Friday, November 23, 2007

Book Confessions

After looking at the list of books provided by Suzanne and Cindy (better known as Cynthia these days) I tried copying the list on my computer printer - which due to some glitch known only to my printer resulted in 20 pages of stuff being printed, none of which was the comments section of the blog that I was trying to print. So I hand wrote out the list of books and went off to the bookstore, only to realize once I got there that 1. I left the list at home and 2. Because I was relying on a list I could only remember 1 of the books from memory (and they did not have that book). So, I settled on a book written by the author of one of the recommended books that I have already read and I am hopeful.

But while I was in the bookstore I was thinking about when Cindy asked me what my top 10 books would be. Sometimes I feel like I don't know what that list would be. I think it changes sometimes right after I read something that I really like. There are the books I really loved while I was growing up; Brave New World, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird. If I had to pick just one book I love the most, it might be To Kill a Mockingbird, though Catcher in the Rye holds a very dear place in my heart. I liked 1984 very much and Brave New World. I adored Jane Eyre. Lately, I have loved Life of Pi. For something to end up on that all time favorites list it has to really resonate with me on a personal level and I have to feel that I want to devour the book and have a hard time putting it down and I have to hope the book will never end and I have to want to read it again, even though, this time, I know how it all ends. I've read Catcher in the Rye more times than I can count.

But to tell you what books I've learned to like, or that interested me in the past few years, new books I've read and really liked, other than Life of Pi, it gets a bit tougher. Mainly, it gets tougher because sometimes, they are hard to confess to really liking. But if I am being honest, these books spring to mind when I think of books I've really enjoyed, books that have really gotten inside my skin or inside my head, books I've thought about a lot after I've read them. And I realized today when I was perusing the aisles at the bookstore that all of these books have characters who are either unstable, mentally ill, or plain out crazy and in some cases, crazy and violent.

This isn't something I am really comfortable recommending to other people frankly. But it's honest I guess. And maybe, this is a list that appeals to someone who want to be a therapist, more than it appeals to anyone else. But here it is:  

This crazy, joyful Louisiana family has its share of secrets--from alcoholism to incest--that are slowly revealed as each person has his or her say. Readers will be most interested in the oldest daughter, Siddalee, whose sheer irreverence and consuming curiosity propels the plot until she finally discovers how to forgive her family. Wells's keen sense of character and superb ear for voice unify the loose assemblage of tales of a family with disfunction and mental illness.

Dolores is a class-A emotional basket case, and why shouldn't she be? She's suffered almost every abuse and familial travesty that exists: Her father is a violent, philandering liar; her mother has the mental and emotional consistency of Jell-O; and the men in her life are probably the gender's most loathsome creatures. But Dolores is no quitter; she battles her woes with a sense of self-indulgence and gluttony rivaled only by Henry VIII. Hers is a dysfunctional Wonder Years, where growing up in the golden era was anything but ideal. While most kids her age were dealing with the monumental importance of the latest Beatles single and how college turned an older sibling into a long-haired hippie, Dolores was grappling with such issues as divorce, rape, and mental illness. Whether you're disgusted by her antics or moved by her pathetic ploys, you'll be drawn into Dolores's warped, hilarious, Mallomar-munching world.

Myla Goldberg gives us the eccentric Naumann family where Saul sees in Eliza the potential to fulfill the teachings of the Kabbalah scholar Abulafia, who taught that enlightenment could be reached through strategic alignments of letters and words. Eliza takes to this new discipline with a desperate, single-minded focus. At the same time, her brilliant but removed mother succumbs to a longtime secret vice and begins a descent into madness, and her brother joins the Hare Krishnas. Goldberg's insights into religious devotion, guilt, love, obsessive personalities and family dynamics ring true, and her use of spelling-as-metaphor makes a clever trope in a novel populated by literate scholars and voracious readers.

The Bell Jar tells the story of a gifted young woman's mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman's descent into insanity.

Featuring soap made from human fat, waiters at high-class restaurants who do unmentionable things to soup and an underground organization dedicated to inflicting a violent anarchy upon the land, Palahniuk's apocalyptic first novel is clearly not for the faint of heart. Mayhem ensues, beginning with the narrator's condo exploding and culminating with a terrorist attack on the world's tallest building. Writing in an ironic deadpan and including something to offend everyone, Palahniuk is a risky writer who takes chances galore, especially with a particularly bizarre plot twist he throws in late in the book. Caustic, psychotic, outrageous, bleakly funny, violent and always unsettling, Palahniuk's utterly original creation will make even the most jaded reader sit up and take notice.

