Monday, November 19, 2007

Throw the book at me

I have forgotten how to read.

At first, I was mildly concerned, but now I'm starting to panic. I can't read. Well, yes, I mean, I can read - I can look at words and know what they mean, I can string the words together into sentences and paragraphs and pages and collect the big picture, but I'm talking books here. Books. My shelter from the storm. My escape. My adventure. My friends. My books. I've forgotten how to read them.

It's been going on for several months. In those months, I have started and abandoned a dozen books. Good books. Books that I should like - that I would like, if I could just read them. But I can't. I can make it through about a chapter, and then I lose interest. They sit on my bedside table and mock me. I pick them up and put them down. I swap them out for other books. Nothing works.

So, please: help me out here. I need a book. I need a really great can't-put-it-down-if-you-try book. But I have qualifiers.

I am looking for a book:

that is not about autism;

that will not make me cry;

that does not involve children who are dead or abused or neglected or in pain;

that is not about women in midlife "finding themselves" or getting their grooves back;

BUT (and this is important)

that is not too light and fluffy.

I am looking for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Or Assassination Vacation. Or a new Rochelle Krich mystery.

Help!

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi MOM-NOS,

Do you like Sherman Alexie? He just won the National Book Award for Young People's Lit with his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. But I've read a excerpt from the book, and I'm afraid it might make you cry. How about his short stories?

MOM-NOS said...

I've never heard of him, Anon, but I am a big fan of young people's lit. Thanks for the tip!

drama mama said...

I'm the same way right now, two chapters, then tossing books to the wayside. Too much going on. Wish I could help, but I'm in the same boat.

One thought: Do you like Dave Eggers? He edits nice anthologies of short stories.

MOM-NOS said...

Dave Eggers: good thought, Drama Mama! I loved A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I don't tend to be drawn to short stories (not enough to really sink my teeth into), but Eggers has a couple of other books that I've never read. Have you?

Ooo, I just KNEW this post was a good idea!

Anonymous said...

How about Jodi Picoult??

MOM-NOS said...

Anon, I've never read any of Jodi Picoult's books, because they look like the sort of books in which I might unsuspectingly wander into territory that involves dead children, tearful plot twists, or women getting their grooves back. Not so?

Anonymous said...

Interesting she writes ONLY about all of the above. Sorry no help here.

kirsten said...

(i wouldn't second the jodi piccoult suggestion - no offense!)

if you like JF's and YF's, have you tried Shannon Hale? I love her books - try Princess Academy or the Goose Girl.

gretchen said...

Your criteria are precisely what keeps me from reading, or rather keeps me re-reading Harry Potter.

But I do also enjoy the "Number One Ladies Detective Agency" books, by Alexander McCall Smith. They make me think a little, but not too much, and I don't think they've ever made me cry (this from a woman who cries while reading Eric Carle books to her children.)

Anonymous said...

Almost all books make me cry so I don't think I can help. :-(

karen in ca

Ange said...

I forgot how to read too. Mainly I forgot how to read for enjoyment. I became to trained on reading only information. I've been trying to retrain myself, but it is so hard! I find myself jumping ahead constantly, having to force myself back to absorb the imagery. I think that process is what undermines me and makes me give up. A friend loaned me Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I really enjoyed it the best I could...

kristen said...

Wow. Have you read Lottery? It's good and quick, no dead children, no getting the groove back, it's funny and uplifting...

Also, what about a good old fashioned mystery? A James Patterson or Nelson DeMille?

If you haven't read Namesake or Prodigal Summer--both are quite good.

And I always find Anne Tyler is the perfect fix for this kind of mood...

Let us know what you settle on.

Robin said...

The Stephanie Plum mystery series by Janet Evanovitch always makes me laugh out loud. They are kind of fluffy though (in a good way).

Marla Fauchier Baltes said...

I get that way too. Sometimes I need a break from reading.

Maddy said...

I know what you mean. I usually have half a dozen on the go at any one time for the reasons that you describe.

I think I tend to gravitate to Whodunnits though because they're 'safe' and you can escape / become involved in something else.

I'd recommend Ruth Rendell or PD James, but if you're not a whodunnit person then The Ladies No. 1 Detective agency is a lighter version - I like them because it reminds me of my childhood in S.Africa but I think everyone likes them.
Cheers

Steve D said...

