Something a little more sophisticated than usual is ” The Sense of an Ending ” a book by Julian Barnes. This is a clever story about memory and reality. The narrator, a middle aged man named Tony, is affected by his memories of a school friend and the girl they both loved. While the memories he has are strong, it becomes apparent that maybe some of them aren’t real. Although the book isn’t very long, the story is compelling. Anyone who has a sibling has realized that what we carry around in our minds from our youth isn’t necessarily what really happened. It’s amazing how two people can experience exactly the same thing in completely different ways. And when one of the people is hiding secrets, what the reality was may never be known. This book won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2011. I think it deserved it.
I recently finished reading ” Wild ” by Cheryl Strayed. This is an amusing true account of a woman who, with no hiking experience whatsoever, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Whether you’ve ever had any outdoor experience or not, I recommend this book. At times laugh out loud funny, it’s also a well written description of a little known system of trails. With vivid writing, Strayed portrays the people and places encountered along this 2600 mile trail. Trying to get away from some disasterous choices, Strayed is able to come to grips with her life during a sometimes horrific physical challange. Memo to newbie hikers: Don’t buy a backpack and set out the first day without first filling it to see if your supplies will fit into it, and then trying to stand up and walk with the full pack to see if it’s physically possible. That chapter alone made the book worth reading!
In March, a book was published by Sonali Deraniyagela, about her experince with the December 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. This is a slim, powerful book about a woman who loses her husband, two sons, and her parents in one dreadful moment. ” Wave “, the simple title of this book, feels like a memoir a psychologist suggested she write, in order to get the horrible effects of the tsunami out of her own mind and into the open. Like the recent movie ” The Impossible ” ( only without the happy ending ), this short book is a testament to the people who endure what life can hand us, and still find a reason to keep living. Probably not a book to take on vacation to the beach, however…
Another unforgettable story is ” Escape ” written by Carolyn Jessop. Written about 6 years ago, this is an account of life in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Jessop was able to escape her life and write this book, but not before falling victim to one humiliation after another at the hands of both her family and her community. The value of this book is the understanding the reader gains about why these sects are able to entrap one generation after another of women. There is no attempt to be politically correct in these pages. It’s just a searing portrayal of a religion gone completely bad, and the effect of generations of polygamy on women and children who deserve to have their stories told.
For everyone: Pick up a copy of Dog Stars, by Colorado author Peter Heller. You’ll be passing it around as soon as you’re finished, because this is one good story. You might as well buy a copy, because there are long hold lists in the libraries. If you’ve never read a dystopian novel, you can always start with this one. Okay—it’s about the end of the world; but what wiped out most of mankind wasn’t a bomb, it was a virus, so the world is still beautiful, and the sun still comes up. It’s just that most of the people are dead, which means roving bands of starving men, and quick flashes of violence as the survivors protect themselves behind bunkers. The beauty of the story is the lyrical nature writing, and the added pleasure of having the narrator fly a small plane. Western Colorado even figures in the story, and you’ll enjoy the description of flying over Carbondale. Lighter fare than ” The Road ” by Cormac McCarthy, it’s still a compelling story.
Or, you can always read ” The Road “, one of the best books every written. Heck, take it on vacation. When you meet someone else who’s read it, you’ll have plenty to talk about!
” The Language of Flowers ” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a book for women ( although not chic-lit ) is a believable story about the effects of a lifetime of foster care on an unloved young girl. The decisions made by this young woman reflect the world she lived in growing up. While not depressing, it’s a little deeper story than the ususal beach book. While never really a street person, her struggle to make her way is realistic. Give it a try.
No Easy Day
The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden
There are a couple of reasons why someone would pick up this book. The first is the most obvious: because of the advance publicity. That’s why most people will read it. There’s a certain curiosity surrounding “ forbidden “ writing. ( If there’s ever any discussion about suppressing a book, it’s human nature to immediately want to read it ) . The second reason to read this book is because of the inside information about training and executing these top secret military missions. Either reason works. It isn’t a very long book, and it’s certainly engaging. It’s worth it alone to read about the $64,000.00 night vision goggles.
Mark Owen, the name under which this anonymous Navy Seal writes, devotes his first chapter to explaining how he has changed names, deleted sensitive material, and not divulged anything classified. ( Just in case you were feeling squeamish about forking over the $26.95 for the book.) What follows is a pretty entertaining account of the training and travels of the elite unit. There are a few mildly interesting accounts of his personal life, and lots of interesting detail about Seal training. First- hand accounts of successful missions, and some not so successful, make pretty good reading. Navy Seals are some of our most elite servicemen, and their stories are valuable. The amount of intelligence and painstaking detail involved in executing their missions is awe inspiring. You don’t have to be a fan of military books to enjoy this story. Since we all know how it ends, there’s no reason to skip over the fact that the entire book is about the successful mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The first-hand account of the actual raid on bin Laden’s compound makes pretty compelling reading. There are several sections of photographs, including some of fairly sophisticated weapons. The descriptions of what they carry on a given mission, and the lengths Seals go to to avoid detection are pretty fascinating. There’s a lot of description about specific Seals, some of whom have been killed in action. There are some pretty effective stories about certain battles, and how some men have rightfully earned the legendary status of heroes within the Seal organization. As Americans, we should be very proud of this elite fighting group. If you haven’t read any accounts of these men, this isn’t a bad place to start. By any standard, these are true heroes.
