Saturday, May 17, 2014

Immersed in Books: Let the Summer Begin

I've always done my best not to let everyday life get in the way of my reading. Even when I was going through the certification process for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards--a tedious, demanding year-long process--I managed to read for pleasure.  As a matter of fact, back when I went through certification, the Board provided a suggested reading and viewing list--and I am a girl who loves a book list.

Without a doubt, though, with summers off, I do plenty of catching up on my unwieldy book stack.  May is halfway through, graduation took place nine days ago, and I've read six books and listened to two already this month. Spending a solid week on an island off the coast of Florida without TV or wi-fi (or stores or restaurants), I was in reader heaven.

I want to take time to post about all of these books in the next few days, but I have to start with Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of AJ Fikry. I kept seeing the cover on book catalogs, magazines, and flyers.  As a general rule, I've learned to trust the Indie Booksellers' suggestions.  This book was like a love letter to reading, a love story for readers.  The title character is the thirty-something recently widowed owner of the Island Bookstore on Alice Island in Massachusetts.  He's prickly, opinionated, heart-broken and well on his way to alcoholism when a few events line up to change his life.  Each one brings him in contact with Police Chief Lambiase, the same officer who delivered the news of AJ's wife's death and the man who eventually points out to him that everything is a matter of good timing or bad timing.

Timing almost ruins his chances with book rep Amelia Loman, and what seems like the worst possible circumstance--the theft of his copy of Tamarlane--one of fifty copies of the first novel published anonymously by Edgar Allan Poe--results in the appearance of a foundling child--Maya, deserted in the bookstore by her mother.

What might be a predictable, maudlin tale isn't:  the laughter-to-tears balance is spot on.  For book lovers, this novel pushes all the buttons--real books or e-readers?  TV or books? novels or short stories?  Just what qualifies as a novella? Are books clubs for everyone?  In this case, the most successful book group ends up being the Chief's Choice, once AJ gets Chief Lambiase hooked on books, moving him from mass market crime thrillers to literary fiction.

Anyone familiar with this blog knows I'm a huge champion of audiobooks--and this was my listen for the long car trip home--but now I know I must have my own copy just to see if the author provided a book list. (In fact, I tried to find the hard copy in the library today)  Already, I'm ready to expand my reading of Raymond Carver, but, like Fikry, I'm willing to forego Moby Dick and Proust.  The jury's still out on David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. 

Best of all, I can't think of a better book to have chosen for the beginning of my summer vacation.  It may reshape my to-read-next stack considerably.

Here's one of the links I came across for anyone interested in further reading: NPR: Storied Life Comes with a Reading List

No comments: