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(Owlet header image found via a Google Image search, and came from Etsy artist Bestiary Ink)

21 July 2011

Nerding Out: Great Reads of Late

At heart, I'm a nerd. Okay, also at face-value I'm a nerd. I wave my nerd flag loud and proud. Get over it. Embrace it. I love to read and always have. I developed my own library cataloging system for my bookshelves as a child. I separate my bookshelves as an adult by "read" and "to-read" (to-read fills up way faster!). I have a little "stamp" I mark in all my kept books to help me chronicle what I read, when, and where. I belong to the social network for book nerds, Goodreads. Oh yeah, and I also started and facilitate a virtual book club (which anyone and everyone is invited to join!) -- and that's not even the totality of my nerdiness, it's just the first chapter in a long, long, book (a series even)... see what I did there?

I've been reading a lot of great books lately, and thought I'd post about them. As I'm always seeking out more titles to add to my pile, I figure maybe you are, too (are you?). Now that I'm thinking about it, I might just make this little literary round-up a regular feature, so I'll try to keep it to just a few at a time. And I'd love to know what you're reading, and what you want to read... so please share!

Most recently I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It's gotten lots of hype recently, and so I realize I'm late getting on this train, but it's worth jumping on board, I promise. This is a true story, scientifically-based, and basically documentary in nature, but it reads like a novel. Skloot beautifully tells the absolutely riveting human story of Henrietta, the involuntary donor of cells from her cancerous tumors that have been cultured to create an immortal cell line for medical research, and her family, who didn't know abou the donation in the first place and feel they have suffered in spite of her monumental contribution to science. HeLa cells have not only generated billions of dollars for the medical industry; they have helped uncover secrets of cancers, viruses, fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping, but still her family suffers a life of poverty, and without health coverage for even their most basic medical needs. This story is morally/ethically challenging, and its "characters" are entirely enchanting, charming, and quickly familiar.

I also recently read and fell in love with another book that's been around a while, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (aunt and niece). I know, you can tell by the title that I'd probably be all over this without even cracking the cover. But it's more than just a name. I can't say enough about this book, and I can't possibly recommend it more highly. I don't know a reader who won't fall absolutely in love with these people, and this place, and this incredible, enchanting, heart-breaking, heart-warming, and charming story. I have never read a book and felt more strongly about wanting to go to the place where it takes place. The fact that Guernsey is not fictional only made me more painfully desirous of packing a bag and hopping a flight to the Channel Islands. This little group of islanders who use reading to escape punishment and despair, and by way of it develop strong relationships and ties to each other, during the German Occupation are, in a word, wonderful. Each character and his or her own story is amazing, and that they all come together, and create such a familiar cohort is delightful. I will reread this book, I'm sure. And if anyone wants to go to Guernsey to explore island life, let me know. And if you have my copy... I can't remember where it is! Please remind me!

One more for now... The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. There is something about Indian writers that just speaks to me at my very core. I have yet to encounter an Indian author whose work I don't immediately LOVE wholly and completely. This, Adiga's first novel, earned him the Man Booker Prize, and it will not disappoint. I read it in a matter of days, but collectively, probably in a matter of hours. It is a powerful, discomforting, truly funny, and poignant story that won't relax its grip until you're done, at which point you'll be very disappointed that it's over. Balram Halwai, the `white tiger,' was born into poverty and removed from school by his parents in order to earn money for his family. Though forced into mind-numbing, thankless work, he dreams of a better, a richer life. By a series of right-place right-times and coincidences, he finds himself an ex-teashop worker who now earns his living as a chauffeur. But he also deals in scams and shady business promotions, and holds a unique perspective on life that he relates through his philosophical eye. Oh yeah, and maybe he's a murderer. But you don't quite know. This at-once despicable and completely engaging and charming protagonist sucks you into a story that is both mad-cap and unbelievable, and yet somehow completely believable. It is also the story of two Indias that exist side by side and in the exact same space with little awareness of each other... one is a bleak, soul-squelching, demeaning and impoverished India, and the other is a big-city India of the rich, filled with glitz and glamour and materialism and no want for anything. Adiga's next book, Last Man in Tower is set to come out this fall, and it's already getting great reviews. I can't wait!

So what are you reading?


  1. Loved all three of these! Just added you on Goodreads so we can nerd out together. Also, just finished Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and it was amazing.