Monday, March 23, 2009
Looking for a few Good Books
Some people say that they like to read, and others (we know who we are) can't imagine getting through a day without a good book to read. Anne Fadiman said in a pinch she'd read a Toyota Manual, but if given a choice we turn to our favorites.
After years of serious reading I find that I can't just read anything. In my younger days I felt obligated to finish books if I started them, but no longer. If it is Not Worthy, I stop reading. My son won't even start reading a book for pleasure unless he has some guarantees of quality.
I have some favorites, and maybe my vast reading public in internetland can recommend some new reading for me while I recover from some minor yet annoying medical issues.
My Reading Rules:
It MUST be well written. I am not picky about genre. I like Science fiction; I like mysteries; I like cookbooks. I loved Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness and many of her other books. One of my newer favorites is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. I've read it three times now. It is wonderful. I think I could take a class on this book. It is rich with detail.
A good Book can be read multiple times and reveals new aspects with each reading.
Patrick O'Brian's Royal Navy series are wonderful and I have read each one many times. The characters are well developed, the action flows naturally from one scene to the next. These books are crafted by a master. John Le Carre is another favorite. One summer I read every one of his books one after another. Someone could compile a spy manual out of his novels. I remember reading passages aloud to my family as we drove up to Vermont. The Constant Gardener will always remind me of summer in Stowe.
If the book is a fantasy, I expect the rules to remain consistent. If the author tells me that the hero can walk up walls, then don't set it up so that in the crucial scene he/she can't do that. (Please note this rule, author of Across the Nightingale Floor .You must be magically consistent.)
If it is a period piece, stay true to the period. No modern slang. I find that modern talk in a 1920's novel distracting. I read a book set in England during the time of the War of the Roses where the hero sent the heroine a bouquet of white roses in late autumn. That took me right out of the story; there were no reblooming roses in Britain at that time. Roses in England before the cross breeding of china roses with native stock only bloomed in spring and summer, once only. I realize only a gardener would KNOW that, but it bothered me then and continues to bother me, even now.
Wit matters. If Lord Peter were a Real Person, I'd seriously reconsider my marriage vows with Mr. Hunting Creek. (Not that Mr. Hunting Creek is not witty. But he doesn't have a butler like Bunter.)Intelligence matters. I can't read Judith Krantz-type novels any more. They are all just so much junk food reading. I have to read something with some brains, now, some native charm. Triple Bonus points if the heroine wears great clothes.
Louise Andrews Kent wrote such a charming descriptions of her debutante clothes at the turn of the previous century I can see each dress in my mind's eye.
I have read every book in my house, except for Mr. Hunting Creek's MBA textbooks on accounting. All of them more than once, in fact. I need some new blood.
So Dear Readers, tell me, what good books have you read lately?