Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Thoughts on Summer Reading

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • Much better than the previous book. Rowling has a good take on teenage behavior regarding friends, sex, etc. It will be curious to see if the tragic ending remains tragic, or if certain characters return (like Gandalf) or make an appearance (like Obi-Wan) in volume seven. The plot was better in this one, avoiding the extraneous sub plots which bogged down the fourth and fifth books (Hermoine's elf crusade was particularly irritating). I'm eagerly waiting the last installment.
White Noise by Dom Delillo
  • I've struggled with Delillo novels before, but I managed to slog through this one. A late 80's rant on the influence of television and the fear of death. Considering the boring lives the characters lead, I'm shocked they don't long for death as a simple change in routine. Tough characters to care about, and since there isn't much of a plot, there's not much to recommend this book.
Secrets by Daniel Ellsburg
  • I put off reading this book for a couple of years, and I now regret waiting. Great look at the 60's from someone who lived it (Ellsburg went to 'Nam, worked for the government and leaked the "Pentagon Papers" which revealed that the U.S. knew they were in a no win situation from the start, but no one wanted to admit it). He takes you from the Gulf of Tonkin incident (a complete fraud) to his acquittal on charges of treason in 1972. We see his character develop from hawk to dove along with the country. I show the film version of this story (The Pentagon Papers) to my journalism students.
An American Requiem by James Carroll
  • Picked this up for a buck at a library book sale, and it was worth much more. The writer tells his story of the priesthood, Vietnam and his father (a high ranking Air Force officer). It reminded me of A Field of Dreams with the father-son conflict except the root of Carroll's conflict was Vietnam. The son realizes the conflicts his father faced, but too late to reconcile with him. His departure from the priesthood is a shame...The church needs more men of his conscience and intelligence.
How to be Good by Nick Hornby
  • I was disappointed by this book. I'd heard great things about Hornby, but this book left me flat. A British housewife can't handle it when her previously loutish husband suddenly gets religion (in some bizarre form) and wants to change the world by giving away many of their possessions and taking in homeless people. She couldn't stand him when he wrote a column for the local newspaper as the "angry man", and now she can't stand him as a do-gooder. She whines about finding some middle ground and feels guilty about her selfishness. I cared more about their two children than I did about the husband and wife who were the main characters.
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