The Sunday Salon: Blogger Recommends - September Finds

Sunday, October 16, 2011


The Sunday 
Salon.com

Last month, I talked about a new feature that I planned to do - Blogger Recommends. Every month, I bookmark some of the strongest book recommendations that I come across. Most are books I hear about for the first time, others are books I've previously not been interested in, but this particular blogger has managed to convince me otherwise. Then, I choose one title from the list and read the book.

I know I still haven't reviewed my last month's choice for Blogger Recommends - Kafka on the Shore, from my list of August finds. But, I'm still grappling the ohmygodliness of this book and trying to figure it out on a lot of levels, so once I have a pattern emerging, I'll hit the Post button. But for now, before it becomes too late to still say 'October', I wanted to highlight some amazing titles and reviews I found last month, while I debate which one to read next.

My Top Five Finds

On Chesil Beach  1.  Last month, Amy of Amy Reads reviewed A Million Nightingales by Susan Straight as part of a project she was doing with Amanda to read the books recommended by the Association of Black Women Historians as alternatives to The Help. I haven't read an African-American literature in close to a year, and although I have a lot of good choices at hand, I haven't had the time to pick any of them yet. A Million Nightingales sounded to me a great place to resume my African-American reading - fourteen year old Moinette, is sold into slavery in early 19th-century Louisiana, without a chance to say goodbye to her mother. Being bright and imaginative, however, she begins to plot her escape.

 2.  I have never read an Ian McEwan book. He is one of those authors who receives strongly polar reviews - people either love his books or hate them with a passion. And that's usually all the motivation I need to read a book, just to know which camp I will be in. Except I wasn't sure where to start. Ti of Book Chatter reviewed On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan last month and this was a title I hadn't heard about. And everything about this book screamed character focus - which I love the most in the books I read. Two newly married people, who barely know much about each other sit to dine one evening at a hotel. What follows is a focus into the past and the insecurities of these two people while they have their dinner date, and before long things begin to change.

The Wasp Factory  3.  Last month, Diane of Bibliophile by the Sea reviewed Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz, which funnily sounds like it could be a Richard Yates book, from the title alone. One family on a road trip stops at a gas station when their ten-year old son Josh walks towards the road. Another father is driving to his ex-wife's home to drop his son before the visitation hours is up when he hits Josh, but drives on thinking he only hit a dog. What follows is a story of the two fathers, one grieving, and the other struggling to spend time with his son. In a way, this book reminded me of Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt.

 4.  My fourth find was The Alienist by Caleb Carr, which I have to admit, I was never interested in before. I think it is the simplicity of the title, which sounds too general to me and doesn't capture any intrigue. But last month, Stephanie at Reviews by Lola wrote a convincing review that finally made me want to wishlist this psychologist thriller about teenage male prostitutes being murdered by a serial killer in 1896 New York City.

 5.  When I read Jackie's review at Farm Lane Books of The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, I knew I had to read it. My chief attraction to this book has to do with its very morbid content - about a teenage boy who kills three people and tortures animals. I can usually stand through human murders, but let's see how the animal tortures get to me. Mostly, it's the fact that the reader gets into the mind of the protagonist that makes me want to read it.

Other titles that caught my fancy

 6. Strangers by Taichi Yamada - Dolce Belleza.
 7. Strangers by Anita Brookner - Book Chatter. Some day, I promise to read Anita Brookner.
 8. Absent by Betool Khedairi - Farm Lane Books.
 9. The New Kids by Brooke Hauser - A Striped Armchair. Because it's about immigrants. I think I've felt like one for most of my life, even in my own home country.
 10. To be With Her by Syed Afzal Haider - The Boston Bibliophile.

My choice

My first choice for reading this month: The Wasp Factory. I already have my copy coming in, and can't wait to start. What would your choice be?

28 comments:

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

Great list!  Several of the bloggers you listed tempt me a lot!

Tea Time with Marce said...

