Monday, January 3, 2011

Winter Reading

Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious AppetiteOne Day (Vintage Contemporaries Original)JulietWhen the Game Was OursThe SurrenderedThe Art of Racing in the Rain: A NovelMarch
I've read a lot of books over the last month, particularly over the Christmas holidays with all the airplane travel.  Out of the books that I read, I enjoyed about half of them.  I just couldn't get into the other ones; I found them a little disturbing.

Starting with the positive, the books that I did enjoy:
"One Day" by David Nicholls.  I really got into the book; I found it charming and touching.  I like the unique storytelling method: basically the book is about two people as told through the events of the same day July 15th, every single year.  You got glimpses of the year that went by on annual basis.  It made you want to keep on reading, to see what happened the next year, and the next year.  Good book with intriguing characters.

"Juliet" by Anne Fortier.  This was a fun and quick read.  Romeo and Juliet is my favorite Shakespeare play and one of my all-time favorite books, so I enjoyed reading a little bit about the history of the characters.  Some of the present day events and characters were a little far-fetched, but I don't think this book was meant to be taken seriously, the book was more in the vein of a fun Da Vinci Code-esque mystery tale with a little romance for the female crowd.  The juxtaposition of the present day characters and adventures with the real Romeo and Guilietta of 1340 was a unique way to tell the story, though it did drag things out occasionally.

"When the Game Was Ours" by Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Jackie MacMullan.  As a Laker fan all my life, I remember the excitement of the Celtics / Lakers rivalry during the Magic Johnson and Larry Bird era.  Magic Johnson was my childhood hero; I still remember so clearly that day that Magic had contracted the HIV virus, one of those days that I'll always remember.  Since I was a little young to remember their college and NBA careers, I learned a lot about these two guys that I never knew before.  I really respect both players and their rivalry.  Maybe I'm idealizing the past, but it seemed like it wasn't all about endorsements and the money; players played hard with heart and passion because they loved the game and they wanted to win championships.  Legacies were defined by championships (ahem Lebron).  The writing was uneven in spots, but still, it was an illuminating read.

Onto the negative, the books that just didn't do it for me:
"Born Round" by Frank Bruni.  I usually love books about food and food writing.  I adore all of Ruth Reichl's books, I've loved reading Michael Ruhlmann, Bill Buford, Julia Child, and I've found Gael Greene and Anthony Bourdain to be entertaining in spots.  I just didn't like this book.  I guess it was uncomfortable because it was about the darker side of eating as opposed to the joy of eating.  It just seemed to drag on and on.  Even the parts about his stint as the New York Times food critic just didn't hold my attention.  I didn't find him to be a particularly good writer, ironically.

The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee.  This was just a really hard book to read.  As I recall, I really liked one of his earlier books, Native Speaker, that I read as part of my Asian American studies classes, but this book was dark and darker.  The characters were really hard to like and there wasn't much hope.  I don't mind tough books like Let The Great World Spin, but a little shimmer of optimism would be nice.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  This was another book that I thought I would love.  It's told from a perspective of a dog after all!  I just didn't quite get into the book and the characters.  The story dragged a bit and I just found parts to be unbelievable (and not even the parts relating the almost human dog).  I preferred Marley and Me, sorry.

Jury is still out on March by Geraldine Brooks.  I'm only through the first couple pages but it's hard to really get into it.

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