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Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Last Books of Summer...

I have opined here previously about a lack of time for reading once the regular semester begins... Here are the last few books I squeezed into summer recess. Several of these books resonate with the recent hurricane tragedy, as do the themes of this year's freshman selection, Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed.

The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart

This autobiographical classic of teaching in one-room schools in rural Kentucky was published in 1949 and should be required reading for all Education majors. At times inspiring and at times surprisingly rough and violent, Jesse Stuart relates a story of dedication and a desire for education so great that his barefoot students left bloody footprints in the snow on their way to school. Stuart emphasizes the injustice of poverty and the challenges he faced as a teacher and school administrator. Fascinating...

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

A truly original tale of a librarian who suffers from chrono-displacement disorder... he is a time traveler who comes in and out of his future wife's life, always turning up naked and hungry. The story is science fiction, but really a very moving love story, and it is difficult to express the emotions of longing and being left behind that are evoked. The time travel here does not involve different centuries, but different scenes from the life of the main character, his parents, and his wife. A very poignant and engrossing read... sometimes very funny, sometimes very frightening, and sometimes very sad.

White Noise by Don DeLillo

Another academic novel... (see earlier post about Straight Man)... Professor Jack Gladney is a professor of Hitler Studies at a small university. He has multiple ex-wives, children, and odd colleagues. He is accidentally exposed to a noxious chemical cloud, which excaberates his fear of death. The story line is sometimes irritating, but I don't think that is really the point. DeLillo perfectly captures our modern lives and the white noise (televisions, computers, telephone towers, laugh tracks, sirens, the droning of our friends and neighbors and loved ones) that surrounds us. I would be interested in reading other books by this acclaimed author...the language was genius. The scenes of disaster and evacuation were very reminiscent of the recent news from Lousiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen

This short book is full of wonderful quotes about books and reading, defending all of us whose childhood was full of "Get your nose out of that book and... "
The book lists at the back (10 Mystery Novels I'd Most Like to Find in a Summer Rental, The 10 Books I Would Save in a Fire, etc.) are a rich resource of reading suggestions. Only 82 pages in length, this memoir is a love letter to books and reading within which most devoted readers will see their reflection.

2 Comments:

Blogger Sean McGurr said...

White Noise is probably my favorite book ever. I've read it numerous times and even taught it one semester. DeLillo is never as funny as he is here. I've been thinking about this book this week in relation to the evacuations also.

If you want to read other books, I suggest Libra, a fascinating take on the Kennedy assassination, End Zone, a college football novel, and, Great Jones Street about a rock star who can't handle the fame that goes with it (written 20 years before Kurt Cobain.

Obviously Underworld too. The first section of that book is among my favorite pieces of writing.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous tomeo said...

I really enjoyed the writing, but felt impatient with the characters... and that is a tribute to the skill of the author. Thanks for the suggestions... I will try to get to some of these in the next break.

10:40 PM  

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