I've got it, MOM-nos. Its the perfect book, and fits all qualifications.

"Memoir from Antproof Case" by Mark Helprin.
In it, an old man recounts his life spanning most of the century. He is a young boy in the hudson River Valley, a mental patient in the Swiss Alps, a high-falootin' banker in NYC, a daredevil pilot over Italy in WW1, a world-class bank-robber, and a trainer of sailors in the Argentinian navy.
It is at times hilarious, riveting, incredibly inspirational to read as this character wages a lifelong battle against the evil that is coffee - the demon-drink that creates mindless slaves of our best and brightest. It is heavy but light, fun but serious, romantic and fantastic, endearing but outlandish.

You would LOVE it. The author is an Oxford an Yale graduate and former officer of the Israeli army. His command of the english language is second to none, and you can't read 5 pages without encountering a passage you want to pin up on your 'favorites' board.

So there it is. "Memoir from Antproof Case." Its a can't miss.

telemommie said...

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasan. It is probably too fluffy, and a bit racy at times. But it is very funny and a nice mental vacation. Also a quick read. Almost like a comic book. It helped me break a similar reading rut.

Marya said...

Have you read all of Jane Austen already? She is so soothing and yet always intelligent. You could also try Wilkie Collins' stuff; he was a friend of Dickens' and has lots of the entertaining Dickensian rollicking plots, but without the obsession with suffering children. I recommend No Name to start with. Also anything Anthony Trollope is good, especially Can You Forgive her?

In more recent stuff, Robertson Davies' Salterton trilogy. Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. Elizabeth Knox's Dreamhunter Duet (odd and beautifully written, set in an alternate turn of the century New Zealand where certain people can cross an invisible border to catch dreams and play them back to others).

Wendy said...

Some of my favorite books from the past year:

I know it's been said and you're pretty much rejected her but Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
The Glass Castle (memoir)
The Lake of Dead Languages
Water for Elephants
The Kite Runner

and although I don't really like "chick lit" I have loved reading Emily Giffin's books: Babyproof (stand-alone) and Something Borrowed (1 of a series) and Something Blue (2 of the same series but don't read the back covers of these books - it gives too much away)

Wendy said...

...and also:

The Time Traveler's Wife

Anonymous said...

When I'm in the mood to indulge and nurture myself, I re-read some books that have been favorites of mine since I was a kid- I reccomend the books about Alanna by Tamora Pierce. There are 4 books, the first of which is called Alanna: The First Adventure.

from amazon: "Call it fate, call it intuition, or just call it common sense, but somehow young Alanna knows she isn't meant to become some proper lady cloistered in a convent. Instead, she wants to be a great warrior maiden--a female knight. But in the land of Tortall, women aren't allowed to train as warriors. So Alanna finds a way to switch places with her twin, Thom, and take his place as a knight in training at the palace of King Roald"

I thought maybe it was just nostalgia that makes me love these books, but I've given them to several of my friends and they've all adored them. They're easy to read, and hard to put down.

Marya said...

I do love Time Traveller's Wife but there are so many miscarriages in it. Definitely cryworthy.

Christine said...

Our book club is reading: Eat, Pray, Love this month. I haven't started it yet so can't recommend it but I think it might be a good one for this time of year. ...

Candace said...

our book club is reading "in god we trust, all others pay cash" by jean shepherd. the one the movie "a christmas story" is based on. they also made a sequal, "a summer story" based on that book as well, and i LOVE "a christmas story" and thought "a summer story" had it's moments...good luck on your search!

ps i also love "cold sassy tree" by olive ann burns, but it might make you cry. in a good way, though. if you are ever up for it. :)

bubandpie said...

I don't ordinarily read fantasy, but my husband made me read The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, and once I got into it I was absolutely GLUED. There are some suffering children - but doesn't it help if it turns out they have magical powers?

Another fantasy series that gripped me was by Robin Hobb, the Farseer trilogy. Both of these series took me awhile to get "into" but once was in, I was hooked for a long time.

kristina said...

This might be totally out of nowhere: I'm the Teacher, You're the Student by Patrick Allitt: A year in the life of a British history professor---he teachers American history at Emory University in Georgia.

