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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

World Book Night: The First Batch

My reading comfort zone is pretty wide. Being a bookseller forces me to read all over the spectrum, but even with that these thirty titles are tugging at the edges of my regular reading areas. I wanted to get to the titles that were furthest from my usual fare within the first five so I conquered Nora Roberts and John Grisham – to mixed results.

There were two titles on the WBN list that I had never heard of. One of these was Glaciers by Alexis Smith. I was really intrigued by this pick. Smith is a bookseller at Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon and Glaciers is a small press title. Unlike most, if not all, of the books on this year's list Glaciers has not been a bestseller. I had to know what hoisted this slim volume onto the list and I knew it had to be my first WBN read. Glaciers is a brief novel about a single day in Isabel's life as a twenty something librarian living in Portland. Through ruminations on time, place, and a complicated love interest the short span of the novel is able to reflect on the life of a young woman. Smith has written a delicate, lyrical work that is both deeply sad and charming. I didn't love this novel, but it definitely captured the spirit of young adulthood and I can see myself recommending it to a lot of people (anyone who watches HBO's Girls for example) which makes it a great pick for World Book Night.

Looking for Alaska was John Green's first novel and his big book before the release of The Fault in Our
Stars. As I've said before, it is also a book I have been frequently chastised for having not read. So, thanks WBN for forcing me to correct another reading error! This book is an emotional roller coaster; it made me feel like a teenager again. There is so much up and down, depression, mania, and all of the emotion is just so raw. Miles is suffering the ennui of all sixteen year old kids, and his obsession with last words spurs him on to seek the “Great Perhaps” of Francois Rabelais. He meets Alaska Young on his first day at his new boarding school (obviously not the first place I would seek Greatness, but what are your options at sixteen?). The series of boarding school hijinks that follows is elevated by Green's understanding of young people and his belief in their worldview (most heavily evidenced in Alaska's impressive analysis of Garcia Marquez). Green is definitely one of the best YA authors I have read, and I cannot foresee anyone having trouble passing this novel out on the 23rd.

Okay, here's the thing, I enjoyed reading Nora Robert's Montana Sky. Believe me, no on was more surprised than myself. The novel begins with the line “Being dead didn't make Jack Mercy less of a son of a bitch,” and really it only gets better from there. This is the story of three estranged sisters and the ranch they must work together to maintain. And there's murder. And sex. And it's all pretty fun. There was a lot in this novel that felt odd to me (it is basically all plot for one) but reading it made me understand a lot about genre fiction. The bulk of which can be explained thusly, it's comforting to read. It's nice to know what's going to happen and just follow the author as she weaves the narrative together. Montana Sky is not a novel that you work at or need to digest – it's just entertaining to read. And that's great.

I can say with confidence that Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street is the most beautiful book onThe Book Thief on last year's list, that begs to be felt. What I can tell you about Cisneros' novel (or series of short stories) is that it will make you ache. For the loss, for the fight, and for the shame and the pride of the characters. Cisneros' tells a story that is real and true.
the WBN list. The language is so poetic and full of life. It is a novel that is composed of a fluid poetry that I look forward to reading again and again. This is another novel, like
This last novel and I did not get along. John Grisham's Playing for Pizza is just not a novel for me. It completely lacks a plot and the main character is as unsympathetic as they come. No really, I have felt more towards murders described in novels than I ever felt for Rick Dockery. The novel is a mere recitation of football games and Italian meals (the novel is about an American football player who moves to Italy). I never felt lost while reading Friday Night Lights last year because the author did not set out to write a story for just football fans; Grisham obviously felt differently – I did not know what half of the football terminology meant. Clearly this is my own opinion and football fans and Grisham fans may love this novel, but I could not help but wish WBN had chosen a legal thriller as I would have much preferred that introduction to Grisham's work.

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