I’m always thinking about things I want to share with you (and by that I mean, what won’t make you run screaming, because I think I’ve demonstrated I’m pretty much open to sharing everything, and just wait until I start sharing all about my labor and the placenta and what I do with that placenta … HAHAHA!! Just kidding. I won’t share too much about the labor.), and it occurred to me that I buy a heckuva lot of books, but never tell you what I’ve bought! I tell you what makes me pee my pants, I tell you what I’ve finally read, and sometimes I talk about what I’m reading, but I never tell you what I’ve bought. And hoo boy, I buy a lot of books. In fact, the ONLY reason I get rid of books is so I can bring more books in. I’m nothing if not pragmatic.
So yesterday I was hanging out with Lenore, and in between a couple of things, we stopped at my local bookstore, Copperfield’s Books. There were a few books I wanted to buy, so here’s what I picked up:
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Here’s the description of the book:
Edgar Award-winning author Tom Franklin returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so far—an atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county—and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.
More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.
Hello, darkness! Even the cover’s dark! I’m hoping this is an unputdownable book, otherwise it’ll have to wait until after the baby’s born.
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
It’s no spoiler to acknowledge that Skippy, the main character in Murray’s second novel, does indeed die, since the boy is a goner by page 5 of the prologue. Following his character’s untimely demise, Murray takes the reader back in time to learn more about the sweetly engaging Skippy—a 14-year-old student at a historic Catholic boys’ school in Dublin—and his friends Ruprecht, a near genius who is passionately interested in string theory; Mario, a self-styled lothario; and Dennis, the resident cynic. We also meet the girl with whom Skippy is hopelessly in love, Lori, and his bête noire, Carl, a drug-dealing, psychopathic fellow student who is also in love with Lori. The faculty have their innings, too, especially the history teacher Howard (the Coward) Fallon, who has also fallen in love—he with the alluring substitute teacher Miss McIntyre. And then there is the truly dreadful assistant principal, Greg Costigan. In this darkly comic novel of adolescence (in some cases arrested), we also learn about the unexpected consequences of Skippy’s death, something of contemporary Irish life, and a great deal about the intersections of science and metaphysics and the ineluctable interconnectedness of the past and the present. At 672 pages, this is an extremely ambitious and complex novel, filled with parallels, with sometimes recondite references to Irish folklore, with quantum physics, and with much more. Hilarious, haunting, and heartbreaking, it is inarguably among the most memorable novels of the year to date. –Michael Cart
I’ve had many, many friends recommend this already. Not sure when I’ll get to it, but it seemed like a must have!
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan’s most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand’s heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it’s just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable: a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics, he’s a wit, a prankster, and a reformed juvenile delinquent who put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps, In other words, Louie is a total charmer, a lover of life–whose will to live is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941. The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games. But war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the “theater of cruelty” that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a pathologically brutal sadist (called the Bird by camp inmates) who never killed his victims outright–his pleasure came from their slow, unending torment. After one beating, as Watanabe left Louie’s cell, Louie saw on his face a “soft languor…. It was an expression of sexual rapture.” And Louie, with his defiant and unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe’s victim of choice. By war’s end, Louie was near death. When Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945, a depleted Louie’s only thought was “I’m free! I’m free! I’m free!” But as Hillenbrand shows, Louie was not yet free. Even as, returning stateside, he impulsively married the beautiful Cynthia Applewhite and tried to build a life, Louie remained in the Bird’s clutches, haunted in his dreams, drinking to forget, and obsessed with vengeance. In one of several sections where Hillenbrand steps back for a larger view, she writes movingly of the thousands of postwar Pacific PTSD sufferers. With no help for their as yet unrecognized illness, Hillenbrand says, “there was no one right way to peace; each man had to find his own path….” The book’s final section is the story of how, with Cynthia’s help, Louie found his path. It is impossible to condense the rich, granular detail of Hillenbrand’s narrative of the atrocities committed (one man was exhibited naked in a Tokyo zoo for the Japanese to “gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body”) against American POWs in Japan, and the courage of Louie and his fellow POWs, who made attempts on Watanabe’s life, committed sabotage, and risked their own lives to save others. Hillenbrand’s triumph is that in telling Louie’s story (he’s now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. (Nov.) -Reviewed by Sarah F. Gold (from Publisher’s Weekly)
Seabiscuit blew me away, and I don’t expect any less from Unbroken. Hillenbrand is a masterful storyteller, as she kept me on the edge of my seat during Seabiscuit. I really can’t wait to read this one!
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Waters (The Night Watch) reflects on the collapse of the British class system after WWII in a stunning haunted house tale whose ghosts are as horrifying as any in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Doctor Faraday, a lonely bachelor, first visited Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked as a parlor maid, at age 10 in 1919. When Faraday returns 30 years later to treat a servant, he becomes obsessed with Hundreds’s elegant owner, Mrs. Ayres; her 24-year-old son, Roderick, an RAF airman wounded during the war who now oversees the family farm; and her slightly older daughter, Caroline, considered a natural spinster by the locals, for whom the doctor develops a particular fondness. Supernatural trouble kicks in after Caroline’s mild-mannered black Lab, Gyp, attacks a visiting child. A damaging fire, a suicide and worse follow. Faraday, one of literature’s more unreliable narrators, carries the reader swiftly along to the devastating conclusion. (from Publisher’s Weekly)
The Little Stranger was picked for January by my real life book club (that for a while called themselves Gin & Phonics, though no gin was ever consumed). It’s a little long, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’s unputdownable. Otherwise, I won’t be able to read it in time, 6-8 weeks advance notice or not.
Let me know what you thought of these books! Also, feel free to share what books you’ve bought recently. If you do a post about what books you’ve bought, you can link to it here: