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Monday, April 23, 2012

World Book Night: The Final Batch

We've come to the end of the road. I made it through twenty-three of the thirty Wold Book Night picks. Couple that with the six I'd read in the past and we're up to twenty-nine with only one odd duck. I'm still making my way through The Stand and I can't picture myself finishing that one before I go out to distribute copies of A Prayer for Owen Meany tonight. Here are my reviews for the last of the books I have read:

Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the story of a young boy trying to escape the cycle of poverty and alcoholism that is life on the Spokane Indian Reservation. This is such a fantastic book. It is funny and tragic and perfectly executed between the prose and the illustrations. The idea to tell the story in the form of Junior's diary was an inspired one; I don't know if this could have been a novel for young adults without the humor and levity that the format allows. This is such an important book and such a great book for younger readers. One of the many goals of art is to act as a mirror to society. The Absolutely True Diary functions as one of those mirrors. I encourage you to hold it up - you may not like all that you see.

Before I talk about Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings I'll let you know why, it sings for the same reason that Sisyphus is happy. It sings because it must, because life is what it is and you get the most out of it through happiness and song. Angelou's memoir feels very reserved as though this is a memoir written by someone that does not relish talking about themselves. Maybe it is just that we are in the midst of an age of shock and awe memoirs, but the quiet reservation and doling out of secrets that Angelou's book contains made it feel all the more honest. This is a sad story but one about personal triumph; it is inspirational in the best sense of the word (especially, when Angelou talks about the power of literature).

The sense of deep longing that Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake encompasses is emotionally galvanizing. It is the story of Gogol Ganguli, a second generation Indian immigrant to the States, and the distance between his two cultures. It is very much so a novel about the difficulty of defining oneself, and Gogol's yearning is the force that propels it onward. It is a story that is peppered with loss, and it is moving and beautifully written. Definitely a good choice for World Book Night - I can imagine many passionate readers giving this one out tonight.

Q is for Quel Surpise. I was not looking forward to Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton. I've already been through one gory mystery with this list and I did not want to force myself through another. But I read it anyway and it was good! I'm ashamed to admit that I thought all mysteries were the same prior to cracking the spine on this one. Q is not violent and it is much more about the characters than the mystery at its core. This is the seventeenth book in as twenty-six book series that Grafton has been able to sustain by creating compelling characters. I was definitely surprised to enjoy the book and I'll probably check in with Kinsey Milhone again sometime.

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