Saturday, October 29, 2011

Adults reading in the Fall

It is that time of year again when folks at school are gearing up for our annual book fair on November 13. My biggest contribution, aside from the joy of joining everyone for a remarkably fun evening, is making some suggested reading lists. Here are my top five suggestions for adults.

  1. Since River of Smoke the second in the Ibis trilogy has just come out, it seems the perfect time to suggest you read the first in that trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. The Sea of Poppies is long and often complicated, but by the end of it I was totally absorbed in the story and the lives of the myriad characters is this story set in and around Calcutta, India shortly before the outbreak of the Opium Wars in China. It has taken Ghosh several years to add the second book and I have not yet had the chance to read it. I forgive him this long writing time because it was clear in the first that he carefully researched his story and worked painstakingly to craft every word.

  2. Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres is another long and often complicated novel that is well worth the trip. Set in Anatolia as the Ottoman Empire is crumbling, the story takes the reader into the lives and minds of a wide range of people who populate a small town. There are the famous like Mustafa Kemal and the everyday people like the potter, the priest, and the children who interact within a system that is open to all. Muslim Turks, Christian Greeks, and Armenians support each other when they can while often gossiping about each other. As in Captain Corelli's Mandolin de Bernieres has a beautiful way with words.

  3. Love Marriage by V. V. Ganeshanathan takes the reader to Sri Lanka via Toronto as it looks at the long time fighting in Sri Lanka through the eyes of Yalini,a young woman who left the country with her family when she was two years old. Now her uncle has fled Sri Lanka to to die in Toronto. He is not allowed into the U.S. because he is a leader of the Tamil Tigers and branded as a terrorist. Various marriages--for love or arranged--offer the road map for a trip through the history of the family and the country, as well as the narrator herself. Ultimately it is a story of love through many definitions. Emerson School will host Ms. Ganeshanathan in November for an evening of discussion.

  4. The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen sticks with me because it is so quirky. Any description of it should be accompanied by the same maps, diagrams, photos, and footnotes that fill the ample margins of the over-sized book. T.S. Spivet is a 12 year old boy living in rural Montana when his detail filled maps of nearly everything are submitted to the Smithsonian by an adult friend. Soon T. S. is riding the rails to accept a special post at the Smithsonian and his life is turned upside down. This is a coming of age story unlike any other.

  5. As I scanned my bookshelf this morning, my eye fell on a book that is one of my long-time favorites, The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. Like so many people, I read and enjoyed Winchester's The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. This book takes a broader look at the writing of the dictionary and its impact on the lives of the people involved as well as the world as we know it. There is little more fascinating to me the words and this book made me wonder if I should have been a lexicographer.

There are so many good books to read and so little time. As always, I would enjoy hearing what you suggest as good reading in any genre.

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