GOOD BOOKS FOR YOUR WEEK-END
This past week has been amazing in Illinois.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced as much pleasure in y life being able to see concrete, meaning that the sheet of ice and snow covering our driveway is FINALLY gone, and now grass is visible as well, thanks be to God!
On the negative side, I have started and abandoned 2 major classics, as audiobooks. Shame on me, I had a hard time getting into them:
- War and Peace, by Tolstoy
- Middlemarch, by G. Eliot
I am now listening to The Good Daughters, and reading a very interesting book on Curry: Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors.
Here are my suggestions for your week-end:
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
From Mayes’s favorite guide to Northern Italy allots seven pages to the town of Cortona, where she owns a house. But here she finds considerably more to say about it than that, all of it so enchanting that an armchair traveler will find it hard to resist jumping out of the chair and following in her footsteps. The recently divorced author is euphoric about the old house in the Tuscan hills that she and her new lover renovated and now live in during summer vacations and on holidays. A poet, food-and-travel writer, Italophile and chair of the creative writing department at San Francisco State University, Mayes is a fine wordsmith and an exemplary companion whose delight in a brick floor she has just waxed is as contagious as her pleasure in the landscape, architecture and life of the village. Not the least of the charms of her book are the recipes for delicious meals she has made. Above all, her observations about being at home in two very different cultures are sharp and wise. [Publishers Weekly]
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer
The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet’s name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book’s epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet’s quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers. [Publishers Weekly]
The Language Wars: A History of Proper English, by Henry Hitchings
The English language is a battlefield. Since the age of Shakespeare, arguments over correct usage have been acrimonious, and those involved have always really been contesting values — to do with morality, politics and class. THE LANGUAGE WARS examines the present state of the conflict, its history and its future. Above all, it uses the past as a way of illuminating the present. Moving chronologically, the book explores the most persistent issues to do with English and unpacks the history of ‘proper’ usage. Where did these ideas spring from? Which of today’s bugbears and annoyances are actually venerable? Who has been on the front line in the language wars? THE LANGUAGE WARS examines grammar rules, regional accents, swearing, spelling, dictionaries, political correctness, and the role of electronic media in reshaping language. It also takes a look at such niggling concerns as the split infinitive, elocution and text messaging. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, H. W. Fowler and George Orwell as well as the more disparate figures of Lewis Carroll, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lenny Bruce, THE LANGUAGE WARS is an essential volume for anyone interested in the state of the English language today or intrigued about its future. [amazon]
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia’s Blue Ridge valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of “mystery, death, beauty, violence.” [amazon]
The Ruby in the Smoke, by Philip Pullman
“Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man.” Philip Pullman begins his Sally Lockhart trilogy with a bang in The Ruby in the Smoke–a fast-paced, finely crafted thriller set in a rogue- and scalawag-ridden Victorian London. His 16-year-old heroine has no time for the usual trials of adolescence: her father has been murdered, and she needs to find out how and why. But everywhere she turns, she encounters new scoundrels and secrets. Why do the mere words “seven blessings” cause one man to keel over and die at their utterance? Who has possession of the rare, stolen ruby? And what does the opium trade have to do with it? [amazon]
WHAT WILL YOU BE READING THIS WEEK-END?