Summer Reading

I read in spurts, and this Summer I read several books. The kick-off was reading dug's favorite books post, and the associated comments.

Today I added a list of recent books to the sidebar. Here are my reviews.

Elden recommends this book a lot and so far everyone has liked it. Sure enough, I liked this book too - really liked it. The story is intriguing, different and smart without being pretentious. The writing is very good. The characters are quirky, real and interesting. The historical backdrop (1920's Oakland, California) added depth and flavor. This book delivers.
(Sorry, Elden, I started reading Lucky Jim but just couldn't get into it - good writing, but the humor was too sly and the pace was glacial.)

For the first 50 pages I was enthralled, but then my enthusiasm faded as the story continued. A few events along the way got my interest and the end was pretty good, but just not enough to justify 976 pages. I liked the (fairly historically accurate) medieval setting, and the story was pretty good, but the characters lacked depth (seemed like caricatures), the romantic encounters felt pulpy, and the dialog was solid but lacked spark. This book should have been epic and grand, but left more of a soap opera after taste. Lot's of people loved this book so maybe I'm just being too picky, but I still stand by my review.

Some call Abbey the Thoreau of the west so I had high expectations that I'd be reading something classic. I really enjoyed Abbey's style of writing - staccato and picturesque. Having visited several of the places featured in the book I found his descriptions not only spot-on but amazingly rich. Sadly I found the story to be only mildly compelling, and Hayduke's profanity was so over the top it turned me off. The four disparate characters provided different views of the issues and the interplay between them was entertaining. A good book, but I was expecting something deeper and more profound - maybe it's just me.

I enjoyed Into Thin Air so I felt comfortable that I'd like this book too. It was pretty good, but the unresolved real-life story left me feeling unsettled and unfulfilled. That isn't all bad because it leaves room for you to draw your own meaning and conclusions from the events. Krakauer's writing was a bit too pretentious for me, but overall he did a skillful job of gathering the facts into a flowing timeline.

This book (and the Honor Harrington series) is a favorite of my friend Scott. The publisher makes a selection of books available for free download so I downloaded the Microsoft Reader and the eText and started reading. I enjoyed some facets of the book, but overall it didn't work for me. Some of the science fiction elements are refreshingly well thought out and feel solid. Also the fictional world (galaxy) is believable (for fiction, you know what I mean). But the dialog is clunky and there is too much of it. The story moves too slowly for most of the book - my patience ran thin. Sadly excessive exposition detracts from the few shining points of intrigue and depth. This book would have flowed better if it had been condensed down to 2/3, or maybe even 1/2, it's 464 pages.

I'll admit upfront this is the first Grisham book I've read, and I've seen all the movies based on his books. This book is not a legal thriller. It's a different novel, not what I expected. It tells the story (through the eyes of a 7-year-old boy) of one summer on an Arkansas cotton farm in the 1950s. Although the story features a few exciting events, mostly it's about day-to-day life. This book should have bored me, but I found it a pleasant read, mostly due to the skilled writing (it just flows). I'd call it comfort reading (like Italian is comfort food).

I'm reading this book now (half way) and like it so far. It's about an unofficial competition among birders (elite bird watchers) where they trying to spot as many birds as they can in one year in North America. I enjoy learning about a niche I've never heard of and this book does a good job bringing together background, history, travelogue and characters into a good narrative. So far so good.
Update: I finished this book (only 288 pages) and liked it. A good, quick, fun read.


Andy H. said...

The Road. After staying up really late and finishing it in two nights I forced Rhonda to read it. She hates those kinds of books but got caught up in the father-son relationship as much as I did and loved it. Probably the best book I have read in at least the last 4-5 years (if not longer) and I read a lot of books.

I also tried to "be cool" for awhile and not read Harry Potter. Big mistake. Those books definatly live up to the hype.

KanyonKris said...

I added "The Road" to my list of books to read. Thanks for the recommendation.

I resisted the Harry Potter books too, as Jolene and the girls devoured them. But I've read them all - good stories and solid writing, works for me.