Books Read Fall 2015: Fiction Edition

So far, this has been a semester of attacking the TBR pile. Here are the works of fiction I’ve finished since school began in August:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro:

Never Let Me Go

Dystopian fiction has been all the rage for the past several years. This literary dystopian novel, written in 2006, moves at a meditative pace and is somewhat detached from its characters; however, these authorial choices make sense at the culmination of the story. Readers who are used to the quick-paced action and heightened emotion of young adult dystopian novels may find Ishiguro’s style difficult, but I enjoyed the patient and haunting unfolding of the narrative.

The Night Circus  by Erin Morgenstern:

Night Circus

This book is hard to explain.  It’s sort of Romeo and Juliet meets Barnum and Bailey meets Charles Dickens.  I enjoyed the story of the two magicians who are pitted against each other by their mentors in a fight to the death, the quirky cast of characters, and the sinister carnival atmosphere of the novel.  

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver:

Bean Trees

I love Barbara Kingsolver; The Poisonwood Bible is one of my all-time favorites; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle inspired me to garden and eat healthier food.  This book follows Taylor Greer, a young woman on an epic journey across America, and I always enjoy epics with strong female characters at the helm.  I love how Kingsolver is able to blend believable, well-drawn characters with significant social issues, in this case, immigration, Central America, child abuse, and Native American issues.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker:

Color Purple

I have to confess: I’ve begun this book more than once before: once in high school and another time a few years ago.  I have read sections of the novel here and there, in order to help a student with an argument or relevant textual support.  But I still needed to read it from beginning to end.

The subject matter, especially at the beginning, is dark. The abuse that the main character, Celie, suffers at the hands of much older men kept me from finishing the novel in my younger years.  However, after discussing the book with students and hearing author Matt de la Pena say this novel first hooked him on reading, I wanted to give it another go.

I found is that I needed to read about a third of the book before I was hooked on the story.  

After that point, the novel became engrossing. The story follows a comedic arc: beginning in isolation and darkness and ending with community and celebration.  I’m so glad I finally made it to the beautiful ending.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty White:

Tree Grows

A few years ago a student gave this book to me upon her graduation.  She told me that it was one of her favorite books and that she hoped I would read it. I’m ashamed to say that it took me a few years to actually do so.  

But I finally did.

It’s difficult to say what this story is about; it’s fiction but reads like a memoir.  In fact, it reminds me a lot of Frank McCourt’s work.  I learned much about poverty in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, especially about tenement apartment living.  I liked the frank discussion of the issues of growing up in poverty; Betty Smith did not shy away, even in her era, from displaying the real problems of alcoholism, lack of birth control, predatory con artists, and persistent hunger for the central family in this novel.  

Francie Nolan is now one of my favorite heroines; she’s realistic and pragmatic rather than sweet and naive. I love her grit and, of course, her love of reading.   

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid:

Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

A novel written entirely in second person point of view, this book bills itself as a self-help book for an unnamed protagonist. We follow this protagonist from his very humble beginnings to his morally questionable success as a provider of “clean” water.  Really, though, this book is a love story between our protagonist and a “pretty girl,”  a character who continues to punctuate the material success story with other, more deeply emotional claims on our imagination.

In addition to these, I’ve read several nonfiction pieces and a few bits of drama.  More on those, anon. Have a great week!

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