Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Generous Reading List...

I've had a stack of books listed that I've intended to post; however, I haven't had the time to actually compose the posts.  That was solved this past week, during a teachers' meeting which obviously did not need my full attention.  I wrote it out in longhand in my notebook, which had the added advantage of making me look particularly engaged in the lecture.

It's rare that I read a book that I must finish in one sitting, and that immediately afterward I want to read again.  The last time that happened I must have been twelve.  Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, is one such book.  The protagonist finds himself working in the eponymous bookstore, where he soon discovers that this is no ordinary book-peddling establishment.  Yes, my next thought was -- Meth lab!  Drug front! -- but no, this is not the case.  The book itself is a puzzle story, but very much brought into the 21st century.  Another cool thing is that the cover glows in the dark, if that's any motivation for you.

Goldberg Variations is another book I've recently enjoyed.  It's by Susan Isaacs, whose books I don't usually read, but the title drew me in. (It's the title of one of my favorite pieces of music).  The book begins rather predictably -- a woman has been extremely successful in business.  However, she's been less successful in her personal life, becoming estranged from her family and alienating her best friend.  Her business needs a successor -- she's getting on in years -- so she invites her three grown grandchildren to her home to see which one is worthy of this inheritance.  These are people she barely knows, so she has a private detective agency compile dossiers for her.  The book quickly unspools into something almost philosophical and a bit unexpected, but it is enjoyable nonetheless.

I have always enjoyed Ruth Rendell (not so much, though, her books under the name Barbara Vine) and I am always happy to read a new one.  St. Zita's Society does not disappoint.  Set on a posh block in London, the book switches perspective from character to character, including the servants, whose presence is pivotal.  Although it is a bit predictable, Rendell's characters are, as always, compelling.

The Bartender's Tale, by Ivan Doig (hat tip -- E.B.) is a really pleasant book to read.  Part fictional memoir, part coming-of-age tale, it's written so easily one doesn't notice the writing at all.  The narrator, Rusty, is a child growing up in Montana together with his father, who is the bartender of the title.  The story unfolds steadily with several rather formulaic plot twists (boy-meets-girl; hi-I'm-your-kid-but-you-didn't-know-it), but the interplay between characters holds the reader's attention until the end.

HHhH is a completely different story in every way possible.  (No, the title is not a typo).  By Laurent Binet, and translated from the original French, it's mindfully written as a novel but is actually a historical narrative about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.  Heydrich, known as "The Blond Beast," was Acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, and was one of the main architects of the Holocaust.  Narrative is a good word for this book, actually, because the author shares with the reader his process of putting together the pieces of this fascinating story.

There are more books to come; I managed to crank out several posts-worth during the meeting, so I'll post again next week.  Happy reading!