Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Don't Miss These Books

Do you ever read a book that you love to pieces but end up having a difficult time writing about them?  That has happened to me on more than one occasion this year.  Time passes, and before I know it what had been a hard task soon feels impossible.  In 2012 I've read some remarkable books that somehow got left behind.  Have you read any of them? I'd love to read your thoughts/review!

Night, Elie Weisel

Where to even start with this one?  The simplicity and humility of the writing makes the horrifying reality that much more impacting by contrast.  The images and people will forever be a part of my picture of the Holocaust.  It's impossible to read and not empathize.  Short, but big...and a necessary, vital addition to society as a whole and individually.  Even now I have a hard time discussing it, but if you haven't read it, do.

So Big, Edna Ferber

This 1925 Pulitzer Prize winner felt rather light and fun when I read it, in that special vintage-y sort of way.  I wasn't expecting it to stick with me like it has.  I wasn't expecting my mind to jump to the characters and scenes unbidden for months on end.  I wasn't expecting it to so fully encompass an era for me.  It's a charming book, but more than that it addresses hopes and dreams in an honest, heartbreaking manner.  Thanks to the Pulitzer I've discovered an author to cherish.
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

I was just reminiscing with my book club about how wonderful this book was.  Not only did it grab my attention at the beginning and hold it tight throughout, but it spoke to my mind with beautiful writing and to my heart with complex themes of family, communication, love, and honesty.  In those ways (the depth and complexity of the plot, characters, writing, themes, etc) it felt much like a classic to me.  It's always such a treat to read a book that is so well-rounded, especially in modern fiction, as I typically have to go to those time-tested classics to fill that need.

The Hand That First Held Mine, Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie O'Farrell is a surprising author to me.  In any other hands her characters would not be so real, nor her stories so poignant.  Based on the synopsis alone I expected to find simple writing and straightforward storytelling—something too saccharine to be meaningful.  Instead, I find words that wend their way through the story in the same way that the characters wend their way through life, creating a dreamy reality.  I'm a fan.

How Green Was My Valley, Richard Llewellyn

Even now I have no idea how to begin talking about this book.  Like Francie's family in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Huw's family becomes your own.  His heartaches become your own, as do his passions.  And the writing! Sigh.  Taking place in a coal mining town in Wales, the longing for times long past and the regret for mistakes made is universal.  This is a classic that deserves to be remembered.  Here's a taste:

"I wonder is happiness only an essence of good living, that you shall taste only once or twice while you live, and then go on living with the taste in your mouth, and wishing you had the fullness of it solid between your teeth like a good meal that you have tasted and cherished, and look back in your mind to eat again."

"O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come."


  1. The Hand That First Held mine is so cheap on Amazon right now and I've been super tempted to give it a go!

  2. I loved Night and Cutting for Stone. The Hand that First Held Mine is on my shelf (Matt convinced me to buy it) and So Big is already on my wish list. Guess I'll need to add How Green Was My Valley... great list of books!

  3. Night is one of my all-time favorites. I first read it aloud with a class of 10th graders when I taught high school, and it was a wonderful, touching experience.


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