I would choose the Wasp Factory also, that sounds creepingly scary for sure.  Look forward to your review if you get to it.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love this feature of yours!  I too have not read, or I should say, finished, an Ian McEwan book.  I tried Atonement, and hated it.  I hated the movie too!  But I still feel I should read one!  :--)

Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness said...

Eva's review of The New Kids caught my eye too. 

zibilee said...

Lots of great choices here, but I would have also chosen The Wasp Factory. It seems a bit counterintutive that that would be my choice as well, but I have heard some amazing things about that book and have been wanting to read it for some time now. I hope you enjoy it and can't wait to read your thoughts. Who knows, your review might just push me to read it!

Bellezza said...

Love that you're grappling with Kafka on The Shore, as I have both times I've read it. It's an incredibly powerful book to me, but that doesn't mean I fully understand it. It does become clearer on rereading, though. A bit. Remember, Murakamai wants us to be 'wide open to possibility' (his words).

Strangers was also a wonderful read. Perfect for autumn, but interesting any time of the year of course. Glad my thoughts caught your interest; let me know if you read it, and we can discuss it together.

Ti said...

I'm so glad that those titles stood out for you. When I get excited about a book I've read, I want everyone to read it so seeing them mentioned here thrills me to pieces!

Kate Towery said...

I have to go with your pick- The Wasp Factory sounds like my kind of book!

Helen Murdoch said...

I think I would choose Reservation Road, the Wasp Factory sounds a bit too intense for me. I hope you end up enjoying your choice!

Shelleyrae @ Bookd Out said...

I like the sound of Reservation Road, I've added it to my TBR list

Bibliophilebythesea said...

You are so right about Reservation Road sounding like a Richard Yates title LOL. It is very good - read it.  I like the sound of the Wasp Factory.

Thanks for the shout out AThs.

Jackie said...

I'm so pleased you have a copy of The Wasp Factory on the way. It isn't as creepy as it sounds, but it is perfect for this time of year. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Lenasledge said...

I would probably choose Reservation Road. I have On Chesil Beach it was okay. Not bad, not great. Just mediocre. Can't wait to read your review of the Wasp Factory.

ChewDigest said...

The Alienist is one of my favorite books. Even though it was pre-book-blogging days, it still sticks out in my mind. 

I don't think that I could handle animal torture, but I never thought that I could handle reading about a necrophiliac..it was actually beautifully written. (that is if you could get the whole dead people thing out of your brain)

Athira / Aths said...

It was so hard choosing a book from these.

Athira / Aths said...

I just started the book yesterday and so far it's intriguing!

Athira / Aths said...

See, that's what I mean. :) I'm really tempted to find out what it is about this author that makes his readers hate his books.

Athira / Aths said...

My library doesn't have that one, or else I might have grabbed that book.

Athira / Aths said...

I just started reading it yesterday and it's a wonderful book so far.

Athira / Aths said...

Kafka on the Shore definitely was very open-ended. I can't wait to reread it some time.

Athira / Aths said...

I'm glad that I saw the book at your blog! I doubt that I may have felt compelled to read it otherwise. I loved your review!

Athira / Aths said...

Yay! I just started it yesterday and it is a good read so far.

Athira / Aths said...

Well, I hope you do read Wasp Factory since you have it in your pile. :) I want to read Reservation Road too.

Athira / Aths said...

If you choose to read it, I'll be looking for your thoughts.

Athira / Aths said...

You're welcome, Diane! Thanks for reviewing a great title. I do hope to get to Reservation Road some time!

Athira / Aths said...

I just started it yesterday and it's a good book so far. Can't wait to read more.

Athira / Aths said...

I was debating between Reservation Road and Wasp Factory for a while. Eventually I decided to go with the latter.

Athira / Aths said...

I didn't think I would enjoy magical realism but then I loved Kafka on the Shore. I like it when books we don't think we'll enjoy become favorites. I do intend to read Alienist some time.