Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Grapes of Wrath

Finished The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. It's the story of the Joad family and their odyssey from Oklahoma to California in search of work, wages and a new home. The book is harsh, gritty and true. Steinbeck wrote a series of articles about migrant workers who had to leave their homes and farms in the Dust Bowl and look for work in California, to them a land of plenty. Much like Dickens writing about poverty and the resulting living conditions in Victorian England, Steinbeck's seemingly post apocalyptic tale was meant to raise awareness of the dire conditions that the migrant workers experienced, "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this." This book was hard to read at first. It's bleakness was troubling, but once I got to know the characters, the story became more and more compelling and difficult to put down.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Around the World in Eighty Days

Finished Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, another fun and exciting adventure book. On a wager of 20,000 pounds, Phileas Fogg of London and his newly hired French valet, Passepartout, embark on a journey to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. They meet with many snags and dangers and participate in various rescues of themselves and others. Fogg's trademark calm in all types of crises is both frustrating and admirable. Passepartout's unexpected valiance is heroic and sometimes hilarious. They travel by train, steamer, elephant and sled. At one point the possibility of utilizing a hot air balloon is briefly mentioned, but never actually takes place. I found this amusing since so many book covers feature a hot air balloon. This concept seems to have been introduced with Mike Todd's 1956 film adaptation of the novel. Interesting that publishers don't always read what they print.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Help

Finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Every year there are one or two books that stand out as the very best reads. Last year it was The Secret Life of Bees and Mariana. This year, so far, it's The Help. I could not put this book down.

Set in Mississippi in the early 1960s, it's told from the perspective of three different characters and focuses on the lives of black women who work as maids and their interactions with the white women who employ them. I don't want to give away any single bit of this deeply satisfying book. I just want you to read it.

Such a Pretty Fat

Finished Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster. This time Lancaster's memoir is about her efforts to lose weight. Trying to do the same, I thought it would be a useful read and it was. Aside from being hilarious, this book highlights moments when the author realizes that she's capable of so much more than she thought. An encouraging and honest read.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Adventures of Pinocchio

Finished The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, originally published in 1883. This book is second only to the Oz books in its wackiness. A bizarre, yet enjoyable read.