November 7, 2011

Books I've Read Lately and Liked

So, yet again, I'm apologizing for not posting to my blog [even though I have a nifty little button over to the right side of this blog that states I'm blogging without obligation, i.e,. I will not apologize for not updating my blog on a consistent basis.  Yet, that's exactly what I'm doing.  Sorry for the stream-of-consciousness.  At least I used punctuation.  Virginia Wolfe could learn a lot from me.].

Anyway, I've read a lot of books in the past few months that I wanted to mention.  I've started this post several times and scrapped it because... well, because shit happens and I got busy.  So, in no particular order, please find below a listing of books that I've read and liked:

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hiter's Berlin, by Erik Larson.  I can safely say that I'm an Erik Larson fan (so is the NYTimes reviewer).  Larson is the author of Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck (both of which I enjoyed), so I was looking forward to reading this book based on his past performance.  I have a strange fascination with the Nazi movement (and WWII in general), and this book tells the story of the U.S. Ambassador to Germany as Hitler rises to power.  It's a very well-written, fast-paced book about history; if a "history book" does not sounds interesting to you, then I might recommend that you make your own informed decision before purchasing.  Larson spends a lot of time in the details, but that's exactly why he is so adept at storytelling.  He does his research and presents it in an unbiased way to further the story.  I'd give it a solid A overall.

Recently, my book club chose from some classic literature and read Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Honestly, I'm a bit indifferent about this novel.  I never read it in school, so I was looking forward to reading it for the first time.  What I didn't really care for was the overall plot; there was so much time spent leading up to the actual voyage and treasure hunt that I was sort of bored by the time we arrived on Treasure Island.  However, what I did like was reading about the inspiration for so many characters in pop culture, from Long John Silver to Captain Jack Sparrow to the ubiquitous pirate-with-a-parrot-on-his-shoulder-and-a-peg-for-a-leg.  Overall, I'd give it a C+ (remember, to those type-A students like myself, a C is actually average, not necessarily a failure).

The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff.  I actually really enjoyed this book that is simultaneously about the life of Ann Eliza Young (the 19th wife of Mormon prophet Brigham Young) and a present day murder-mystery that takes place in a modern-day FLDS family.  It's interesting to see how the stories intertwine, and I have to admit that I knew very, very little about the Mormon faith other than the commercials for TLC's Sister Wives (which I have never actually seen).  A note about this novel: the newspaper clippings, Wikipedia articles, etc., are presented as historical fiction; some of them do not actually exist.  Overall, I'd say B.  [This novel was also apparently made into a Lifetime movie, which makes me not like it although I realize that's dumb and very similar to my dislike of books with the "Oprah's Book Club" sticker on them.]

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton.  I enjoy Edith Wharton (particularly Ethan Frome), and she did not disappoint with this novel.  Set in New York City in the late 1800s, it tells the story of the beautiful socialite Lily Bart and the unfortunate series of events in which she continues to place herself.  I have a hard time feeling sorry for Lily, as she brings many of her troubles upon herself, but I liked the glimpses into the high-society of Manhattan in the 1800s.  Edith Wharton wrote as she lived; she was born Edith Jones, and her socialite family inspired the phrase, "Keeping up with the Joneses."