Books You Can Skip and A Few to Keep

Although my inclination is to not publish reviews of books I did not like, I seem to have collected quite a few lately.  Just because I did not find these books compelling does not mean you won’t.  The first is by an author I follow and usually anticipate reading, the second is a classic with history painfully repeating itself in the present, and the third is from LibraryReads –  the site with picks from library staff nationwide.

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

A group of women have regular meetings to reveal secrets and offer support to each other. Although reviewers have called the book uplifting, I found it disappointing and tiresome.  Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for angst and empathy.

 

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

This classic came to me by way of Libby, our library’s online service.  At first, I laughed at the ridiculous scenarios, until they came too close to current political reality.  Although Lewis was targeting the 1930s American government, I found a 2017 essay in the New York Times titled “Reading the Classic Novel That Predicted Trump.”  Sadly, history does repeat itself.

Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson

Liar, liar, pants on fire!  In Wilson’s book ten year old twins can spontaneously burst into fire, burning everything around them but not themselves.  Lillian is summoned by her former class mate Madison to act as their nursemaid, while Madison prepares her husband to become the next Secretary of State. Although the story line is outlandish, Wilson’s symbolism is hard to miss, and the snarky comments on parenting and politics are contemporary.  I read the whole book, wishing it would burst into flames.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

If you read all sixteen chapters of Walker’s information dense material, it may actually put you to sleep – as you are reading it.  The author gives you his permission:  “Please, feel free to ebb and flow into and out of consciousness during this entire book. I will take absolutely no offense. On the contrary, I would be delighted.”  Go straight to the Appendix – “Twelve Tips for Healthy Sleep” with reminders you have probably read elsewhere: stick to a sleep schedule, exercise, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large meals before bed, and one I often apply – “If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed more than twenty minutes, get up and do {something}.”

 

Keeper Books:

Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse by John Lithgow

Best Christmas present ever,  Lithgow’s satirical poems are hilarious.  The targets include anyone connected to the American President, from Rudy Giulianio to Betsy DeVos, with Lithgow’s line drawings adding to the fun. In her review for the New York Journal of Books, Judith Reveal notes: “A prolific writer and award-winning actor, Lithgow has penned a laugh-out-loud picture of American politics at its worst. And yet, through the laughter comes a sense of despair.”  

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Cartoonist and illustrator Charlie Mackesy’s children’s book for adults is probably one you should give as a present to someone. When I read about it, I gifted it to myself, and now am reluctant to part with it. One of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Is your glass half empty or half full?” asked the mole. “I think I’m grateful to have a glass,” said the boy.  

Which Books to Keep

images-1    After ignoring Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for weeks on the bestseller list, I found it at my local library and immediately turned to the chapter on books. I never got past Kondo’s horror about having a client with “three large ceiling-height bookshelves full of books…”  Having a personal library sounded luxurious to me – not cluttered.

But when my iPhone warned I had to eliminate some data to be able to download more, I examined my store of iBooks.  Some had been preordered, and glistened with an orange tag.  Others I could move to a cloudy “books read.”  But many were samples of books I thought I might read someday, and a few I had actually purchased but never read.  Perhaps I could apply Kondo’s technique here and unclutter my virtual bookshelf.

Of course, I could not follow her suggestion to place all the books on the floor, but I could use her categories to sort and possible delete a few.  Sadly, all fell into the same category – “General.”   Here are the books I always thought I’d read, but never did – now deleted.

  • The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
  • Still Here by Lara Vapnyar
  • Paradise Lodge by Nina Stubble
  • The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown
  • Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

Have you read any?  Did I miss anything by delegating them to the “cemetery of unread books”?

 

 

 

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

When I came across the ocean without my books and the shelves sat bare until the slow boat carrying them could catch up, anyone who came into my office would think I did not read.  After a few weeks, a few new books spread scattered on a lonely shelf; it would be impossible not to keep getting books, but those that I had kept for many years were not there – and I missed them.  When they finally arrived, I closed the door and got reacquainted – smoothing their covers, rereading the inscriptions, opening to worn bookmarked pages with passages I wanted to remember.

With the shelves stacked high with a wall of books, the room was warmer and friendlier. Now when anyone came in, they went to the shelves first to see what I read – sometimes, a familiar book started a conversation or a connection.

A room without books is like a body without a soul………..Cicero

Bruce Feiler tries to snoop on his friend’s bookshelf in his article for the New York Times, Snooping in the Age of eBook, surreptitiously trying to discover what his friend is like through what she likes to read. With electronic books replacing print on paper, snooping is not so easy – books are not on display but hidden inside a Kindle, Nook, or iPad.    Reading Feiler’s article reminded me of the room that had no books for a while.

That room is gone now, and many of the books have been given away or donated to the library, but some remain in a smaller room on shorter shelves.  If you could see them, you’d know that I keep them to remind me of who I am, what I dream, where I’ve been, and why I read.  And, if you could snoop there, you’d know a little more about me.