But you can’t avoid the last chapter, which is a pretty elaborate riff on why it’s okay for this particular Seal to break the Nondisclosure Agreement about never revealing information about his job. As a matter of fact, I suggest that you google this book, or his real name, Matt Bissonette. It’s almost impossible not to have an opinion about this latest hot literary property! This book may lead to some fairly exciting sequels…..
Basalt Regional Library
If reading fiction is the only way that history really comes alive to you, here are a few authors to try.
Mary Stewart’s Arthurian books are hard to beat. The master story teller has taken the Arthurain legend and turned it into a trilogy that’s hard to put down. These books are ” The Last Enchantment”, The Hollow Hills”, and ” The Crystal Cave “. Even if you’re not interested in King Arthur, these are very well written and just plain good stories.
Patrick O’Brian wrote wonderful, historically acurate books about the British navy during the Naploeonic Wars. These also are very readable.
Janet Holt Giles was the author of a series of books that traces the settlement of America as the country expanded west. Hannah Fowler is a good book to start the series.
Phillipa Gregory certainly struck gold when she wrote ” The Other Boleyn Girl “. This carefully researched story will keep you reading, even when you know how it’s going to end. All of the books in the series, about Henry VIII and the Tudors, and very good. When you know that the history is well researched, it never seems like a waste of time to read such a good story.
Vilhelm Moberg’s classic stories of the Swedish settling of America, ” The Emigrants” series, is also a classic look at the midwest and the northern plains, and the sweep of settlement in the mid 1800s.
There are different styles of Westerns. Most people think of Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey when they think of western writers, but there are a lot of authors who have written some pretty good books that happen to take place in a western setting, or involve ranch life. Here are some good books that are easy to read, and involve typical western themes:
Lily by Cindy Bonner. A quiet story about a girl in Texas who falls in love with an outlaw. Not a lot of violence.
Beyond the Mountain by William Dieter. A story of Colorado and the Continental Divide. Well written and suspenseful.
Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse by Paul St. Pierre. I’ve mentioned it before, and here it is again. This story has all the colorful characters you could ask for, and it’s well worth it.
The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage. I’ve mentioned this before, too. A Montana ranch story, very vivid, probably not for everyone.
Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams. Probably one of the most graphic, bleak, and powerful books you’ll ever read. He out- does Cormac McCarthy when it comes to the desperation of life in the west. Want to know about buffalo hunting? This is the book to read. Starts in Kansas, but brings the reader to Colorado. Brace yourself.
If the enormously popular young adult vampire series by Stephenie Meyer doesn’t quite suit you, please try the 30 year old books by Anne Rice. Her first two books ” Interview with the Vampire ” written in 1976, and ” The Vampire Lestat” written in 1985, offer all the drama, violence, and sex that Meyer leaves out. These are great reads, and after you’ve finished them, you don’t have to continue on with Anne Rice at all! What a wonderful revelation, to consider the ” downside” of immortality: outliving everyone you ever learn to love, and having to leave all the communities you start your life in ( over and over ) because sooner or later everyone notices you haven’t aged…good stuff. Sort of makes up for all those lingering glances in the high school cafeteria in Meyer’s books.
Or, try” The Radleys”, by Matt Haig. This is a simple, suburban story of upwordly mobile vampires who have kept the dark secret from their two children, in a feeble attempt to fit in. Yeah, that’s going to work…..
try these three older titles….
Nowle’s Passing by Edith Forbes….a great mystery, beautifully written
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi….a simply told tale of why a German village turned to the Nazis
Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres…..a wonderful book that has withstood the horrible Nicholas Cage movie
Are you having knee surgery? Having a hip replaced? If you know you’re going to be off you feet for a while, here are a few titles that might be worth reading.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. If you’ve never read this novel from 1983, give it a try.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This beautifully written story is about Thomas Cromell and Henry the VIII.
Precious Bane by Mary Webb. This story of rural Shropshire in the early 1800s is told using some country dialect, but it’s not too hard to read. It was written in 1927.
These books should help you get through the holidays when it’s so hard to concentrate! If you’re only able to read magazine articles because of the stress, try these.
Power of the Dog Thomas Savage
Deep End of the Ocean ( really old. Oprah’s first pick!) Jacquelyn Mitchard
I Capture the Castle Dodie Smith
Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse Paul St. Pierre
Ellen Foster Kaye Gibbons
State of Wonder Ann Patchett
Black and White Dani Shapiro
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight Alexandra Fuller
The Kitchen Boy Robert Alexander
How to Sell Clancy Martin
Far North Marcel Theroux
Tinkers Paul Harding