Best laid plans, right? I started summer vacation with a long list of books I wanted to read. Unfortunately, my list now resembles a NCAA basketball bracket that is worthless after the first round! On the flip side, I’m reading good books. It is summer, after all. I’m trying to relax and go where the road takes me! This is what I’ve been reading:
1. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. I bought a copy of Jones’s novel because it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize – in 2007! Every time I saw Mister Pip on my bookcase, it reminded me of an NPR report I heard once about a “Shelf of Constant Reproach.” Great term. Most readers know this feeling well. I wanted to free myself from the shelf’s reproachful looks – a little personification, but it felt real to me! And Lloyd Jones is from New Zealand. Mr. Pip may have been the first book by a New Zealander that I’ve ever read! Here’s the problem. I loved the book, but Mister Pip, as you can guess from the title, refers to Pip – from Great Expectations. It made me want to reread Great Expectations. Mister Pip is about the power of stories and how good literature changes our lives. The story is fascinating, but be warned that there is a pretty graphic violent scene near the end of the novel. It’s important to the story, but a bit shocking.
As a sidenote, I prefer the British cover:
2. American Gothic by Steven Biel. Around the time I was finishing Mister Pip, we spent a few days in Chicago. One look at Grant Wood’s iconic painting, American Gothic, and I pictured another book on my Shelf of Constant Reproach. When we returned home, I pulled Biel’s book from the shelf and started reading. Such a good book, not just about the painting but about culture and the identity of the Midwest and how art changes depending on who’s defining it. I just read the New York Times review of Biel’s book, and reading this sentence made me feel much better: “He writes with wit and broad knowledge; reading his extended essay is like hearing a good friend hold forth in pleasant conversation on a lazy summer afternoon.” A lazy summer afternoon!! Clearly, I read this book at exactly the right time!
Here’s a link to the review:
3. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. Finally! A book from my list. As the oldest of three sisters, I have been anxiously awaiting the publication of Sittenfeld’s new novel for months. I’m only 40 pages into it, but have loved it from page 1. May be a book to share with my sisters!
A few other notes….
For all of you Wimpy Kid fans out there….Book #8 won’t be published until November 8, but….the color of the new book will be revealed on August 8! Any guesses?
Finally, totally unrelated to books is this wire mesh sculpture that I’ve been obsessed with the past few days. Wonderland is by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Kind of haunting, isn’t it? I’d love to see it at night, but it’s in Calgary so that may have to wait…