Friday, March 30, 2012

My One-Man Book Club

I've always been a little OCD when it comes to books. 
Ask anyone in my family. 
One time Alex ripped the spine (yes the ENTIRE spine) off my new copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and I never let him touch my HP books again. I think I was in about 7th grade when I decided I wanted to have my own personal library in my house when I grew up. 
As a result, I love bookstores and
have an unnatural hatred for public libraries.
In St. George, I ALWAYS bought everything at Little Professor's.
I'm a staunch believer in supporting local bookstores.
But I haven't been able to find anything like that here in Provo.
So, the local Barnes and Noble is the place I go to when I'm looking
for some inspiration. I could literally spend hours
just wandering around, soaking up all the creativity.
As for libraries,
not only do I hate having to give the books back 
when I'm finished reading them,
I literally cringe at the thought of having hundreds of 
other people's hands all over my books.
I'm a freak.

So, I sort of live in my own little one-man book club. 
I'm constantly reading.
And I have read a lot of really fantastic books lately,
so I thought I'd share some of them.

Many of these books were found at my favorite spot in Barnes and Noble:
The Discover Great New Writers bookshelf is at the front of the store and
features books written by first-time authors selected every season 
by a panel of judges for being outstanding pieces of literature.
So far, the shelf hasn't let me down. You should check it out.

So here are some of my latest, greatest finds
ranked in no particular order:
I actually discovered this book by asking one of the employees
for the last good book she had read. 
(I do this constantly to the poor bookstore employees, 
but I feel like if you work in a bookstore,
you should be able to give recommendations.)
The story is about Asher Lev, (obviously),
a Hasidic Jewish boy in New York City in the 1950s
who has a natural talent and gift for art.
However, this talent is disregarded within Hasidic culture
and is seen as a waste of time and even sacrilegious.
The story is all about the conflict between art and religion,
with Asher pulled in two different directions as he 
develops his self-identity as an artist and a Hasidic Jew.
One of the best books I've ever read.
This one's from the Discover New Writers shelf.
It's the memoirs of a Texas death row defense lawyer.
Almost all of his clients are put to death.
Most are guilty. Some are innocent.
It's a fascinating look into the American legal system
and argument against the death penalty.
Kelly Kapoor was always my favorite character on The Office.
And I've always admired Mindy Kaling for not only her comedic ability
but also for the fact that she's a writer, co-executive producer 
and occasional director for the show. This book is a hilarious, quick 
read that had me laughing out loud moretimes than I can count. 
I bought this book after I had finished watching the first season
of Downton Abbey on Netflix. The story follows a young Jewish girl
whose parents are members of the Viennese upper-class society. 
However, at the start of WWII, they are forced to send her to work 
as a parlor maid at an estate in the English countryside for her safety. 
The book follows the course of the war and how this girl's life
drastically changes. Overall, it's not the happiest book I've ever read,
but it's a good story.
This was another find from the Discover New Writers shelf.
It's the story of a prominent doctor and his family in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
in 1974, on the eve of the country's civil war. 
While the doctor is ordered to report to jail after helping a 
victim of state-sanctioned torture die, his younger son joins
the underground resistance movement - choices that affect the entire
family. This book was about a segment of history and the world which
I know very little about, so it was very educational and eye-opening.
This was another book I picked up on the Discover New Writers shelf.
Set in 1944 on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean,
the story follows a nine-year-old boy named Raj
who is unaware of the war ravaging the rest of the world
until he befriends David, a young refugee being
detained on the island with a group of
exiled European Jews.
The book sheds light on an unexplored corner of WWII history
through the eyes of these two young boys with vastly different lives.
Yet another find from the Discover New Writers Shelf
(Seriously, I go there a lot...)
this book is about a future where a zombie apocalypse
has taken over the planet. The main protagonist is R,
a zombie with no recollection of life before he became Undead.
After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain,
R makes an unexpected choice to protect the boy's human girlfriend.
Their relationship sets in motion a string of events that will change
R, his fellow Dead and their entire lifeless world forever.
Now, this book is not the type I usually read.
Horror isn't really my thing. But I LOVED it.
One thing that really struck me as I read the book was
how beautifully it's written.
I know, that sounds ridiculous.
It's a book about zombies.
But, seriously, Isaac Marion's writing style is nothing
short of pure genius.
(I have this weird thing with words, I love them.)
This is the book I'm reading right now.
I actually found it at the BYU Bookstore
but later discovered it was also part of the
Discover New Writers series a while back.
I just can't escape that shelf...
It follows the story of a young cellist in
Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.
After a mortar attack kills 22 of his friends and neighbors
waiting in line for bread, the cellist
vows to play for 22 consecutive days at the place of the attack.
The story also follows a female sniper assigned to protect the cellist
as he plays, a baker who lives a solitary existence in the war-torn city - 
having sent his wife and son out of the country
and a young father desperate to care for his family
as the cellist's actions and music impact each of their lives.
So far it's incredible.

"The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go"
-Dr. Seuss


Melinda DeBirk said...

I am excited to have some new options to read after this post. Keep 'em coming!

Meredith said...

I consider myself an avid reader, but i haven't read one of these books. I am excited to have a bunch of new reading ideas!

Coby Gerstner said...

They have a cool old school bookstore on state in Orem between 800 s and 1200 s on the west side (imagine Tupac saying that part).