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...