20-22 in Brief

Greyhound -Steffan Piper

I devoured this book in a matter of two days; this book had me at magnetic cassette tape cover. Piper's tale is of an emotionally neglected pre-teen boy, traveling the country solo (to the shock of all that meet him) on a Greyhound bus. Along the way, the boy meets a cast on characters that both help remind the reader of the general kindness of their fellow man, but also caution them to be wary of the occasional devious nut job. This book left me wanting to follow the boy's story past the end of his journey, partially because I was interested in his personality, but mainly because I enjoyed the writer's narrative style. I will be looking out for further novels by this author.

Away: A Novel - Amy Bloom

Eastern European immigrant woman flees horrific massacre in the old country to the United States, only to hump her way (in the military and carnal sense) across North America in an attempt to return to Eastern Europe. Hated it.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon - David Grann

I love good travel writing; I love a well-presented book on history, anthropology, or archaeology; and I love a good biography - this was all that and more. This is the first book since I fell in love with The White Rock (Hugh Thomson) that managed to combine all these interests.


Reads 17-19

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

This one was selected for my work's book discussion group, though I had wanted to read it for a while due to its popularity. Not really a challenging read, but a very engaging one. I felt that a lot of research and time went into figuring out how to portray the different households, events, and interpersonal dynamics that were present in the racially-charged environment of the book. I can see why this book has gained such popularity, because it makes the difficult topics a bit more accessible. I think for people who actually lived through this time period, it might be an interesting take on what they experienced (in particular the idea that many people may have been largely unaware of the Civil Rights Movement's major events because of a lack of access to mass media, and a lack of coverage, or biased regional coverage).

The Little Golden Calf - Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov

Dan recommended this title for me, after hearing friends of his talk about it - he knew I like Russian lit. The thing that kept striking me was how I kept forgetting the age of the book; the language, subject matter, and the flow of it seemed like a more current piece. The Calf tells the story of a band of drifter con artists who set out to bilk an underground millionaire (in the early days of the revolution and the purges, showing you had too much cash wasn't a great idea) out a a portion of his fortune. I don't want to give too much away, but it was an entertaining ride that took me through the groups successes and failures. The copy I acquired through the Chicago Public Library had both the ending that was given to the book, and the original ending that went with the story when it was published in chapters in a magazine; I'm not really sure which one I prefer - they both have their strong points. The book ending seems to be more true to the tone of the rest of the story; the magazine ending seems to be a bit too neat and abrupt.

The Night Birds - Thomas Maltman

This was a case of judging a book by its cover - someone had dropped it in the returns slot at work, and it caught my eye. This book was one of those nice finds that keeps me up late at night, saying 'ok, just one more chapter before I sleep.' Maltman, inspired by old news clippings he had come across upon moving to Minnesota, pieced together a very compelling story about lives affected by the Dakota Conflicts that took place in the Upper Great Plains area during the Civil War. This very bloody, and largely forgotten piece of American and Native American history, was given a respectably unbiased treatment by the author when discussing the atrocities and generosities of the actors on both sides of the conflict. I appreciated that the individuals in the story were, for the most part, believable, rather than being the caricatures of good and evil one might expect to find in a novel where the subject matter is so emotionally charged. I would like to look into more work by the author because I feel like his writing involved a great deal of research and care - in addition to the details, his style and language appealed greatly to me.