Sunday, July 05, 2015

Some Books I've Read from Start To End - Part I

Summer is here.  The school year is (kinda sorta) over. It's a time for reading.  I love to read but it doesn't come easily for me.  It's mostly an eye issue.  I have strabismus and do not focus with both eyes at the same time.  This affects my reading.  I have to really be pulled in by a book to make it from cover to cover.  And if I do make it all the way through a book it means I've read and reread pieces, thought and rethought phrases, shared and re-shared parts, again and again.

Here, in no particular order are some books that I've read in their entirety and digested and carried with me after turning the last page (books mentioned within the discussion of another book are also books that I read start to finish.):

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Haold Fry: This was not an easy read, but it had a strong payoff at the end and stayed with me. Part of it was that this book took me to and from a particular summer to Israel.  Part of it was the subtle, sensitive, human writing that was strong enough to get me to recently start reading the new companion piece to it.The sequel (though the author doesn't call it that), The Lovesong of Miss Queenie Hennesy is pretty good and is pulling me along, though it feels more of this world than its more magical predecessor. For some reason I like British books and when I think of this one I recall How It All Began, a good book about an old woman who is mugged and how that event affects other lives and other stories.  Also, on a related note is The Long Way Down, about four people who meet when they come to the same spot to commit suicide.  That book, by Nick Hornby, is narrated by each of the four characters.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime: Because I love reading and because it is hard for me I look at reviews to see what calls out to me.  I remember when this book came out and received rave reviews. I ran to buy it in the hardcover copy, which I still own. No play or movie will ever be able to do what this author did in this book, working with just words. It has such a strong, real, and honest voice. It's amazing. What really works for me in most books I like big time is a strong first person voice. (Someone I know told me that their favorite book was the next one that this author wrote, A Spot of Bother. I bought it, tried it, couldn't get through it.)

All of Dara Horn's books:  My favorite is The World to Come, followed closely by In The Image. I've read books (whole ones even) by a bunch of other Jewish writers writing about Jewish life.  I find Horn to be the most inteligent, accurate, all around best of the lot.  I can't praise her books enough.  The World to Come is about Chagal and Der Nister and much more.  In The Image captures single life on the upper west side, the experiences of a Vietnam vet and much more.  She does magical realism, historical fiction, and weaves it all together articulately and movingly.

I'm Proud of You is a book by Tim Madigan about his connection with Mister Rogers.  It is amazing.  It reminded me a bit of Tuesdays With Morrie but is more religious, and - to me - stronger.  It also reminded me a bit of Rather Joe, which also riveted me and took me from cover to cover, but as much as that book touched me, this one is a book that accompanies me through life.  It's interesting to me that both this and Tuesdays With Morrie  have a major part of the story that relates to the author's relationship with their brother. I loved learning about mister rogers and how good and real he was.  I went on to read The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, which was good, but not as powerful as this.  This book is a confessional, a baring of the soul, and part of that story is the support and friendship he shared with Mister Rogers. It means a great deal to me that part of my letter of appreciation appears at the start of the paperback edition of the book and that Mr. Madigan sent and inscribed to me "with great gratitude and affection."

I Was A Child by Bruce Eric Kaplan is a short, precise, funny, nostalgic book that is one in a million.  It captures the authors childhood in a quirky and cutting way and at the same time captures my childhood that took place at a parallel time.  There are drawings by the author, who draws cartoons for The New Yorker (as BEK), on almost every page. This a deceptively brief and simple work, which is abbreviated and truly profound. This book is a keeper.

My Friend Leonard - I don't remember much from this book except that it pulled me quickly from start to finish with it's powerful, first person, narrative.  One friend of mine asked me at the time that it was poplar if I thought it was true. I said that it didn't matter to me, it contained human truths whether it happened or not.  Another friend took me and some other friends out for his birthday and went all out, paying homage to Leonard who was generous like that. (I had lent that friend the book and he loved it.)


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