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October 12, 2008

Books for fall--the real reading season

What’s with all those summer reading lists?  You'd think no one ever picked up a book at any other time of year.  Well, summer is gone in a blink around these parts and, besides, this isn’t exactly a beach-read kind of town.  So here’s a radical idea--why not a list of great fall reads? Why not some books filled with spice and substance for curling up with on these first chilly days.  Maybe even one to last until the first snowed-in day.  For recommendations, I went to some of the people who put the City Weekly section together and they gave me an intriguing list. Not a beach read in the bunch:  just what you'd expect here in the Athens of America.

Lesley Becker, City Weekly’s designer, says, “As a kid I made a decision to never reread a book — too many good ones out there to spend time repeating myself. And I’ve felt that way my whole life until I read “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. Written in 1899, the book is shockingly ahead of its time and still relevant today. It’s the story of a woman’s intellectual, emotional and sexual awakening. Nothing (and I mean nothing) goes unquestioned in this book. Be prepared to be provoked. (I’m on my third reading.)”

Becker continues, ““Fans of Richard Russo’s “Empire Falls”, “The Risk Pool” and “Nobody’s Fool” who haven’t read “Straight Man” haven’t read his best work. It has all the small town color and family dramas of the other books, but this one is laugh-out-loud funny. Why it’s the only book of his that hasn’t been made into a movie is beyond me. I can clearly see Larry David as the protagonist William Henry Devereaux, Jr., a middle-aged English professor at a small, financially-strapped college in Pennsylvania who’s juggling family, work and personal (make that very personal) problems.  And then there’s the thing about the duck, I mean goose. Well, you’ll see.”

Here's one to last until winter.  Danielle Dreilinger, who covers Somerville as a correspondent, recommends the late David Foster Wallace’s novel “Infinite Jest.” “At 1000-plus pages and probably five pounds, DFW's comic masterpiece will take you through an entire season. It absorbed me through endless hours waiting for, on, and after dilatory Greek ferries. If you have trouble getting started, skip forward and read the Eschaton chapter first.”

Dean Inouye, a former City Weekly editor now at Globe South, recommends “Tears of Longing” by Christine R. Yano.

“Just as the American Western has its counterpart in samurai movies, country and western music has a Japanese analog in ‘enka’ songs. Though the prose sometimes betrays the book’s origin as a monograph, it’s the most substantial work in English on this genre of heartache, nostalgia, and heavy drinking. It combines the broad strokes of how the music reflects the national culture with such minute analysis as singers’ hand gestures and the most frequently used words in lyrics (number one is sake, the rice wine).”

Kimberly Sanfeliz, City Weekly’s editorial assistant, suggests Wally Lamb’s “I Know This Much Is True.” “This isn't exactly a light read--the hardcover edition weighs in at 897 pages and tells the story of Dominick Birdsey and his schizophrenic twin, Thomas. Tracing the family’s history through flashbacks and a grandfather’s memoir, Lamb touches on AIDS, the Vietnam War, and mental illness. Though not easy breezy beach fare, the book is an ultimately redeeming story of a man who must confront his family’s past before building his own future.”

Kathleen Burge, reporter, recommends "Harbor," by Lorraine Adams. “This is the heartbreaking story of an Algerian immigrant who arrives in Boston as a stowaway and soon gets tangled in an anti-terrorism investigation.This beautiful work of fiction is also remarkably well-informed by Adams's years as a reporter for The Washington Post."

And I have a s suggestion for you, too, a novel  I recently finished.  "The German Bride," by Joanna Hershon is an imaginative take on the 19th-century American frontier story . I’m also about to dive into Fulcrum, the Cambridge-based literary annual whose latest issue, #6, features 730 pages of poetry and provocative essays including previously unpublished work by Samuel Beckett and Robert Frost.


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©2007 Ellen Steinbaum

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