Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mid-Year Book Report

Thought I would give a few short reviews on some of the reading I have been doing this year. As I look back, I see that I have read more current best-seller types than I would have thought. I try to stay away from some of the more trendy stuff but Wife has handed off some of her book club picks and I always buy and read the newest Grisham tome when it comes out, an exception from my usual get-it-at-the library policy. Anyway, in no particular order, here are a few:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows. This delightful story is set on the UK island of Guernsey during the German occupation in 1946. An up and coming writer makes an unlikely visit to the island and falls in love with the charm and depth of its residents. The humor and warmth of the characters will hook you from the beginning. A definite page turner and I gave it five stars on Shelfari.

The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow. I should have known better when I saw the title of this one. This is "chick-lit" and I mean that with all due respect to my female friends, colleagues and family members. I just believe this is one that might be enjoyed more by a woman than a man. Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal columnist and co-author of The Last Lecture, wrote a column a few years ago about female friendships. He got a huge response, including an e-mail from a woman in Ames, Iowa who shared with him about her friendhip with a group of eleven women who all grew up together in Ames and remain friends to this day (they are now all in their mid 40s ). He visited one of their frequent reunions, interviewed familiy members and fellow Ames residents. The result is The Girls from Ames which I found silly, boring and unremarkable, kind of like dull reality television. But look at the reviews on Amazon and you'll see there are many who disagree.

The Associate by John Grisham. Grisham loosely returns to the theme of The Firm, the one that brought him to fame. This one tells the story of another superstar Ivy League law grad who gets caught up in the prestige of a NYC law firm, but some of the underworld types get hold of him and blackmail him with secret stories from his past. It's another great read by this storyteller who just keeps them coming.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This is hands down my favorite so far this year and I will give credit where it is due, to Wife, who handed me this book after both of her book clubs had done it and told me I would love it. And she was right. This new 40-year-old author tells a story of relationships between female black domestic workers and their female white employers, set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi. I laughed, cried and shook my head in wonder as I turned the pages in amazement and related to similar situations in my hometown in South Arkansas as I was growing up. Remarkably, I even have a blog post here from a few months ago that touches on similar subject matter. This book definitely gets five stars.

Witsec by Pete Earley and Gerald Shur. This is the story of the history of the Federal Witness Protection program in the U.S. I have always been fascinated by the Witness Protection Program but before reading this book, most of my knowledge came from TV crime and detective shows. Co-author Shur is the founder of the program and the book relates the history of his employment in the Justice Department and his relationships with many of the relocated witnesses. I loved it.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Mortenson was climbing Pakistan's famed K-2, stopped mid-way and turned back. He took a wrong turn and ended up in a small village where he was cared for by the locals. He was so taken with the area and his Muslim hosts that he decided to begin a school. Today literally thousands of children are being educated and girls (who are often oppressed in this culture) are being given opporutunities heretofore unheard of due to Mortenson's efforts. Although I disagreed with some of his views on the American involvement in the area, I was struck and awed by his persistence and devotion to education in this part of the world against incredible odds.


Kelly said...

I just started "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" this weekend. Haven't had much time to read, but am anxious to get back to it.

I have "The Help" on my shelf, waiting to be read. I'll bump it up to priority.

Noticed you had the latest No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency book on your shelf. I wait for softcover on those. Did you enjoy it?

Bob said...

Yes, Kelly, loved it. Alexander McCall Smith consistently turns them out and they are all so good. Also, we have caught some of the series on HBO and it's excellent. I'm sure it'll come out on DVD sometime and you should get it. One of the few TV shows or movies that does justice to the book.

quid said...

Great list, Bob.

I loved Witsec, and, while "The Associate" was not a great piece of literature, I confess that I can rarely put a Grisham book down.
I liked that one, too.

I guess I'm going to have to read that Potato Peel book. Too many people I respect have read it and liked it, for me to ignore!