A while ago I mentioned the nifty yet tempting “book-a-day” calendar my brother gave me for Christmas. It just keeps reeling off books I’d like to read soon, or books I remember enjoying very much and want to recommend to everyone else. And so, since it’s summer and if you’re reading this, you have some time on your hands for reading, here are a few random leaves from the calendar:
1. False Scent, by Ngaio Marsh–a Roderick Alleyn mystery. I read most of these when I was in high school, but I don’t recall this one in particular, so maybe I should look for it. Or go back and read them all again. Marsh, like Dorothy L. Sayers, writes so well and her characters are so interesting, that even if you know whodunnit, you enjoy reading the books anyway.
2. The Fig Eater, by Jody Shields–never heard of this one, but the calendar calls it “a literary mystery smoldering with atmosphere and history. . . . Set in Vienna in 1910 . . . a detective and his wife . . . use very different methods to solve the murder of a young girl.” I’m putting this on my list.
3. Lost in Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia, by Mark Salzman–this memoir’s description struck me in synchrony with the recent media interest in The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn & Hal Iggulden, which teaches kids how to do all kinds of fun outdoors adventures, crafts, and projects, rather than watching TV and playing video-games all day
4. Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, by Steven Johnson–this book garnered a lot of buzz when it came out two years ago, because it “reports . . . that certain video games have proven to raise IQ scores and reveals how television shows have had to become more sophisticated to meet viewers’ expectations.” Let’s say some television shows. Most of us should probably read The Dangerous Book instead.
5. I’m not so sure about Bangkok 8, by John Burdett (2004), but with critical acclaim like “The wildest ride in modern crime novel exoticum” (James Ellroy), and “jade mines, drug deals, sleazy sex traders, fatal snake bites, and an ambivalent Buddhists detective”–sounds like beach reading, at least. If I get to the beach.
6. War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, by Andrew Carroll (2002)–this book resulted from The Legacy Project, which collects letters from soldiers, and has published more books since this first one. It’s ironic that a high school play with a similar objective was recently banned and later premiered on Broadway.
7. Brazzaville Beach, by William Boyd (1995)–I’ve heard of this book and the neighboring Congo connection lent it interest. Book calendar describes it as “the story of a primatologist working in Africa who was driven to reevaluate her marriage and her work with chimpanzees.” OK . . .
8. The Last Song of Dusk, by Siddarth Dhanvant Shanghvi (2004)–I’d like to add to the list of contemporary Indian novelists I’ve read, and this book sounds like a good one with critical comparisons to Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy; though the plot description is rather abstract, the setting in 1920’s India sells it.
What I’m really waiting for, right now, is for my husband to finish reading the latest Thomas Perry thriller, Nightlife. Many writers seem to lose their edge as time goes by; Perry just keeps getting better.