I also have some suggestions about boxing books---a different kind of pain from the sweet science.....

Cactus Chris said...

Desert Solitaire. It'll change your life.

Niksmom said...

Wow, some awesome suggestions...some of my faves from many moons ago! (LOVE Robertson Davies!) How about some Anne Perry or Elizabeth Peters? Interesting characters, no tears, wonderful mysteries...

I am hitting that point, too, where I can't read anymore "weighty" stuff. My sister and I trade some wonderful books back and forth. Some of the newer Jane Ausetn-based works are good. I enjoyed Elizabeth Aston's three -- Mr. Darcy's Daughters, The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy, and The True Darcy Spirit.

Do let us know what you find; I'm always on the lookout for something new that's NOT autism or disability related or heavy!

Spencer'sMom said...

I second anything by Sherman Alexie. He has anthologies as well as novels.

Another favorite author is David Sedaris. HILARIOUS yet deep and thought provoking. My husband likes to have me read the stories out loud in bed before sleep(literary foreplay?). Again, mostly anthologies but they are great: Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy.

Happy Reading!

Daisy said...

Nicholas Evans, The Divide. No autism -- at least I didn't see any in it. :)

Jenn said...

Ah yes, I can relate all too well.

I currently have had a book by one of my favorite authors on my nightstand for over a month now and am only on page 79. Normally I would burn through her books in 24-48 hrs.

I simply can't let myself fall into a book these days. *sigh*

I need a snow day. Hot cocoa, blanket, and my book.

Hope we both can remember how to read again soon!

gretchen said...

I know you've read The Time Traveller's Wife, because you recommended it to me :-) It's one of the few books my mom's read for her book club that I was able to discuss with her. But it made me bawl.

Some great suggestions here- thanks for posting this!

Maggie Rosethorn said...

MOM-NOS: If you enjoy sci-fantasy that is a quick read, I second the author who mentioned Tamara Pierce. Her sci-fantasy books are really enjoyable. Not just the Alanna books, but all of her series. I love and re-read them all.

Another option: Mercedes Lackey. Her Valdemar books are always enjoyable. The early books are faster reads than some of the others, but I love them all, too. Along with her other types of books: the Guardian books, the elf books, and her other trilogies.

I also enjoy Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael books (murder mysteries but a quick read), the OZ books by Baum, and all the old books such as Louisa May Alcott. Sometimes reading an old favorite is the push I need to start a new book.

Drama Mama said...

MOM NOS, just wanted to say thanks for this post! I got so many great ideas for it - and I'm just STARING at a five-day weekend! xoxo

MOM-NOS said...

Wow. This is amazing! So many great ideas. Thanks, everyone! A few things:

Gretchen & Maddy, I've read The Ladies Number 1 Detective Agency and liked it, though not as much as other people seemed to. Robin, ditto with Janet Evanovich.

Steve D., that is the sort of recommendation I can't possibly ignore. I will definitely check it out.

Wendy, I loved The Kite Runner, but man oh man that's exactly the kind of book I'm trying to avoid. Kids in pain and then some! Loved The Time Traveler's Wife as well, though I read it after I had my tonsils out and I was in and out of consciousness, so I can't remember much about it. I have a feeling that my experience of it was half book, half hallucination. :)

Cactus Chris, I was going to say that though I've never read Desert Solitaire, I have given it as a gift and it was, in fact, life-changing, but then I got to thinking that perhaps you already know that... :)

Anonymous, re-reading an old favorite is a very good idea. Perhaps I'll scour the bookshelves...

Anonymous said...

Recipes for a Perfect Marriage:A Novel by Morag Prunty.

Miriam said...

Sherman Alexie is a definitely a good read.

I also have trouble reading (down to 1-2 books a month from 3-4 books a week).

Two books that worked for me this year are A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockheimer and No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. I read the latter because I wanted to see the movie and needed to know who died (I'm a suck). Oh, and other one was Restless by ummmm, William Boyd. I don't remember kids in danger in any of them.

Heh, none of them are particularly cheerful, although the Brockheimer isn't too bad, but both were compulsive reads and neither had kids in danger (fair amount of violence in the McCarthy though . . .).

