Why are summer holidays the best time to have a stack of books to read? You’d think winter would be the season for it. Rainy, cold, windy, dreary….
No wait. That’s Germany this summer.
Good thing I’m well-stocked for holidays starting in only three days. Probably too much to attack in just under four weeks, but I’ll give it a shot. Besides, some of them aren’t meant to be read from beginning to end.
The first one I’ll mention is Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American. After falling in love a few weeks ago with Ms. Hustvedt after reading What I Loved, her latest was something of a post-honeymoon let-down. I guess I came to expect a book with the same depth of insight into troubling psychological themes and instead found myself getting bogged down midst a dandelion salad of intertwining relationships spanning three generations, several families and storylines. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention enough.
A lot in that stack I’ve read before. Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island I’ve been through twice already, but always find a laugh from him. Shakespeare was bought on the strength of the author’s name – we’ll see how that turns out – and as for Mother Tongue: read it! It’s full of a-hah! No shit? moments about the language you use every day and never really thought about before.
I’m probably the last person in the Western Hemisphere to read anything by Richard Dawkins, so it’s about time. Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go I bought for the same reason as the Bryson: my wife and I love the film The Remains of the Day and so we’ve high hopes for this one.
George Carlin’s Braindroppings and Napalm and Silly Putty, mentioned back when the great man brayed his last, is for those spots inbetween when there’s just no time to get deep into a story. Monologues, one-liners, quips, probes, thrusts, screeds, japes, taunts, insults, musings, harangues, verbal ordeals, jokes, notions, doubts, opinions, questions, thoughts, beliefs, assertions, assumptions, disturbing references, comedy, nonsense, satire, mockery, merriment, sarcasm, ridicule, silliness, bluster, toxic alienation, joy, anger, wonder, confusion, wisdom, hostility, innocence, impudence, reflection and semantic distortion*** suitable for about 10 minutes before the book falls to the floor with a soft plop to begin a mid-afternoon sacking out in a cot somewhere, or maybe just a trip to the john.
Sarah’s Key and Missing Mom are a nod to my wife’s taste, but despite their obvious girly exterior, I always trust her judgment. Did I ever mention that I think she’s the wisest woman I’ve ever known?
And last but not least: a recommendation to read Planet Germany by Cathy Dobson, a well-written and funny account of a year in the life of a British expat family’s attempt to fit in once and for all with their German neighbours and surroundings. I liked it because it was both personal and refreshingly free of most of the worn-out stereotypes you hear all too often about Germans and their country. Self-published doesn’t get much better. You can order it by Amazon like all the books here, or just get ahold of her via her blog. Tell her I sent you.
***Full disclosure: shamelessly copied from both covers.