Monday, March 1, 2010

"Stick to Your Bones Books"

I often feel sorry for people
who don’t read books;
they are missing a chance
to lead an extra life.
Scott Corbett

This is the time of year when you want winter to go away…you’re ready to enjoy the outside without freezing. Spring is just around the corner...summer is a few months away…but for now, we have the cold, damp, last of the winter weather to contend with. (As I write this, we are having another of one of our many snowstorms.) One of the best ways to while away the rest of this winter is with a “stick to your bones” book. These are books over 500 pages that you have to commit some time to. They can be slow going in the beginning, you need to read at least 100 pages and when you do, you will be glad you did. Curl up with one of these (big) novels and they will help the time will fly by.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Meet Lin; an Australian who was imprisoned for stealing to support his heroin addiction. He escapes and goes to India. A wonderful insight into the culture and people of India. and a trip through the underbelly of Bombay that you won’t soon forget. Yes, it has the violence and death, but it also has love, beauty, and hope…there’s always hope.

This is a novel based on the life of the author, Roberts. Some of the things that happen to Lin happened to Roberts…as well as the love that both Roberts and Lin have for India. One of my favorite lines in the book, “the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life,” will come back to haunt you.

Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor

Pulitzer-Prize winning novel that took Kantor over twenty years to write. If you love books about the Civil War, this one is one of the best. Extensive research was done about the infamous prison in Georgia where over 50,000 Union soldiers suffered and over 14,000 of them died many for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the South. The South didn’t have enough food for their soldiers much less their prisoners; a commanding officer who took pleasure in the fact he killed more enemy a day then those on the battlefront; and the only Confederate officer who was tried and executed for his war crimes, Henry Wirz. Heartbreaking in the knowledge that this novel is based on truth, but filled with side stories of those who tried to alleviate the horror. (This was a banned book in Texas when it was first published in 1956.)

*If you haven’t read MacKinley Kantor and love a good civil war novel, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

I became a big fan of Lehane with his Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gernaro crime series that began with A Drink Before the War. Loved it and I was hooked. Two of his books, Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River, were made into great movies; and now his book Shutter Island is hitting the big screen. ( I say.... read the books before you see the movies.)

In The Given Day, he has written a novel that takes place in Boston right after WWI; the Great War is over, the Tzar is being overthrown, the Spanish Flu has taken off…and Babe Ruth’s train breaks down in Ohio…the one taking him to the Boston Red Sox. Full of events that happened, the historic figures that make appearances in the novel, the Boston Irish…

Lehane historical novel has much of the same style as his crime novels; sympathy for the underdog, strong blue collar ethics, irony for how events change, or make, your life. Two of the main characters are Danny Coughlin, an Irish cop, and Luther Laurence…a fugitive on the run from Tulsa, he goes to his friend’s house in Boston….

A great historical novel ….savor and enjoy.

One Thousand White Women: the Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

A “what if” book about a “deal” between President Grant and the Cheyenne Indian chef, Lone Wolf: Would the government give one thousand white women to the Cheyenne, so that they could intermarry, have a baby and therefore bring peace between the two very different people? In return, the Cheyenne would give the government one thousand horses? This book is based on a meeting that did take place between Grant and Lone Wolf. It’s a great story about the American West, the gold rush, the Indians, the soldiers at the forts and outposts, full of colorful characters that you feel you get to know, all told from May Dodd’s point of view through her journal… and what might have happened if the deal had been agreed upon.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

England, 1520…and Henry the VIII is king. He wants Anne Boleyn as his queen, more importantly…he wants, needs, a male heir. Enter Thomas Cromwell, who will do anything, at any price, to make his king a happy man. Tudor history at their best, which means the Tudor’s are at their worst…with Cromwell the perfect man to do Henry’s dirty work, encourage Henry to go after his heart’s desire, regardless of what the Church thinks. Henry VIII era is always fascinating, and this is English history at its best.

Winds of War by Herman Wouk

Wouk’s epic about WWII. The winds of war are blowing in Europe as we follow “Pug” Henry, a Naval Officer and confidant of President Roosevelt, and his family. It begins just before the German invasion of Poland. The effect the coming of war has on Henry’s family and those that they know and come in contact with. Wouk also interjects the German perceptive of the war from German general Armin von Roon “book” that Henry came across after the war. This book ends with the attack on Pearl Harbor, and if you are up to continuing, pick up the sequel, War and Remembrance, which takes us all through the war.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

What happens when a 16 year old girl sets out to find the truth about her mother and father and what happened to them? When she comes across a medieval book in her father’s procession and asks him about it, the tale he tells her opens up quite a can of worms…then he disappears. This book is actually quite the travelogue of historical Europe as well as present day. We travel across Europe while our unnamed female character sets out to find the truth about Dracula! When she realizes what her father had been doing and what really happened to her mother, that the stories about the horrors that took place weren’t stories at all but were true…If you like a good vampire story that will make you want to keep turning the pages, and maybe make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, this one’s for you. Kostova’s

*This is Kostroma’s first novel.

Hopefully you will cozy up with one of these books and enjoy the last few months of winter. Keep in mind….soon we will be moaning about the dog days of summer!

Happy Reading!


le0pard13 said...

Great selection of works, Bev. I have One Thousand White Women in audiobook and I will be listening to it this year, for sure. Looks like there are others I should take a gander at. Thanks for this.

Bev said...

Hi le0pard13! Thanks for stopping by. It is always hard when I do this posts to narrow down to a few. I hope you enjoy whatever you read or listen to.

Anonymous said...

Me no likey thick books.

I love Stephen King and have
"Under The Dome", but at 1074 pages, I haven't talked myself into starting it yet.

Bev said...

Haha...Vicki if you can read Under the Dome you can read anything! (also, don't fall asleep while reading it and hurt yourself!) Thanks for stopping by...I always love it!