Friday, July 20, 2007

Summer Reading

I've been doing some reading this summer. Here's my list and some thoughts on what I've finished.

The Historian
by Elizabeth Kostova
A creepy book about vampires in which the heroine, through flashbacks, reveals her, and her family's, confrontations with Vlad the Impaler. Beautifully written and set in locales all over Europe -- but heavily focused in Romania -- this was a fun read. It's one of those books that's both a page turner and intelligent. Vampires creep me out, so that added a layer of extra fun for me.

The Russian Debutante's Handbook
by Gary Shteyngart
Mrs. Agricola has been telling me for a long time that I need to read this book. I'm glad that I finally took her advice. Laugh-out-loud-funny in parts, Shteyngart skewers mid-90s hipsters, grungesters, the Russian Mafiya and immigrants in Ameriva. His hero, Vladimir Gershkin, is a bumbling nebbish until a crazy misunderstanding in a Miami hotel sends him to the Republic Stolovaya and the city of Prava where he comes up with schemes to enrich the local mobsters, and himself. Like most adventure stories, it ends with our hero living in the 'burbs . . .

The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
I've read eight of eleven of McCarthy's published works and list him as one of my all time favorites. I must admit though, that I was put off by the fact that this book was a selection of the Oprah Book Club -- I almost didn't read it, but because I did almost buy it as a hardcover in December, '06 before it received so much "recognition," Mrs. Agricola picked up a copy for me. Unrelentingly grim, as one would expect a tale of the post-apocalyptic world to be, this book also contains the most human relationship I've encountered in a McCarthy book. Very much a writer of biblical prose, and unafraid to probe man's darkest impulses, many of McCarthy's characters are essentially allegorical representations of good, evil, debasement etc. The unnamed father and son in this book are definitely allegorical, but they are also incredibly human, especially in their love for one another and their will to survive. It was an awesome, deeply moving book that ends (and this in no way gives away the ending)in poetry.


Matt said...

Who would be caught dead reading an Oprah book in public? You'd probably feel more secure reading a Judy Blume book.

Agricola said...

I'm telling you, it pains me that he has been so "recognized." However, before All The Pretty Horses this guy was basically starving and penniless, living off of an econo pack of frozen chicken thighs . . . He is seriously one of the best, living, American writers and it never hurts to have Oprah anoint you in order to move units. It's a bummer though because he's so much better than the Oprah recognition suggests.

Read Blood Meridian for an awesome reading experience.