Monday, May 21, 2007

Dewey's list

Hi there! Wow, this Blogger format is way different from what I'm used to. Well, that's about as clever as my introductory remarks are going to get. On to the list!

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver: I'm reading this book for the second time right now. The narrator is the mother of a boy who has committed a Columbine-like school shooting/mass murder. I teach high school. I was teaching high school the day the Columbine shooting happened, and we all stopped what we were doing in class and watched the news in horror. This book really freaked me out the first time I read it, because I'm also the mother of teenage boy -- a white, middle-class, suburban boy, which is what these school shooters tend to be. Although the narrator is really hard to like, I just feel for her anyway, because I can not even imagine what it must be like to be the parent of one of these boys. Yet I have to keep in mind at all times the possibility that something like this could out of the blue happen in my classroom at any time.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: I just adore this book. In some ways, I identify with the main character, even though he's a guy. Although he time travels, his normal life takes place in Chicago, where I grew up, during about the same time. You know how it's just cool to have a character in a book doing the things you did and going to the places you go? Aside from that, he has a really deep connection with his wife, and in a lot of ways, it feels reminiscent of my relationship with my husband, except that he's not always time traveling out of my life. The book doesn't read like a sci-fi book, which is what you'd normally expect from a book about time traveling. It's more about relationships and trying to be yourself even when who you are doesn't always make sense to other people.

The World According to Garp
by John Irving: I love this book mainly because it's a big, complicated, crazy story, and because the characters stick with you. I identify with one of the characters, Helen. She's a reader. When she and Garp, the main character, meet, he asks her what she'll be when she grows up, and she says she'll be a reader, and she'll only marry a writer. And so Garp decides to be a writer. And Helen ends up as a professor of literature, or as she predicted, a professional reader. And I love the book because so much of it is about loss, and tragedy, and unintentionally hurting people you love, and finally, about healing.

March by Geraldine Brooks: The main character in this novel, is Mr March, the father of the March girls in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. This book is something about me in so many ways. Little Women was one of the formative books of my childhood (I identified with Jo). Mr March is pals with Emerson and Thoreau, and is a transcendentalist, a movement about which I've always had a lot of interest. Mr March is very idealistic, which leads sometimes to his making huge mistakes. And while he goes off to the Civil War to be an army chaplain (something I would never do) he is reassigned to teach former slaves.

The Tortilla Curtain
by T.C. Boyle: This book is something about me because it's a tragicomedy, and that tends to reflect my approach to life: it's all so chronically tragic that you can't help but laugh if you want to stay sane. There are various clashes in this story. One surrounds the U.S-Mexican border, and focuses both on cultural clashes and political boundary clashes. The other is between the ecosystem of southern California and the humans who try to inhabit it: they run into problems with mudslides and coyotes, just for starters. And then it all blends together into one big mess that reflects reality all too harshly.

What these books all have in common is that the writing is absolutely gorgeous, though they're all very different styles, and each book has very strong, memorable characters.


Wendy said...

I've read the last 3 books on your list - all great choices :)

kookiejar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kookiejar said...

Dewey, you are a girl after my own heart. "The World According to Garp" and "The Tortilla Curtain" are two of my all-time favorite books. I think I might choose "We Need To Talk About Kevin".

Kristin said...

I just requested We Need To Talk About Kevin from my library. A friend of mine mentioned it when I told her that I enjoyed Jodi Picoult's latest novel, 19 Minutes. I think I'll try to get The Tortilla Curtain too...I loved the other three books you listed so we must have similar tastes!

Dewey said...

Kookiejar, I looked at your blogs, and I wish I would have been around soon enough to join that NYTimes notable books challenge.

Kristin, I see you have a post about already reading one of the challenge books. Are we supposed to pick some and start now, or wait til August when everyone will have posted their "about them" lists?

kookiejar said...

Dewey, it's never too late. That challenge goes until the end of the year, and we could always use new blood. Let Wendy know if you want to sign up, we'd be glad to have you.

Lisa said...

Dewey: Technically, you should wait until August, but I have so many I want to read that I may sneak a few in before. Mainly I waited until August at the request of some bloggers who have a ton of other challenges going on right now... :)

Dewey said...

I'll probably wait til August, too, then. And I'll go back to the notable books site! Thanks, everyone.