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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lisa Howorth: IMG So Many Books, So Many Writers

I'm not a bookseller, but I'm married to one, and Square Books is a family. And we all know about families and how hard it is to disassociate... Continue »


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whoseblues1 has commented on (5) products.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Bel Canto

whoseblues1, June 28, 2007

On a scale of 5, I'd give it a 10. Patchett's writing is like butter -- so easy to read, so evocative, so warm and brilliant. The story is wonderful, and wonderfully told. Yes, there are improbabilities -- it's not journalism, it's fiction -- but the story is so entrancing and the writing so enchanting that you're more than willing to buy in. The cultural juxtapositions are spot on, whether simply sketched or illustrated in depth. If you are a reader of literary fiction, take the time to read this book, now! If literary fiction isn't typically your cup of tea, give this book a shot anyway. There's a reason this book won the PEN/Faulkner and Orange Awards and came out as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It's really just plain too good to miss.
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(17 of 24 readers found this comment helpful)

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

whoseblues1, June 28, 2007

Really 4++ stars. I decided to read this book (from 2001) before reading the author's most recent book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. This book discusses 4 different plants, demonstrating how 4 different human desires have operated to make them so successful. The apple tree and the apple come first, and, among other points, the real story about Johnny Appleseed is very interesting. The tulip is discussed next, along with the rabid financial speculation involved in its rise. Marijuana is third, and the chapter includes thoughts on the ubiquitous nature of human use, over time and across cultures, of consciousness-altering plant chemicals, and the possible connection of this use to the development of religion generally. Finally, the potato is last, with a look at the nature of genetic modification that is both sobering and thought provoking. The book posits that, while we pat ourselves on the back for domesticating these (and other) plants, we really have functioned much in the capacity of bees to fulfill the reproductive imperative of the plants themselves. In breeding these plants as we have to fulfill our own narrow desires, however, we may be paying too high a price in lost biodiversity, to our own eventual disadvantage. Well written, a clean, fast read.
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(33 of 56 readers found this comment helpful)

The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel
The Shelters of Stone

whoseblues1, June 28, 2007

This is the 5th book in the Earth's Children series (2002). After an extensive gap (12 years) between the 4th and 5th installments in the series, Auel offers up a very long, repetitive book with no real plot. The main characters finally arrive at their destination after the endless trip related in The Plains of Passage, we meet a boatload of new characters (to whom the same stories must be told and the same explanations given, over and over), and we get a lot of information about everyday life in this new place. But nothing . . . ever . . . really . . . happens. This book seems to be an extensive stage-setting device, with Ayla's intellect and other powers coming to be recognized over time by Those Who Count, positioning her to do Big Things in the next installment -- that is, if it ever comes. It's been 5 years since this one was published, and the next book still isn't out. Without it, all of this stage setting is pretty much for nothing, in my view. Knowing this, if I were deciding whether to read these 750 pages (and devote that precious commodity, my limited reading time, to them), I'd wait to make the investment until Auel gets around to publishing the 6th book instead. Until then, IMHO, there's nothing here you really need to know.
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(17 of 36 readers found this comment helpful)

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan
Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books

whoseblues1, June 28, 2007

Corrigan reviews books for NPR?s Fresh Air. She also has co-edited a book of criticism and teaches college-level courses on detective fiction. This book is a sort of personal essay about reading and what reading means (and does) to the passionate reader. It is also about certain genres of writing, and certain specific examples within those genres, that have made an impression on her throughout her reading life. She teases out some trends in a couple of those genres ? e.g., her specialty of detective fiction, as well as what she calls ?secular martyr? books (Corrigan is from a Catholic background) -- that I found interesting for what they say over the arc of her reading life about girls and women as both subjects and consumers of these materials. She is the first author I have read to explicitly point out that, since most of the reading we are required to do throughout our education is centered around a male hero or antihero, girls/women practice a ?learned androgyny? (i.e., a ?sex change of the imagination?) so that they can step mentally into men?s stories in literature. The implications of this fact, and of the fact that the converse is not equally true, are interesting to reflect upon. Corrigan has a light, readable writing style. And if you?ve been thinking of diving into detective fiction, a bonus here is a solid list of knowledgeable recommendations.
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(12 of 20 readers found this comment helpful)

A Thousand Splendid Suns: A Novel by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns: A Novel

whoseblues1, June 28, 2007

This book is well marketed, not well written. It's really a quite average, "for dummies" rendering of that old work horse, the story of a society that is repressive, inhumane, and a total dead-end for women. To add to the fun, this society is also embedded in a politically and religiously troubled country (Afghanistan, in this instance). As is required by the formula, the smallest gain for any of the individual female characters always comes at an excruciatingly high price. My advice is to forget all the publicity hoopla -- this really isn't worth the reading time. It's contrived in many of its plot twists, but totally predictable at the same time. And it has an almost romance-novel ending that didn't ring true to me -- after the endless string of horrible events that take place, the attempt at such an uplifting ending simply falls flat. If you are interested in this type of story, set in Afghanistan, I'd recommend you read "The Swallows of Kabul" by Yasmina Khadra (Mohammed Moulessehoule) instead. "Swallows" is beautifully written, the characters behave like real people, and the story line avoids the soap-opera tendencies of "Suns."
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(15 of 30 readers found this comment helpful)

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