Friday, January 4, 2013

And What have You read Lately?

Yesterday, I volunteered at the Library's used books store.  It was a quiet afternoon, only a few customers.

An elderly woman came in and asked if we had any books by Elmore Leonard.  I pointed out where they would be if we did and she said she had already looked there.   She explained that she was trying to get her grandson to read more.  She had known Mr. Leonard, who lives nearby, for many, many years and thought her grandson would enjoy his writings. 

I realized that I had never read any of his works, though his short story '3:10 to Yuma' was made into one of my favorite films.  The woman bought Nelson DeMille's 'The Lion' and we discussed his writings, each agreeing that 'The Gold Coast' was one of his best.

She asked what I was currently reading and I told her that I had just finished James Patterson's 'NYPD Red' and 'Private London' and that both were acceptable.  OTOH, I had barely gotten into 'Merry Christmas, Alex Cross' and decided not to finish it.  Really, James.  Do you honestly believe I want to read a book about some nutcase shooting up Christmas gifts and holding his family hostage?

I thoroughly enjoyed Patterson's 'Along Came a Spider' and 'Kiss the Girls', but the series seems to have gone downhill from there, IMHO.  (I know this is hard to accept, but perhaps you should consider doing to Alex what Castle did to Derrick.)

Last month a friend of mine asked for book recommendations for her book club.  I sent her a list of what I would recommend, going back to 2007 (our library lets you keep track of your reading history online). 

All of this, along with my 50-page rule, made me decide to look back at 2012 and find the best books that I read - and completed  (52 of them).  In no particular order, here they are:

The Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne - If you read non-fiction and are interested in Indian history, this story of the last days of the Comanches is very well-written.  If you have seen the movie 'The Searchers' with John Wayne, this book will tell you the true story of that event in history.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins - Written for young readers, this is absolutely fantastic.  It was recommended to me by a young waitress in a local restaurant.  Her sister had been assigned to read it for her eighth grade English class and she ended up reading it herself.  It is a book that should give young and older readers a lot to think about government and society.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Mallard - I have not studied American History to any great extent.  All I knew about James Garfield before reading the book was that he had died in office.  Not expecting to enjoy the book, it was a delight to read right through it.

The Last Lecture - by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow - I read this after Jeffrey's untimely death last year.  A quick read, but it gives each of us a lot to think about.

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsaka - A very sad time in our American history written as a fictional account of Japanese internment in the United States.  Now, if you enjoy this one, there is one I read in 2011 called 'The House on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet' by Jamie Ford that you may also enjoy.

And there is my list.  No bestselling authors like Baldacci, Evanovich, Patterson, etc.  We all hear about the books on the best-seller lists.  Many of those books are in series so it is usually best to start at the beginning.  But, if you just want to pick up a good book and sit down and read, you have eight here to choose from.

And if you are wondering what it is that I think makes a good book, here it is:  Not only does it have to be well-written, it has to tell a good story.  While everyone told me what a great story 'The Help' was, I did not like the writing style and never finished it.  While 'The Story of Edgar Sawtelle' may be well-written, the story, IMHO, sucked, with no apologies to Shakespeare and 'Hamlet'. 

Life is short and there are millions of books out there.  Just remember the 50-page rule and move on if necessary. 

Happy reading!

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