Sunday, October 02, 2005

I have only an attenuated version

of the usual light reading supply in this Cambridge apartment, I hit the shelf earlier this evening (I'm down with a wretched cold) for the least demanding thing I could find and was rightly punished for laziness with a novel so bad it wasn't even enjoyable to read (and though I've linked to it, I'm not naming it, some weird scrupulousness makes me chronicle all my non-work-related reading here but I am not such a sadist that I need to ruin in a minor way that author's day the next time she googles her own name; and you know, the Amazon reviews are absolutely glowing, though I did find one review online that said pretty much what I thought).

(The badness of this book reminds me how delighted I was to see earlier this week that Anansi Boys has made the #1 position on the NYT bestseller list. That list is often a torment to someone like me who cares about all kinds of novels, especially really entertaining ones that everyone should read: it so often has what I would call non-books on it, not to name names but a certain book whose name my late and dearly lamented grandmother misremembered as "The Leonardo Plot" springs to mind. Here's the hardcover list, which actually includes a number of quite decent books and several really exceptional books as well as a bunch of pretty trashy ones: I'm glad to see Jennifer Weiner's up at #2, I'm definitely looking forward to reading her new one although personal canons of taste mean that I wish they would stop putting women's legs on the covers.)

Chastened, I approached the shelf again and found something much more to my taste, Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear (don't click on that link, though, it gives you a truly horrifying sample of the audio-book). There are some anachronisms and minor diction glitches--it's set in England c. 1930--but it was a very enjoyable read; haven't read the first two in the series, will certainly seek them out. (I've read those Charles Todd ones, which I think are very good; this is in a similar vein. Though it's true that if you wanted a really major-literary-and-highly-readable thing along these lines, you might be better off with Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong and--my favorite of his books--Charlotte Gray. I can't wait to read his new one, Human Traces, but the Amazon page suggests it hasn't been released yet--perhaps it's only having UK release for now?)


  1. I was wondering if there where any books that you don't like; now I know.

  2. I hardly ever look at the NYT list anymore, because it's usually so infuriating. But you're right, there's an astounding number of good books on there this week, backed up by a few decent ones.

  3. Gwenda: Yes, I linked to the list hoping it was going to give me the opportunity for a good rant (you know, when all the books are by Clive Cussler and a co-author, or the once-great-but-now-literally-a-ghost-of-his-former-self Robert Ludlum and a co-author, or Tom Clancy and a co-author...), and then I was taken aback to see that it actually looks really pretty decent this week!

    Clayton: Many, many years of reading trashy novels have taught me to detect with barely a glance whether it's the kind of trashy novel I will enjoy or the kind that will disgust me. And the thing I love about the lit blogs is that the quality of my light reading has been so dramatically improved by them--this is the kind of book I used to get at the public library at the end of the week when all I needed was something completely undemanding to while away a few hours, and they are just not as good as if you take the trouble to get ones you'll really like...

  4. The funny thing about the bad book in question is that on the surface it would be something I'd want to read, but after about 3 pages, I got bored and stopped. Guess it was a good thing...!