January 18, 2009

Books, Books, Books.

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."
Cicero (106 B.C.E. - 43 B.C.E.)

Those Greeks were onto something. As I look around my apartment, I'm pleased to see that while it may be messy - it sure has a lot of soul. As an avid reader, I am always looking for book recommendations. Lately, I've been into a lot of contemporary fiction, but I will start anything put in front of me, because my most favorite books have all been read on the behest of someone else. Thus, 'Things I Love - Part Two' is a short selection of some of my most favorite books. My three choices are multi-generational stories that are rich in idea and plot; they are the types of stories that you never want to end...

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill was one of the best books I read last year. It was chosen by someone in my book club, and I admit that at first I was a little bit reluctant to buy it, because I didn't want to be branded a racist when asking for the book's location to some stranger behind a store counter! After all, who uses the word 'negro' anymore without feeling pretty uncomfortable? I didn't realize that it was actually a bestseller, and that the title was a reference to a historical list used by the British to determine which 'freed slaves' would be able to start a new life in the colony of Nova Scotia during the 19th century. This is a generational story about slavery, immigration, and identity, and reaches across 3 different continents. An Absolute Masterpiece.

Zadie Smith is one of those perfect people. First of all, she's stunningly gorgeous. Second, when she was profiled in Vogue magazine the article highlighted her creative vintage style - she's one of those people that shops in second hand stores and finds the perfect pieces - she was quick to downplay her incredible style that seems to just emanate from her in all directions. She's good friends with other 'hip' authors like Nick Hornby, she's already been nominated for the Man Booker Prize, and she gives podcast interviews to the New Yorker magazine. White Teeth was published when she was only 24, and she consequently won a 'Best First Book' Award. It's also a generational story, where all of the different stories come together in the end in this hilarious web of comedy. The characters are delightful for the most part, though there are a few plot lines that are more interesting than others.

Someone once told me I'd never be able to get through Cryptonomicon because it was too complicated... too much math theory, and at over 1000 pages - I know I'm not recommending the easiest read. However, in this case 'hard work' turned into one of the most consuming and fulfilling reads, and a love affair with Neal Stephenson's extended plot lines. The central story line focuses on the events in the Phillipines during World War Two. The characters are from diverse backgrounds, each offering different perspectives and interesting details about the codebreaking that helped the Allies win the war. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction - their patience will most definitely be rewarded.

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