Literary Round Up

If you recall, last week I mentioned the fact that I am the type of reader who gets stuck into a book and needs a few days to linger in the world described. I have trouble letting go of the characters and their stories. Often I will think about which parts of the book spoke to me and why. Was this just entertainment, or is there a bigger message going on? For the record, this applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you a few of the books I have read over the past few months.. You will notice that most of these selections aren’t very recent. As much as I like to go to the bookstore and peruse the new releases, more often than not I find myself buying from the marked down bargain bins, or picking up something used from the neighborhood charity stores. It doesn’t matter to me how old a book may be, if it’s good, it’s good and I will happily invest my time reading away. So here, in no particular order, are a few selections that have kept me turning pages recently.

ABOUT A BOY-Nick Hornby
I have enjoyed a few of the movies made from Hornby’s work, but never actually read any of his novels. Since this is one of the movies I hadn’t seen, I snatched this one up earlier this year. I enjoyed it a lot.

This is a coming of age story about not only a teenage boy, but also a slacker adult who acts like a boy. I found it to be both funny and sweet, also just British enough to please the Anglophile in me, but not so British that it made for a difficult read. I would definitely recommend this, and I will seek out more in the future.

AND IN THE END: THE LAST DAYS OF THE BEATLES-Ken McNabb
With the release of Peter Jackson’s mammoth “Get Back” documentary last year, pretty much everybody was talking about The Beatles. While the film covers the period just before the band split up, this book takes us to the bitter end and fills in some of the gaps in the movie narrative. The book is meticulously researched, and gives multiple points of view from interviews done both at the time and later on. While there is naturally a little bit of author speculation here and there, I can’t imagine a better chronicle of the band’s last year. It isn’t a happy story, but it is a human one and quite interesting for any Beatles fan.

DELIVERANCE-James Dickey
Yes, that “Deliverance”. Yes, that scene is in it. No, nobody says “squeal like a pig” in the book.

This one was released in 1970, but the prose feels a little earlier than that, like an early 60’s style of writing, maybe. This book was a little bit frustrating for me, but it was interesting enough to keep me reading. I am often more concerned with the story than the prose, and I think that sometimes too much detail can get in the way and slow things down. That happens more than once in this book, from descriptions of the countryside to the scene where our main character is climbing up a gorge on his own. More than once I wanted to just skip ahead a few pages and get to the good parts. It almost felt as though much of the book was padded out to make a full length novel out of what should have been a short story, or anovella at most. Still, the storytelling is good and the stakes are high, so it is an entertaining read overall. I’m not entirely sure who got deliverance though, and from what. Perhaps I’m not supposed to?

THE STORYTELLER: TALES OF LIFE AND MUSIC-Dave Grohl
This should appeal not only to fans of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, but also to anyone who has ever dreamed of being a rock star. Dave Grohl is one of the luckiest guys out there, and he knows it. His success story is one of hard work and dumb luck, and it makes for a very fun read. Some of his stories are genuinely funny, others touching. The book feels like a conversation with a friend over a few drinks, which is a welcome change from the “serious” rock journalism tone that many books have. Grohl almost makes you feel like you were there with him. It was highly entertaining and I hope he writes another one soon.

THE KEPT-James Scott
“The Kept” is a gothic western revenge story set in upstate New York, in the winter of 1897. It is a bleak, haunting work that deals with violence, deceit, the meaning of family, long kept secrets, obsessions, and the cost of all of those things. This book doesn’t let up much once it gets going, and I was always eager to read the next chapter and find out what would happen in the end, even if I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant. The story may be a bit far fetched in places, and I’m not sure what I think about the way it ended (I understand why Scott used that ending, I’m just not sure I liked it), but these complaints are minor. This is a depressing read, but one I highly recommend.

Okay, before somebody decides to comment, yes, I agree, it is similar to “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy in some places. That book was clearly a strong influence on this one, but I think that “The Kept” is definitely stands on its own when compared side by side.

Alright friends, there we have it. Maybe one of these books will make it on to your “to be read” list soon. Maybe not. My own list still has three or four I need to get to, and it seems to grow every time I turn around. See you next week, and happy reading!

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