Monday, March 29, 2010

Lo-prah's Book Club

Oh I admit it, I'm green with envy for Oprah and I want my own Book Club too! So this is the first in a series I like to call Books I Liked and if You Have Good Taste You'll Like Them Too.

1) The Help by Kathryn Stockett -- I really loved this book. It's the kind of book that you actually slow down reading when you get toward the back because you just don't want it to end...but you need to know what happens too, so you'll find yourself turning pages faster and faster again, only to curse yourself when you realize you're 60 pages closer to not having it anymore. The story is set in the South in the early 60s. The "Help" are the black maids of overprivileged white women. The only white woman who really has any redeeming qualities at all is (of course) destined to the life of a spinster. The book is very well written. It's touching, and funny, and at times will raise your ire. It's a fast read that I found myself missing when I got to the end. (It's ok - you can throw up if you need to. This kind of effusive rant is really beneath me, I will try to do better in the future!)

2) The Glass Castle & Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls -- Both of these "memoirs" are very good and well worth the read. I actually read them in reverse order to their writing (Half Broke Horses and then The Glass Castle), but this made for a chronologically correct read. I hadn't actually heard anything about either of these books and I saw HBH on a display table at the library, so I checked it out. It's the story of Walls' maternal grandmother who was a rancher living off the grid in Arizona in the 1930s. It's a story of hardship and triumph and, and, and -- and now I'm starting to sound like web-critic for Barnes and Noble so I'm going to stop! The point is it was good. I read The Glass Castle after reading HBH. It was equally good, though it certainly raises those James Frey inspired questions like: "Did this really happen?" But, from what I can tell, unlike Frey, her Million Little Pieces seem to be substantiated by verifiable truth. Maybe you (I) just want it to be fiction because her life sucks so badly that you can't believe anyone from those circumstances would actually make anything of herself. I don't know - but it's good.

3) Devil in the White City by Eric Lawson - This is not a new book (I think it came out about 10 years ago or something), but I find myself recommending it again and again. It's the only book that I can think of that both Paul and I really enjoyed. It's a historical book (not really a novel, but certainly there are imagined elements) with parallel stories from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Half of the book follows the architects and landscape architects commissioned to build the fair, and the other half follows the story of America's first (known) serial killer. It's fascinating. The serial killer aspect is at least somewhat fictionalized, but it's based on the trial transcripts, letters, and a lot of other first accounts, so it's certainly grounded in fact. The details, however, are imagined. It's a heftier book than any of the others that I recommend, but it's well worth the read.

Please comment with your own suggestions!!


  1. for some reason my comments on this blog are not posting. I like lo-prah. cute. we are reading the help as our second book selection.

  2. Glass Castle was a great book. I might have to check out the other one. I own Devil in the White City but never got around to it. I keep meaning to read it but it never happens.

  3. I read a book by a woman who is likely 55 years old at present. She grew up off the grid in Montana or Wyoming on a hard scrabble farm (likely Wyoming?) and it is great story; I loved it. I cannot remember the title but I recommend it!

    I am reading Antonia Fraser's "Marie Antoinette" right now and it is stunning! I turn to the simplified family tree page at least 3 times for each text page I am reading and now I understand West Virginia.


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