books to read and I ignored them all. Due to misinformation I had failed to receive a pre-read of Jan Burke’s BLOODLINES. I grabbed it, “Just for me,” I proclaimed. The next morning I was wrapping it up as Jon awoke to start his day. Burke’s books have consistently improved since GOODNIGHT IRENE. GOODNIGHT IRENE was a very strong book. But Bloodlines took me back to the beginning of Burke’s always good series and roped me. The time before and the time since all co-mingled in this excellent and ambitious book. Long time questions were answered for readers and the story was enveloped in the mystique of a singular voice so the same and yet so much better. A Sublime experience that was well worth two days of dark circles.
I had a reading marathon in the midst of April. From Wed. to Sunday I read Sarah Weinman style (but it takes me at least twice as long). Three nights, two days, sixteen books. Saturday, I picked up a short story anthology titled DREAMS NEVER DIE and discovered H.P. Tinker. I am a slave and will follow him anywhere. Precise and unique his prose is the freshest I’ve read in a long time. I bow to you Mr. Tinker. Thank you for making me feel like I was a giddy neophyte again. I called people and e-mailed, and pounded the brush. 16 books and your three stories are what I come away with from that weekend.
My experience of the year thus far? THE POWER OF THE THREE by Laura Lippman. Talking about this book is almost mandatory this summer. To say I’m in awe of what this author is managing to do with words is an understatement. “You never know what you’re going to get.” Few authors shift their eye and maul our comfortable allusions in the way this woman can. POWER is a potent read. It’s a shattering look at how today’s upper middle class can blow apart in a nano-second. Lives not realized resonate from the pages and the bonds that form us are exposed for how tenuous and damaging they can become under a given set of circumstances. The pressures faced by today’s adolescents become visceral and the fears of every parent are realized. With a myriad of characters that are singularly and as a whole unforgettable TPOT3 is a reader’s experience. I spoke with a friend who’s also a best selling author last month and he was astonished not that Lippman had written another great book but at how complete it really was. Paraphrasing here, “I kept waiting for a mistake, somewhere, anywhere. Turning pages and knowing one had to happen. It never did. The book is the real deal. Perfectly constructed.” And that sums it up better than I ever could. That overused phrase “genre-transcending” does apply to THE POWER OF THE THREE. It is the only book this year that I’ve read twice and is still on my TBR pile.
The why I’m writing this belongs to a friend who slipped me a copy of Nick Hornby’s THE POLYSYLLABIC SPREE, “Books are, let’s face it better than anything else” . And Hornby’s Spree reminded me of why. A short little chronicle of his year in reading the book is a delight. From the wrestling match with Wilkie Collins to Pete Dexter’s overkill( “Pete, did the nipple have to go?”) I spent a series of lunch hours commiserating , agreeing and laughing with Hornby about the joys of our favorite pastime. The joy is back in my reading and words are an adventure again and I have ACTS OF FAITH by Philip Caputo waiting for me, calling my name even. Can you hear it?
Goodnight and happy reading.