I’ve never been asked what books I would take with me to a desert island. But earlier this year, I landed on an “island” with four walls and a remote control, becoming housebound for several months while recovering from auto accident injuries and subsequent surgery. Fortunately, I had squirreled away lots of reading material. Where to begin on my “island,” with walker close at hand? Here’s my “travelogue,” with a few main themes…
“ARE THESE BEST SELLERS REALLY WORTH THE HYPE?” I finally tackled Stieg Larsson’s Girl…. trilogy, plus Katherine Stockett’s The Help, and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. While mass media breathlessly christen much novelistic semi-tripe “Book of the Year/Century/Millennium,” I was gratefully reassured that the book-buying/reading public apparently CAN pinpoint quality after all.
Larsson’s psychologically complex thrillers require determination from their readers, but they are masterfully intense, with keen character development often balancing out myriad plot complications. Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, semi-partners and semi-adversaries, are truly the focal points of these works. Their personal and professional exploits are riveting, as is Larsson’s evocation of an often bleak Scandinavian landscape. The Girl trilogy already verges on “classic”.
The Help is a moving portrait of female bonding, Southern racial sensibilities at a troubled time in American history, and small-scale personal courage actually speaking volumes. I can also understand the appeal of Hunger Games: young female heroine confronting danger in a fictional “other world,” in an action-packed plot with nary a vampire in sight! A solid effort.
“CLASSICS TO BE RE-READ IN ADULTHOOD” I firmly believe that “classics” read in elementary/high school should also be re-read in later life. Even the most literarily precocious adolescent will gain new perspective on such works decades later. My own “revisiting” included The Good Earth, The Grapes of Wrath and The Secret Garden.
I was a Pearl Buck fanatic at one point in my youth, and thus reading Good Earth once again was a moving experience. After finishing Secret Garden, I marveled that Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote her 1911 novel for children. While its characters, setting and plot obviously appeal to young people, her vocabulary and sentence structure would be challenging for many adult readers today, let alone grade-schoolers.
And while I remember my high school classmates detesting Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (even re-titling it with words I won’t share!), I still admire it deeply 40 years later. The Joad family’s odyssey to California in the midst of Depression and dust is socially-conscious storytelling at its finest. All adults should experience its power at least once. (And leave that title alone!)
“‘NEW’ AUTHORS I’VE JUST MET” These include Stuart Woods and his “Stone Barrington” titles; Ian Sansom and his “Mobile Library” series featuring small-town-Ireland bookmobile librarian “Israel Armstrong,” and Denise Swanson’s “Scumble River” mysteries, starring school psychologist “Skye Denison”. I thank them all….
Though my circumstances weren’t ideal, I was grateful for the chance to spend quality recuperative time with such diverse company. The journey continues…..