In American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis imaginatively explores the incomprehensible depths of madness and captures the insanity of violence in our time or any other. Patrick Bateman moves among the young and trendy in 1980s Manhattan. Young, handsome, and well educated, bateman earns his fortune on Wall Street by day while spending his nights in ways we cannot begin to fathom. Expressing his true self through torture and murder, Bateman prefigures an apocalyptic horror that no society could bear to confront.

Now that I have you completely disturbed and worried about my (sometimes) choices in books, I will remind you that, I also very much love Jane Austen's novels.  Particularly Emma.  Which I highly recommend, the rest, read at your own risk! 


Shando said...

You have always liked the books about the sick and twisted. I like to think of it as research for your up and coming career as a shrink, not that you are facinated with wackos!

Bandanamom said...

Well...I am sort of fascinated with wacko's truthfully. BUT, I think we're all a little wacko in our own way, so I don't know what that even means.

I'm not very squeamish about the rougher aspects of being human I guess...which is good if you're a therapist.

Suzanne Barker said...

I hate to try and pin myself down to all time favorites of food, books or colors. I just like so many!
One thing I have noticed in all the years of our book club, is that while some books are really an enjoyable read, they aren't good "discussion books." The books you listed are books that have enough meat and controversy to lead to a good discussion. Maybe that's part of the appeal to you, even if you aren't discussing them in a group, you find yourself thinking about them a lot and wondering about things. I know that's what I do sometimes.
But I still enjoy some of the lighter stuff for pure entertainment value. I just finished Stephanie Meyers series. They were really quite fun. I enjoy a good mystery or fantasy. I've read all of Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman. I love the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I don't always admit to all of them. They don't make for good discussion books, but they sure are fun. I remember when Juraissic Park (the book) came out. We were passing it around book club like wild fire, but we never chose it. Have you ever read it? It's quite different from the movie and a great read. Definately can't put it down. Those are some of my guilty little secret books!

Bandanamom said...

I feel better knowing everyone doesn't always have such high-brow tastes in literature. I enjoy all kinds of books (except, I admit, I do not usually like anything too sappy or too unrealistically happy) -

I happen to think Steven King is highly under-rated as an writer. I find his writing un-even at times, but often, very, enjoyable, and well done.

Once someone was at the house for an enrichment board meeting and saw something by Steven King in the large bookcase in the family room. She gave me a weird look and then said "STEVEN KING?". You would have thought I had the satanic bible there on the shelf. I just shrugged and said "yes, Steven King" and sort of tried to ignore the topic. She then scoured the whole bookshelf looking for further evidence of my evil nature. She took further issue with a political book I had which I gather she deemed to liberal, and by the time she spotted "Rosemary's Baby" I was a lost spiritual cause in her eyes.

Which is why I did not put myself in charge of the ward book club even though, technically, Jodie wanted to me to be over it as Enrichment Counselor. I just couldn't bring myself to put a stamp of approval on much of what they were reading, but at the same time, I knew I was going to wind up in trouble somehow with my own suggestions.

Of course, I did recommend "Life of Pi" because I thougth that was a pretty safe recommendation - I think it's such an interesting discussion of faith that can be had after reading that book. But this idea was rejected by someone in the group as being "wildly inappropriate". Which of course, means I'm wildy inappropriate, so that was the last suggestion I made.

But of course Suzanne you're right - those types of books provoke a more interesting discussion, and to me, that's what a book club should be about.

Cynthia said...

I also suggested Life of Pi to the RS bookclub. They rejected it because of cannibalism. I was stumped - I had to go get a copy of the book and review it to see what in the heck they were talking about, It was an excerpt when he was so dehydrated and dilusional that you didn't know if it was a real event or not and the description lasted a little over one page. But a big REJECT stamp hit that idea before I could further explain.
Rachel thinks I only read books about disfunctional people. I actually do. I like to get inside a character's head and figure out what they're thinking/feeling etc.
Steven King is my guilty pleasure. I love his style of writing, but I still shy away from too scary/gory.


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