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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

World Book Night: The Second Batch

I mentioned in my last update that this has been rather a mixed bag of books I've loved and those I've (umm...) not loved so much, but really I think that's fantastic. These 30 books are meant to start conversations between over one million people. One million people may not want to read my favorite book. Half of those people, maybe even all of those people, may want to read a book that I've loathed. I find that incredibly comforting. Books aren't going anywhere and they are just going to become more and more varied. This is just another reason why I love World Book Night! But for now, let's get on with the show.

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger was one of the books I just was not looking forward to reading. A book about football, really? 370 pages, seriously? Whose idea was this? And then I read it and it's awesome. This is a book about football like Watership Down is a book about bunnies. Friday Night Lights is about small town America and what keeps people going; football is just the lens through which we view the story. It is also very, very much a book about race - how things have and have not gotten better in this country through the years. And it resonates with people. Obviously. Bissinger's story has made the jump from article to book, to film, to television series. I feel that this book takes a look at the heart of who we are and who we want to be as a nation.

I finally read The Hunger Games, now half of my teenage customers can relax (the other half is still mad that I haven't read Looking for Alaska yet, to which I say I'm getting there!). Does anything really need to be said about this one at this point? It was the most requested of the 30 titles on the World Book Night list. But this I will say, I really enjoyed reading it so much so that I took a break from my WBN marathon to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Suzanne Collins does a great job of building a world I can see and feel, and she give her readers characters to care about. I definitely understand why these books took of the way they did.

I really though that Leif Enger's Peace Like a River had a lot of potential. It's a story of a family looking for their older brother who is on the run from the law after murdering two men that attempted to rape his girlfriend and murder his father. A book about family, faith, and honor - that should be for me. Plus the writing is really, really excellent. But then it all played out like a Nicholas Sparks novel, smarmy and over the top. This one was a let down for me.

What is the opposite of a let down? A wonderful surprise? Okay then, Kindred by Octavia Butler was a wonderful surprise. Kindred is a "sci-fi" novel that is also a slave narrative, who knew this could be done? A black woman in the 1970s is inexplicably transported back and forth between her time and 1816. She's forced to live as a slave and the novel brings up all kinds of questions about race and racial identity and history. This book was so good that I read it in one sitting but continued to think about it for days.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz was another of the WBN books that had been floating around on my TBR pile. I wasn't really familiar with the plot, but that "Winner of the Pulitzer Prize" sticker gets me every time. Then it turns out to be a Central American multigenerational story, so I could do nothing but love it. Oscar Wao is an epic nerd who just wants to get a girl, then there's his mother who just wanted to be loved, and her father who just wanted to be safe, and the turmoil that was the Dominican Republic and Trujillo. The tone of the novel is all hip New Yorker with immigrant and nerd undertones and I loved it, especially the footnotes that provided (much needed) Dominican history. Plus, I'm a nerd reading about a nerd so I loved all of the pop (and maybe not so pop) culture references.

There's another five books conquered. I'm already looking forward to reading next years batch of books. I wonder when they will announce them?

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