If you read fantasy then Pratchett always works for me in a pinch. Light, funny and clever. Or you could try Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaimen. It's a gas and a half.

Teal said...

I second Maggie's Brother Cadfael suggestion. How about the latest Robert Parkers, or have you already read them? How about plain old humor like the old Erma Bombecks? How about Eragon? My daughter recommends Prophecy of the Stones to you.

passionlessDrone said...

Hi Mom -

Non fiction:

The China Study [won't make you cry, but will make you change your habits. Read it if you dare.]

Guns, Germs, and Steel: Very fascinating exploration of the development of different cultures and why some have tended to dominate others.

Collapse: Looks at different civilizations that have collapsed and why. [same authoer as GGS]

Fiction:

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Take care!

- pD

mommy~dearest said...

I wish I could offer a suggestion, but it seems that everything makes me cry lately! Let me know if you want a real tear-jerker recommended!

Wow- some really good reads here!

There's always Fox in Socks... :)

MOM-NOS said...

Teal, I trust your daughter's judgment implicitly. I'll have to check it out!

I read Robert Parker faithfully for years and years, then suddenly stopped and never picked one up again. On an unrelated note, though, I'm pretty sure I sat behind him at a Paul McCartney concert a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

While I love detective stories, I also like to get out of American culture sometimes so I recommend Sacred Games by Vikran Chandra (post colonial to modern day India crime story) Andea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano (Sicilian detective) and Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemens Union (alternative history).

Sarah said...

Not even taking the time to see if anyone has recommended this, but you MUST read Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety. This is perhaps the finest novel published in the last 30 years, I feel quite strongly. It's a nearly perfect book and incredibly affirming and wise. Please go take it out of the library today!

Sarah said...

Oh, and also, please read Laurie Colwin's entire oeuvre. She specialized in funny, warm comedies of manners, both short stories and novels. Start with "Happy All the Time" (which will leave you grinning like an idiot).

Rooie said...

Here are some books that I've enjoyed a lot in the past couple of months....perhaps there's something here to tickle your fancy.

Generation Loss - Elizabeth Hand - A mystery, set mostly in Maine, with a not terribly likeable, but fascinating, heroine.

Bridge of Sighs - Richard Russo - Or any other Russo. He's such a good writer, who obviously loves his characters...so you do too.

The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon - Already mentioned here. I will also mention that his wife's books are also good...in particular Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. (His wife is Ayelet Waldman.)

The Used World - Haven Kimmel - Another author who just writes so lovingly about her characters.

Tenderness of Wolves - Stef Penney - A mystery, set in Canada. Very good and very cold...bundle up and make sure you have some cocoa.

And when I am really having trouble finding something to read, I'll frequently grab a Terry Pratchett. Funny, funny man.

David said...

Yeah me too. Check the books out from the library where I work, renew them, then return them unfinished. Pithy titles always.

Don't sweat it mom-nos. Our attention spans have been under steady attack for decades now. And we have been terrorized. Our cups runneth over with the profound and the profane. We need to remember how to find satisfaction in the comfort of the day's mundane and menial. We don't need the bungee jumping and hang-gliding. The hankering for the bizarre, dramatic, and exotic is a symptom of something bad, I fear.

Not gonna recommend a single book for you. Your life, as you reflect and write about it in your blog, sounds like it provides you with a great deal of wonderful "content"! Happy Thanksgiving.

Susan said...

I totally second Crossing to Safety--one of my favorite books. Perfect for this season. And Memoir From Antproof Case--hilarious. But I'd also add another Stegner book: Angle of Repose. Meets all your criteria--promise! Oh, and The World to Come, by Dara Horn.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully you'll get this comment but I just had to tell you about a book I'm reading that you might like - The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage. It meets all of your criteria. I haven't finished it yet but I have a very hard time putting it down. And the doctor's wife is an English/journalism teacher at a small college so maybe that's what made me think about you initially. I think you'll love it!

MOM-NOS said...

Anonymous, comments get e-mailed to me directly, so I'll get them no matter when you leave them. Thanks for the tip - I'll definitely check it out!

Mama2TheKid said...

This is a bit delayed from your request, but try the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon - I lose myself completely in her books, and frequently re-read them as they're like old friends who are always comforting to go back to.