September 16, 2013 in Book Reviews
I am always on the lookout for a good book to read. I seek out recommendations from friends and family, I scour the book sections of Entertainment Weekly, US Weekly, and Oprah magazine, and I read the book reviews my favorite book bloggers post. (To those of you who are thinking that the last thing I need is another book to read after my splurge at Powell’s Bookstore, you couldn’t be more wrong.) Somewhere along the way, I came across 100 One-Night Reads: A Book Lover’s Guide by David C. Major and John S. Major. I couldn’t decide which was more exciting: the idea of 100 great book ideas, the fact that each one could be read in only one night, or that I checked it out from the library and got to read it for free!
For starters, I suspect that the Majors’ definition of “one night” is a bit different than my own. My kids go to bed at 9:00pm and I’m in bed by 10:00pm, meaning my night is 1 hour long (although I can read more during the day). They do make such a disclaimer in their introduction, noting that for some books the “one night” might extend into the wee hours, but even on the best night I doubt that I could finish The Hobbit in its entirety in one night. Nevertheless, I was willing to give them some slack on this point in exchange for some great book ideas…and they did deliver on that.
For each book, they included a synopsis of the plot, a brief review, a reason why that particular book made their list, an author bio, and even some other recommendations by the same author that would be enjoyable, although those may take more than one night to read. It’s an informative page-and-a-half of insight into each novel, making it easy for me to decide which books I had a burning desire to read and which ones I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.
Some books were classics, like The Hobbit, Charlotte’s Web, and Around the World in Eighty Days. Some were books I had never heard of before by authors I knew, like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (at the top of my list!) and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint (which is told entirely through a monologue to the protagonist’s psychiatrist, which sounds like an intriguing format). And some were books by authors I had never heard of before, like Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road, a memoir composed of letters chronicling the deepening 20-year friendship between Helene, a New York writer, and her reserved London bookseller. (I cannot wait to read this one.)
The books are arranged in an index according to genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Memoir, etc, to help you further narrow down your search, although I suggest perusing them all. I don’t consider myself a big memoir fan (although I’ve read two in the past two weeks and am about to start another. Perhaps I need to rethink my position on memoir.), but 84 Charing Cross Road sounds too charming to pass up.
If your looking for something new and different to read, you can’t go wrong with this book that you can easily read in only one night!
Need more ideas that are way out of the box? The June 2013 issue of Real Simple had an article listing the Top 50 Books That Will Change Your Life. The list was compiled by the asking renowned authors what book they had read in their life that moved them most. It is quite an eclectic list containing every genre you can think of, like Apartments for the Affluent: A Historical Survey of Buildings in New York that caused no end of inspiration for interior designer and author Alexa Hampton.
I’m rather intrigued by David Allen’s selection The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which explores the reason why we procrastinate about the most important things in our lives. The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson has author Cristina Garcia singing its praises. She describes this book told in verse as a “portrait of an artistic winged red monster who falls in love, suffers a disastrous romance, travels to South America, and becomes a photographer.” Sounds out there, doesn’t it? Needless to say, it’s on my list, especially when she adds that it is both funny and heartbreaking, a combination I can’t resist.
Now that I have all these great book ideas, I do believe the time has come to start reading them. Let the adventure begin!