May 03, 2011

2011 Reading Update: Spring

Oh, goodness, guys: I need more book recommendations. As you remember, I am only reading books that have been recommended to me in 2011.   I know I have been just horrid about reviewing the books I've been reading, but here are a couple I've wanted to highlight:
+ In this House of Brede, by Rumer Godden, recommended by my mother, and Br. OP: I really need to sit down and write an entire review of this remarkable book.  I quoted it at length when I was reading it (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), so I will let those quotes stand in for a review now.  But, seriously, read it!

+ Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel: Mostly, I was fascinated by the intensity of the recipes. We like to think we make recipes from scratch, but do we grow, then harvest, then dry, then roast, then steep, then peel, then grind a simple pepper before incorporating it into a dish? I think not! The story did not satisfy me. It seemed to be all about appetite, and not actually about love. (Which is an interesting question that I ought to explore in further writing, though I discussed it briefly when I reviewed Nigel Slater's Toast.) The language was beautiful, yes. The magical realism was fun and effective. But I have little patience for a story that mistakes unbridled and all consuming passion for true love.

+ The Light of the World, by Pope Benedict XVI and Peter Seewald, recommended by Hepburn and Sidecar among many others. This book blew me away. It was such an intimate and lovely discussion of the world and our faith. I already love Pope Benedict so much, but this made me feel like I was sitting in the room talking with him. He is so funny, and warm, and kind, and wise. Annoyingly, Peter Seewald has a very strong presence as an interviewer, and I wish he would have a more hands off approach.

+ Man Alive! by G. K. Chesterton, recommended by Mrs. P. Mrs. P was my roommate in college, and she carried this book around almost everywhere. Before she left (alas, never to return) she shoved it in my hands and said, with bright eyes, "Read this! It is my absolute favorite." She doesn't throw around the word "favorite" like I do, so I took the book.  But I rarely got past the first page.  So, I finally forced myself to read on, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  It is about a true innocent (named, brilliantly, Innocent Smith) and the havoc he wrecks in the lives of those who are less attentive to the childlike.  It is madcap, and jolly, and strange, full of magical realism of a variety I greatly prefer to Like Water for Chocolate. But, like all Chesterton, it is too didactic, and not a finely developed story. It wants to say so much that it is simply bursting at the seams with profundity, but plot and character, and even just simple continuity, are hard to come by.  Still, it is loads of fun, and this new edition from Ignatius Press is just lovely.
I gave myself a quick break from my resolution to re-read Brideshead Revisited. Next up is my book-club book, The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch, and MMT's standing recommendation A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, and the short play by Graham Greene, The Potting Shed. But after that, I have nothing I am particularly keen on. Though my list is still long, these are all such heavy books, and I'd love to be recommended something light and fun.


  1. Colleen2:25 PM

    Well, the Margery Allingham books won't be all that heavy. Have you read any Jasper Fforde? It's light fare, but imaginative. Eoin Colfer's Airman, marketed as a juvenile book, is also a fun read (the sort of thing you might give to a kid who's going to read the Hornblower books in two or three more years--boyish adventure).

    Also, looking at your haven't read War and Peace? I know you and I were in the same literature class that year.

  2. Colleen3:10 PM

    I was teasing. I didn't finish it myself until the middle of summer vacation. I liked it, I just couldn't keep up with the reading schedule. I did not, however, ever read much of the Illiad, and skipped huge swathes of the Aeneid.

  3. :) oh that Illiad was just a horrible translation. dreadful dreadful dreadful. I more than made up for it having since red all three of the good translations (Fagles, Fitzgerlad, and Lattimore)

  4. I think you would enjoy the Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley.

  5. Karie7:40 PM

    I'm a frequent reader (love the blog!) but a first-time commenter. As a grad student who adores books of all sorts, I'm always ready with a recommendation. A couple of my favorite light reads are Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and The Little Book, by Susanna Clarke and Selden Edwards, respectively.

    Both are full of whimsy and beauty and have plenty of nuggets of truth about humanity strewn throughout.

  6. I'm currently reading Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence. I'm only a few chapters in, but I'm digging it.

    Also, the short stories of Arthur C. Clarke are both entertaining and thoughtful.

    Finally, if you're looking for something short and different, try C. P. Snow's Two Cultures, about the divide between the humanities and the sciences.