Friday, June 30, 2006

LIteracy and Longing in L.A. by Jennifer Mack and Karen Kaufman

I had read a couple of reviews of this book which made me believe this was a book for me. Full of literary references and quotes from famous authors, it is still just a chick book about a down and out, lovelorn L.A. lady who goes on book binges when she gets depressed, taking books and wine and candles into the bathroom for a soak in the tub. The book has a website that recommends it as a great book for book club discussions. I think our bookclub will pass on this one.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

As Simple as Snow by Gregory Calloway

One of my students brought this book over for me to read. It is "young adult" in subject matter, and won a 2006 Alex award for adult literature that appeals to teens. The book is narrated by a high school boy who falls in love with the mysterious new girl in town, Anastasia. She introduces him to Kerouac and Houdini and coded communication. To say anything more would spoil it, but it is the first book in a long while to remind my of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I will be recommending this one to my students next year. Check out the website for the book at

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is a lovely book and my favorite of the summer so far. Gruen did research on Depression era travelling circuses by looking at collections of photographs from the day. Her story, narrated by 90 year old Jacob Jankowski, recalls the struggles and disasters often associated with travelling circuses. The elephant, Rosie, is a character in and of herself. I couldn't put this book down.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

And the Word Was by Bruce Bauman

This novel is set in New York City and India. The main character, Neil Downs, is a physician who is on call when his son's body is brought into the hospital following an act of school violence. The outcome of the incident changes Downs forever and sends him on a search for life's purpose in New Dehli, where he takes a job as embassy physician. I especially liked the passages about the teachings of Levi Furstenblum, a Holocaust survivor and writer whose philosophy Bauman fabricates in such a way I found myself wondering whether Furstenblum wasn't some real person I had never heard of. This book is about race, inequality and the time it takes to mend damaged lives. I really enjoyed it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

The main characters in this novel are elevator inspectors that can be divided into two schools of thought - the Empiricists and the Intuitionists. The plot revolves around whether Lila Mae Watson, the first black female inspector, was set up to take the fall for an elevator that crashed after she had signed off on it. Politics, race and kooky elevator physics make this an interesting read.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

I started reading this book last summer and put it aside. This time I really enjoyed the mystery that unfolds through the pages of Murakami's novel. Kafka Tamura is a teenage runaway who randomly chooses to hideout in the one town which will connect him to his past. The chapters detailing Kafka's journey are alternated with chapters detailing the parallel story of Nakata, a simpleminded war veteran who communicates with cats and commits a serious crime that links him to Kafka. Confusing - yes! But the ending is very unique and makes the read worthwhile.