Normally I'm a slow reader. It takes me a long time to read a sentence let alone an entire book. I'm always amazed by people who can read a book "in a day" - kind of like those annoying knitters who can knit a sweater in three days...
So due to this slow reading speed, I don't actually read very many books. But this past month has been different. While stuck in the hospital there wasn't much to do. Without WiFi and refusing to pay $18/day for television - the obvious choice was to read. So I read and read some more.
In light of this I thought you might find it interesting to find out what I read - what I liked, what I couldn't put down, what I can't continue reading and what is on my "to be read" list. (Just so you know - I'm an avid ebook reader and I love love my Kindle. I have a very basic Kindle - it doesn't have a touchscreen but does have a WiFi connection so it is very easy to load books onto it.)
Gold by Chris Cleave
I've been a long-time Chris Cleave fan. I've read all of his books: Incendiary, Little Bee and Gold. I won't dwell on his other books - but suffice it to say - read these books. Incendiary is a powerful story of love loss and triumph - sounds cliche but it is true. As for Little Bee the biggest lesson from this one for me was compassion and awareness - you never know what is behind the first glance and impression of the people you meet.
But onto Gold... This book came out just before the London Olympics and focuses on track cyclists. At first I was a bit skeptical - why write a book about track cycling now - yes - I thought it might be a bit gimmicky. Well, I was wrong. I really enjoyed this book - and not just because I'm a cyclist. In fact I'm not a track cyclist so for me - the actual cycling wasn't the draw. Rather it was the intertwining of the three main characters and the other major character that kept me reading. Two highly-driven female athletes, a devoted husband with his own dreams and goals all linked together with bicycles, training programs and a dedicated coach.
The novel gives you a glimpse into the life of elite athletes but also helps you understand what it is like to be driven to succeed and how this drive can be all-consuming. A good read indeed. If you like Gold I would also recommend The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou - also about Olympic athletes and what this life really entails.
Sport can be a metaphor for so many aspects of our lives and this summer I'm sure you've heard your fair share of metaphors and hyperbole but Gold is not in this camp.
The Box Garden by Carol Shields
I thought I had read everything by Carol Shields and then I stumbled onto The Box Garden. Lets just say, if you're a Shields fan and haven't read this book - read it. Excellent character development, a little bit of mystery and intrigue, true raw emotion - in other words - classic Shields.
Relateable characters and a believable story line that most of us can find ourselves in somehow make this a great read. It is Shields' best novel - likely not. But it is a good read and one that you'll find is perfect for this last weeks of summer (that's right summer is not over on Labour Day).
Love, Life and Linguine by Melissa Jacobs
Okay, so this was my "fluff" read for the summer. Appologies to Melissa Jacobs but this book really was just pure escapism and silliness. I was drawn to it by the food theme. I kept reading it because I hoped it would get better. Well, it stayed about the same - light and a bit quirky. But the main character is appealing enough and a big departure from my personality that I couldn't help but keep reading it. A light read that will leave you shaking your head and rolling your eyes. Perfect for that trans-atlantic flight or when you tired of reading Ulyesses.
My Korean Deli: Risking It All For A Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe
I had listened to an interview with Ben Ryder Howe on NPR (I think) and had been intrigued by this book for a while. I was curious to know what it was really like to open a deli in New York and what would drive a writer and editor for the esteemed Paris Review to take such risks.
My Korean Deli is a book that is about more than opening a deli. It is about family, tradition, survival and the "American Dream". There were moments when I found the book wandered and lost track, but Howe is a strong story-teller and he did a great job of telling his story. You get glimpses into the struggles of immigrants, of how hard it is to follow-through and then make the tough decisions to give up on your dream. I also appreciated the inside look at the Paris Review.
If you're looking for something to read that isn't a novel but isn't super heavy - pick up My Korean Deli. Don't blame me if you have cravings for tepid coffee and massive sandwiches!
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
What a riot! I loved this book. The three sisters aren't actually weird - rather quirky. Now, I'm not a big Shakespeare afficiando and initially I thought I'd be in over-my-head with the Shakespeare references through-out the novel, but Brown has included these references, excerpts and quotes in a way that is rather seamless.
You'll soon be drawn into these three very different sisters and likely find yourself in each of them. There is a theme of sadness that runs through The Weird Sisters but this really isn't a real departure from life - we all deal with some element of sadness. The key as is highlighted in this novel is to not let this sadness take over.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This novel was a big step for me. I decided to read it on the recommendation of a good friend of mine. I normally stay away from thrillers, mystery and suspense novels. But I could not put this book down. This book grabbed me and kept me reading - I think I might have read it in "one day"! Yes, Gone Girl is a must read.
The main characters are intriguing. The literary voice keeps you turning the pages. The use of real-time and diary entries is a unique. I just couldn't put this down. Was the wife murdered? Is the husband guilty? What is the deal with the estranged father-in-law? What about that sister? Yes, these questions will swirl around in your head as your speed reading through this book.
Fun, suspense, drama, crime scenes - this book has it all. Read it and then pass it onto your friend who says he or she doesn't like murder/mystery/suspense novels...
Again To Catharge by John L. Parker
In July I read Once A Runner by John L. Parker. I loved this book. I was immediately intrigued and maybe slightly obsessed with the main character Quenton Cassidy. He emobdied to me what a true athlete is - devoted, driven, passionate and focussed. I wanted to be Quenton Cassidy. In Once A Runner, Parker really shows us what it is like to be such an individual - intertwining the physical with the spirtitual aspects of elite sport.
So when I heard that Parker had written a sequel to Once A Runner, I had to read it. Though admittedly I was nervous - would Again To Catharge be as good as its predecessor? In a word: yes. There is a point in the middle where the novel seems to drift and wander and I did lose focus - but keep reading - you will soon learn why Parker has included such detail about fishing and boating as you join Quenton on his quest for marathon success. Parker is a runner and he is a writer - he brings the emotion, pain and fear that comes with setting big goals to the page and gives you the feeling that you're pounding out the miles with Quenton.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I'm not sure what made me buy this book. I suppose it might have been Oprah... But whatever or whomever it was - thank you. I loved this memoir. It came at the perfect time in my life. A summer that has not "gone to plan" and has left me wandering about "what is next".
Wild is about Strayed's hike along the Pacific Crest Trail - this woman literally bought a backpack and some hiking books and set out to hike this arduous trail. Alone. Yes, alone. Camping and sleeping alone at night in the woods. Crazy - I could never do that. This book doesn't make me want to go out on a solo hiking and camping trip but it does make me dream and want to do something "huge". If Strayed can do it - then so can you and so can I.
Wanderlust. Goals. Dreams. Bucket lists. Call it what you want - but Wild is likely the push or "kick in the ass" that you need to leave your comfort zone and do that thing you've always wanted to do.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Read this after you read Wild. These two books really fit together. Harold Fry was a normal guy in a routine life - bored and in a rut. And then he goes for it. Takes a walk and doesn't look back. His wife is confused and lost but she finds her way. He inspires those he meets. He leaves some people scratching their heads. But through it all - he walks and looks forward.
All too often it is easy to get set in our ways and think "well, this is the way life is" - but Harold Fry will snap you out of this thinking. Thanks to Rachel Joyce for this book - in fact this is a book that I could read again - just to remind me that life is for the living.
Alright - hopefully now you've got a good list of books - and some insight into what I look for in a good book. I did mention that I would touch on the books that I couldn't keep reading - but I'll leave this for another post.
Happy Monday - perfect day to sit outside and read a good book!