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Saturday, April 21, 2012

World Book Night: The Fourth Batch

Ann Patchett's Bel Canto is a fictional version of a hostage situation that occurred in Peru in the '90s. During the birthday party of a prominent international businessman, guerrilla terrorists took everyone in attendance hostage, from the vice president of Peru to the opera singer hired for the evening's entertainment. I was lulled into this book just as the hostages Patchett describes were lulled into a sense of normalcy within their terrifying situation that took place over weeks. I was excited in the beginning, got a bit bored, and then I became sympathetic to everyone involved. Patchett did a great job of not judging her characters. She laid out their motivations and left the rest for the reader to mull over.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was another of these books that I had already made my mind up about before opening the cover. Frankly, I feel that all of my suspicions about this one proved true. So heavy handed were the themes and "morals," so utterly contrived was the plot. I felt that this was as manipulative as My Sister's Keeper, but it is more widely accepted because it is about men (and foreign men at that). Every page screamed at me: life is hard! People feel things! But in the end, I felt nothing but frustration. I even rolled my eyes a few times, which I haven't done since I read Stephanie Meyer.

Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is amazing. It is practically a perfect book. I haven't settled on exactly what type of book it is though. It's a memoir that's also a novel that's really a collection of short stories about the Vietnam war. O'Brien describes the time in Vietnam as it really happened, but in order to do this he differentiates between story-truth and happening-truth. The point is not whether or not the things that are described actually happened. As O'Brien explains, with a true war story you don't have to ask whether or not it really happened; it is true nonetheless. The way that these two forms of truth oppose and compliment each other coupled with the way O'Brien the forty-year-old writer steps in to the story of O'Brien the twenty-year-old soldier make this an absolutely unforgettable book that everyone should read.

Scifi is really not my thing, so I did not expect to love Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I got so bored with the descriptions of starfighters, null gravity, and battle simulations. This is just one of those situations where the book and I did not mesh. However, I can see why it is popular and definitely what makes it a good choice for the classroom. It is the story of Ender Wiggin, a strategical child prodigy and the adults who manipulate him to their means. There is also a heavy subplot about Ender's siblings that I was actually much more interested in than Ender's story (where Ender's story was militarily based his siblings' told the political side of this world at war). All in all a good book, just not the right fit for me.

Another batch of books that I can claim. As I mover further down the list (only five books to go), I can't wait to find out what I will be reading this time next year.

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