What Do You Consider a Good Book?

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BOOKS! Books! books! So many books… offering promises of new vistas to imagine and new paths to walk. What grabs your attention in a book? What is it about a story that leaves you with lingering memory traces, to feel and review once again, long after the book is finished?

I APPRECIATE DEPTH in any book, fiction or non-fiction. In fiction, I am partial to stories with lots of dialogue (as in Hemingway), but yet, I can be mesmerized by a book with little verbal interaction among characters, such as An Unnecessary Woman, I am reading currently.

I DON’T ENJOY fiction with stereotyped jargon, two-dimensional characters that are not very interesting, a story line too predictable or simplistic, a boring theme or plot, or no plot. I welcome a good story in a locale that is new and unfamiliar to me.

MY INTERESTS extend well beyond fiction, however, and I tend to choose books from a wide variety of topics and genres. I find it most satisfying when I learn something new from reading, or the author stimulates my thinking about a dilemma or circumstance in a different way.

A HOUSE WITH BOOKS seems a little warmer and inviting somehow.

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MY KINDLE rests on my bedside table so I can read a few paragraphs or chapter of an e-book before sleep. I love the bright red cover. I tied a red ribbon around it. When I untie the ribbon to read, I feel as if I have opened a gift… which of course I have. In addition to the ongoing gift of adventure, my son Jon gave me the Kindle.

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MY DAUGHTER SUZANNE crocheted a cover for the Kindle and the charge cord, so I can use it as a travel case. So pretty and practical too! I take it with me when I have appointments that I know will keep me waiting (such as medical clinics and airports).

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I KEEP ONE OR TWO books (with actual pages to turn) in the living room near my favorite chair, so they are available when I have time to sit with a cup of coffee or tea.

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I TYPICALLY READ 60 to 100 books a year. I have listed below a sampling of ten books I read recently that captured my attention for one reason or another.

THE COLE TRILOGY: THE PHYSICIAN, SHAMAN, and MATTERS OF CHOICE, (3 books) by Noah Gordon, Barcelona Books. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories of physicians with healing hands in one family tree, from medieval to modern times. The first book, The Physician, was the best, taking place in ancient Persia, England and Scotland. Historical elements interwoven: medicine, medical training, care of bubonic plague victims, practice of Islam, Christianity and Jewish religions in ancient times. Second book was delightful as well, taking place in 1800’s in Scotland and American with Indian culture and American civil war. The third book was OK, just not as dramatic as the first two.

CHASING CHINA: ONE WOMAN’S SEARCH FOR TRUTHby Kay Bratt (2010). A fictional story of a young woman of 18 who travels to China to find the story of her birth. The author lived in China for 4 years and every place and incident involving children were observed by her and incorporated into the story. A beautiful and troubling picture of China today.

THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom, Simon & Shuster (2010). A believable story with a big cast of characters you can care about and root for… and several nasty villians. Set in Pennsylvania plantation for most of the story (partly in city of Philadelphia). Features the lives of negro slaves and an indentured Irish girl and the white family in the big house and how entangled their lives become. Story told from view of a slave and the indentured servant. Brings alive a dark period of our history.

SERENA by Ron Rash (2008). Harper-Collins e-books. Powerful story by Western NC author. Serena is the most black-hearted woman villain literature has seen for many years. Story takes place years ago in North Carolina and Tennessee when mountains were being clear cut by lumbar barons, leaving waste lands in their wake. Depicted hard life in the lumbar camps. There was no action Serena would avoid to get her way. A movie is in the works.

THE WRITING LIFE by Annie Dillard, Harper Collins e-books. Just what the title says, snippets about her writing life demonstrating it is a plodding, frustrating and yet meaningful endeavor.

THE ROSIE PROJECT: A NOVEL by Graeme Simsion, Simon & Shuster. A funny, touching story about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome who sets out to find a wife. (Asperger’s is a high functioning form of autism which can lead to difficulty in social interactions.) Easy to cheer for the main character and his Rosie.

A GENTLE RAIN by Deborah Smith (2007). BelleBooks. A warm, fuzzy love story of the rural area in North Central Florida, an area tourists flocking to Florida resort areas do not really know. Eccentric characters include lovable and talented mentally challenged and other unique characters. Rich girl joins rural farm seeking her birth parents. Story is full of coincidences, and rich girl has more talents than supergirl, but still the characters shined through this story. This story reminds us to value and acknowledge the talents of each of us.

UNBROKEN: A WORLD WAS II STORY OF SURVIVAL, RESILIENCE AND REDEMPTION BY Laura Hillenbrand. In recent years, my husband and I have occasionally enjoyed a book together by reading to each other in the evening. This was a book we read a couple of years ago. USA Today newspaper reported today that Angelina Jolie was planning to direct a movie based on Unbroken. The is a true story about an American hero, Olympian track star in 1932 Olympics in Berlin, pilot, and former Japanese prisoner of war during WWII. Louis has lead an amazing life! The historical research Laura Hillenbrand did for this book is as impressive as her book on Seabiscuit. Louis is 97 years old now. Apparently, he is a neighbor of Jolie too. If you read this book, I predict you are not likely to forget it anytime soon.

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3 thoughts on “What Do You Consider a Good Book?”

  1. Hi Sue, Thanks for following my Spanish blog, and for your congratulations on my first blogging anniversary. I also blog about books and writing, I’m not sure if you’ve found that blog too? I am never without a book, get slightly panicky about leaving the house without one in my bag! I’ve just finished ‘Wolf’ by Mo Hayder, rather scary, and am now reading ‘The Quick’ by Lauren Owen. Just two chapters in and it is intriguing, going to be a slow build I think. SD
    http://www.sandradanby.com/

  2. I loved the Rosie Project. An easy light hearted read underscored by a deeper message. Because it was set in my hometown, it was all the more enjoyable. I’m reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent currently. A young writer with a deep grasp of the fundamental issue of isolation

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