Sunday, October 07, 2007

Story Time

Most of the bloggers I know read books—c’mon, I know you guys do—but you never seem to mention anything you’ve been reading. I’m not talking about a big fancy New York Times Review of Books-type review, but I never hear so much as a peep about a book you’ve recently enjoyed—or didn’t. (Exception: Kim Ayres read the final Harry Potter before everyone ruined the ending for him.)

I am a compulsive novel reader because I like stories. If I wanted non-fiction, I would read the newspaper and the electric bill. With a lot of time spent in the prone position conserving my lungs, I’ve been reading more than ever. I’ve polished off some favorite classics and several 1,200-page fantasy novels this summer, but here are a few worth mentioning.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. This is a horror novel from the git-go and it never lets up. Turns out Joe is Stephen King’s son, but he has a style all his own. Martha and I both really liked it. Joe has a book of short stories called 20th Century Ghosts coming out on 10/16.

Blaze by Richard Bachman. Yes, Stephen King’s old pen name and yes, a Bachman-style book: More of a thriller than horror. Blaze is a person (vs. a forest fire) and he’s the first psychopath I’ve ever felt pity and sorrow for. Maybe that’s the horror—the reader feels sorry for a psycho.

Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke. Burke, a native Louisiana Cajun, writes his 16th novel about cop Dave Robicheaux—and maybe his last. The book is mostly about Hurricane Katrina, up close and personal and horrifying with lots of facts not publicized. This book is a heart breaker too as Burke mourns not only the loss of life, but also the loss of New Orleans—the beautiful antebellum and Victorian homes and neighborhoods that can never be rebuilt or restored.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is the man who wrote The Kite Runner, which I defy anyone to put down once they’ve started it. Splendid follows two generations of characters from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to post-Taliban rebuilding (although in reality, the Taliban is back). The main character, Mariam, is a harami—a bastard—and Hosseini will literally jerk the tears out of your eyes.

The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer. Switch to Iran after the Revolution and the installation of the Ayatollah. We follow the story of another family, Jewish, but Isaac the father is falsely imprisoned for being loyal to the Shah instead of his religion. Sofer’s writing is beautiful, and I cannot understand why she’s isn’t on the bestseller list with Hosseini.

Okay, on to my current book, North River by Pete Hamill. Here are some tag words: New York City, Little Italy, the Great Depression, WWI, a doctor whose wife disappears, the same doctor whose daughter leaves her three-year-old son at his doorstep and disappears . . . nobody today writes about historical New York and the immigrants like Hamill.

So it’s off to bed to rest and read because I just love stories . . .


Mary Witzl said...

I read Laura Esquivel's 'Like Water for Chocolate,' and I am sorry to say that I didn't much like it. I was expecting to after having heard such good things about it, but I found myself guessing the ending -- and bored senseless.

Kate Atkinson's 'One Good Turn' and 'Case Histories' were so good that I would happily read more of her novels, and 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' sounds great. I actually checked this out a few weeks ago, but got busy and had to return it to the library unread. I checked it out partly because Doris Lessing gave it a good review. And you've got me interested in reading 'The Septembers of Shiraz' too...

Lately I've been reading non-fiction -- mainly POW accounts -- for a novel I've been writing. I love fiction, but I find memoirs every bit as interesting. 'The Afghan Amulet' is one of my favorite travel books/memoirs, and I am astounded that no one else who blogs has listed this among their favorite books.

niTin said...

So, with six classes, I really don't have much time to read stories.
But I had started to read Stephen King's IT a while back....only in the bathroom while taking a crap(seriously how can anyone think of doing it without reading at least something).
I'm halfway through IT.
I'm also reading "Options, Futures and Swaps", "Principles of Investment" and "Managerial Science and Organizational Development" and I'm sure your telephone bill is more interesting than these.

OneEar said...

Hey Charlie,
Glad to see you're still kicking.
I read you memoir. Good stuff.

Charlie said...

MARY: I agree with you that memoirs can be fascinating reading too. When someone mentions a book I check it out on Amazon for a usually-fuller description and the intelligent reader reviews.

NITIN: Hello, old friend! With six classes I'm surprised you have time to read the bus schedule.

You "cracked" me up with your comment about reading on the toilet: If you're only halfway through IT, you've got a lot of crap to go yet.

ONEEAR: Hello to another old friend! Today must me old friend day and no one told me-either that or I wasn't listening.

Thanks for reading my book--I have a new one in production and it's at the tweaking stage. This one, I'm hoping, will be MUCH gooder. Better, I mean better.

And a question for you. Do they make iPods for people with one ear or do you have to buy a regular one and listen to only half of each song?

Stella said...

Oi Charlie - I've a bone to pick with you!!!! You never let us know your books was published - boy you gonna be hounded now! Hope it's on Amazon? Gonna go search.

