Three Good Books To Read
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
by Michael Chabon
This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001. That's a strong recommendation, but I like to let a writer's art speak for itself. Here's a brief excerpt from the opening chapter:
“In the livid light of the fluorescent tube over the kitchen sink, he made out a slender young man of about his own age, slumped like a question mark against the doorframe, a disheveled pile of newspapers pinned under one arm, the other thrown as if in shame across his face. This, Mrs. Klayman said, giving Sammy a helpful shove toward the wall, was Josef Kavalier, her brother Emil's son, who had arrived in Brooklyn tonight on a Greyhound bus, all the way from San Francisco.
“What's the matter with him?” Sammy said. He slid over until his shoulders touched cold plaster. He was careful to take both of the pillows with him. “Is he sick?”
“What do you think?” said his mother, slapping now at the vacated expanse of bedsheet, as if to scatter any offending particles of himself that Sammy might have left behind. She had just come home from her last night on a two-week graveyard rotation at Bellevue, where she worked as a psychiatric nurse. The stale breath of the hospital was on her, but the open throat of her uniform gave off a faint whiff of the lavender water in which she bathed her tiny frame. The natural fragrance of her body was a spicy, angry smell like fresh pencil shavings.
“He can barely stand on his own two feet.”
Sammy peered over his mother, trying to get a better look at poor Josef Kavalier in his baggy wool suit. He had known, dimly, that he had Czech cousins. But his mother had not said a word about any of them coming to visit, let alone to share Sammy's bed. He wasn't sure just how San Francisco fitted in to the story.”
The Shadow of the Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Originally written in Spanish, this book topped the bestseller lists in Latin nations for more than a year and immediately became an American bestseller when translated into English.
Bottom line: This is the book Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code could have been if Brown was as good at character arc as he is at narrative arc. Not only does the storyline of this book take you in a hundred different directions, but the characters evolve in ways that make them feel three-dimensional. A truly Excellent read.
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak.
I stopped at a bookstore recently to buy this book for a friend of mine and was startled when the information desk directed me to Juvenile Books. There it was, on the bottom shelf. I can only assume the book was classified as Juvenile because of Zusak's fame as a children's author. There's nothing about the book that would mark it as only for young readers.
My advice? Ignore your ego and buy the book anyway. Pay no attention to the fact that it's G-rated. The Book Thief is first-class literature in every respect.
I told you about this book in the Monday Morning Memo of June 12, 2006:
“The characters are well crafted and the unfolding is bizarre, almost Tom Robbins-like. (I won't tell you the identity of the omniscient narrator but trust me, you'll be surprised.)
Here's a sidebar comment typical of what you'll find throughout the book:
* * * SOME FACTS ABOUT RUDY STEINER * * *
“He was eight months older than Liesel and had bony legs, sharp teeth, gangly blue eyes, and hair the color of lemon. One of six Steiner children, he was permanently hungry. On Himmel Street, he was considered a little crazy. This was on account of an event that was rarely spoken about but widely regarded as ‘The Jesse Owens Incident,' in which he painted himself charcoal black and ran the 100 meters at the local playing field one night.”
The Book Thief is written in a unique style I won't even try to describe.
Seriously, I wouldn't be suggesting you buy it if I didn't think you'd like it.
Roy H. Williams