Three Good Books

Sometimes the world is bursting with books, and I can't read fast enough. At other times, the world is full of books but nothing sticks.

I'm drawn to good writing, of course, along with engaging characters and story. But it takes more, doesn't it, to keep us on the page and eager. It's not just the book, it's what the reader brings to the book — a mysterious mix of timing, willing and luck.

Fortunately, I'm on a winning streak, absorbed and intrigued with nearly every novel I read. Here, a few recent favorites:  

The Interestings
by Meg Wolitzer

Perceptive is the key word. From the New York Times to O magazine, nearly every review notes Wolitizer's keen ability to write characters with depth and empathy. This sweeping novel, says the Times, is "acutely perceptive about the feelings and motivations of its characters." It's no simple story, either. In her ninth novel, Wolitizer follows a group of summer camp friends far into adulthood for a complex story of friendship that is expansive, engaging, and at every turn rings true.


The Age of Grief
by Jane Smiley

It's easy to dismiss a collection of short stories. Just as you get comfy it seems the story is over and another begins. But don't skip this one! In this slim volume, Smiley (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Thousand Acres) demonstrates her powerful skill in rendering character and tone with deft economy. The title story (a long short story, or novella) is the keeper of the pack — it's a wise, moving, and at times funny story of a marriage about to break.

''I am thirty-five years old,'' says the story's narrator, ''and it seems to me that I have arrived at the age of grief. Others arrive there sooner. Almost no one arrives much later. I don't think it is years themselves, or the disintegration of the body. Most of our bodies are better taken care of and better-looking than ever. What it is, is what we know, now that in spite of ourselves we have stopped to think about it. It is not only that we know that love ends, children are stolen, parents die feeling that their lives have been meaningless. It is not only that, by this time, a lot of acquaintances and friends have died and all the others are getting ready to sooner or later. It is more that the barriers between the circumstances of oneself and of the rest of the world have broken down, after all — after all that schooling, all that care.''


The Obituary Writer
by Ann Hood

“When someone you love dies, after some time, no one listens anymore.  I listened.”

In a story both fluid and empathetic, the lives of two women — one in a loveless 1960s marriage, and the other in the early 1900s grieving the end of an affair — are juxtaposed in a novel that examines the expectations of marriage and love. With The Obituary Writer, Hood, the author of 15 books (short story, memoir, novels) combines fluid prose with touches of literary suspense. The resulting novel is a sophisticated, accomplished observation of love and endurance.


Let's talk! What book has you hooked?