I love to read, keeps me sane sometimes. Last two books I have read - My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Picoult and Gone by Jonathan Kellerman.

K, found it "Dealing With It: A Life" by Charles M. Callahan. Gonna order my copy right now and will let you know if you're forgiven Charlie.

Sven said...

Recent reads:

"Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" by Dai Sijie

"Bel Canto" by Anne Patchet

"Little Boys Come from the Stars" by Emmanuel Boundzeki Dongala

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows" by J.K. Rowling

"Sophie's World" by Jostein Gaarder

"How to Eat Fried Worms" by Thomas Rockwell (audio Book on car ride with family)

"The Report Card" by Andrew Clements (audio book on car ride with family)

"Playing the Bones" by Louise Redd

The only one I wouldn't recommend is "Playing the Bones". It was OK but overall not worth the time. "Sophie's World" was interesting but loooooooong.

The kids are making their way the Harry Potter series. 9 year-old is on "The Order of the Phoenix", the 8 year-old is on "The Prisoner of Axkaban".

Charlie said...

STELLA: Thanks for ordering my older book; when the new one comes out, I'll send you an autographed copy. How's this:

"To my friend Stella, James Joyce"

SVEN: Except for the Harry Potters, I haven't heard of any of the others. Are you pulling my leg again with kid's books, or are you an eclectic reader?

Stella said...

LOL Charlie, sounds good! Looking forward to reading both your old book and your new one.

How is Cecelia doing?


Kim Ayres said...

I'm currently reading Orwell's 1984. For some reason I'd never got round to it. Enjoying it so far.

Last book was "The Interpretation of Murder" by Jed Rubenfeld - a sort of whodunnit set against the backdrop of 1909 New York and Freud's first visit to the States. Quite endjoyed it.

"Steppenwolf" by Hermann Hesse - yet another classic I'd missed out on. That was good.

"Life of Pi" by Yann Martell was excellent. Well worth the read if you haven't already.

I don't know whether you're a Terry Pratchett fan, but I've read all his Discworld books and am always eager for the next one. The first is called "The Colour of Magic". Great books, very funny.

I also have a soft spot for pretty much anything by Neil Gaiman. "Amercian Gods" is excellent; "Stardust" is a fantastic fairy tale; and I recently enjoyed a collection of short stories called "Fragile Things". Oh, and "Anansi Boys" is good too.

Sven said...

The audio books are children’s literature. One from my childhood, the other more recent. As for the others, I have been making an effort to read books written by folks who are not white American males.

I’m surprised you haven’t heard of Bel Canto. FrankenKristin highly recommended that one and it turned out to be one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Anne Patchet has a wonderfully beautiful lyrical writing style. Truly worth reading.

Charlie said...

KIM: I re-read 1984 not long ago, Steppenwolf in college, and American Gods when it was published. Gaiman seems more into the graphic novel, which isn't my cup of tea.

I haven't read Pratchett either--I'm more of a fantasy fan than sci-fi.

I'll look for that Rubenfeld book, though. Thanks for your input.

SVEN: Yeah, you managed to stump me. I have heard of Bel Canto, but believe it or not, it's out of print. Thanks to you too for your input.

I noticed that neither of you gents listed anything in the romance genre.

And a general rant: Is George R.R. Martin ever going to quit dicking around and publish book 5 of Fire and Ice?

Kim Ayres said...

Pratchett's Discworld books are fantasy, and an hilarious take on it. It's full of wizards, warriors, witches and er... other things beginning with W.

While I'm here, I don't know whether your assortment of ailments allows you to read out loud, but if it does I'd like you to take a look at a blog I'm setting up - The Storytellers Blog (I'll figure out where the apostrophe should go at a later date).

I know you're loaded up with stories and I would love to hear you reading some of them.

The idea is to get a few people involved to record either stories they've written, or their favourite wee tales.

Let me know your thoughts. If you're up for it, I'll set up persmissions so you can upload to the blog.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions or suggestions

Attila The Mom said...

What, no Nora Roberts? I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

Charlie said...

KIM: I'm flattered by your invitation to read, but I will have to do a lot of practicing first--I am the world's worst out-loud reader. I've been trying to read a nighty-night story to Martha for 33 years, and every time I do she gets up and sleeps on the sofa. I will contact you by email.

MOM: We've laughed a lot about Nora Roberts, but she's responsible for bringing you, Rhonda, and me together [sniffle].

I think Nora must be on hiatus--she hasn't published a "book" in nearly three weeks.

Attila The Mom said...

snerk. ;-)

Stella said...

You're forgiven. Looking forward to your second book.

Lola Magnolia said...

I used to read everything Stephen King. 'Til I met him. Scary freakin' dude.

OneEar said...

I've been meaning to write my review, I did enjoy your journal.

I'll check out the next.

Charlie said...

OneEar: Thanks for the compliment, but I'm somewhat afraid that your review will doom the success of the second book . . .