Wednesday, September 17, 2008

10 books to *not* read before you die

by Richard Wilson, Times Online September 17, 2008

10: Ulysses – James Joyce
9: Lord of the Rings – J R R Tolkien
8: For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
7: À la Recherche du Temps Perdu – Marcel Proust
6: The Dice Man – Luke Reinhart
5: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S Thompson
4: The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolff
3: War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
2: The Iliad -- Homer
1: Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

You really should read the article to see his reasoning. Some are quite funny, some are almost offensive. Take his reasoning on the number two pick, The Iliad:
The very idea that you are somehow culturally incomplete without knowledge of Homer is ridiculous. The Iliad is one of the most boring books ever written and it’s not just a boring book, it’s a boring epic poem; all repetitive battle scenes with a lot of reproaching and challenging and utterances escaping the barrier of one’s teeth and nostrils filling with dirt and helmet plumes nodding menacingly. There’s a big fight between Achilles and Hector and that’s about it.
He left out the bit about the cataloging of ships. Still, it is an amusing article. What are your most over-rated books?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

House Lights

by Leah Hager Cohen, published by Norton, 2007. 302 pages

A beautiful character-driven novel about Beatrice, a teenage girl who decides to be an actor. Her grandmother is a famous actress, but has been estranged from her family for as long as Beatrice can remember. Beatrice reaches out to her grandmother for advice, and in doing so begins the long process of defining herself separately from her parents. At the same time, her parents become embroiled in a scandal stemming from accusations on her father for sexual harassment. Both internal and external pressures help Beatrice leave her home and restrictive parents.

This is a rich book. The author has a gift for language, making descriptive passages that seem so right. The book emphasizes the need for language to have real meaning, not just sound important. (Beatrice's father is a professor who often launches into lectures that sound important but aren't necessarily meaningful.) The emphasis on truth and meaning is a refreshing change from Beatrice's childhood filled with words that cloak feeling and establish boundaries.

People who like character driven books and coming of age stories would like this book.