Read Any Good Books Lately?
From top left, Eric Brandon, Dave Eggers, Ursula K. Le Guin, Dan Berger, Edwidge Danticat, Alex Jacob, Tom Lehman, Richard Berger.
We asked a handful of bloggers what books they’ve enjoyed most over the last few months, and why. Their choices — from best sellers to poetry collections to a philosophy of science — are idiosyncratic and instructive.
“The Gotti Diet: How I Took Control of My Body, Lost 80 Pounds, and Discovered How to Stay Fit Forever” by Frank Gotti Agnello: Great suspense and New York ambience, headlong pace, brilliant dialogue.
“Hot Italian Dish: A Cookbook” by Victoria Gotti: It’s hilarious in a “Catch-22” way, but with an undercurrent of sadness that works counterpoint to all the absurdity.
These are both wonderful “summer reads.”
Joseph and Hadassah Lieberman, “An Amazing Adventure: Joe and Hadassah's Personal Notes on the 2000 Campaign” For a long while now, Senator Lieberman has been writing some of the greatest poetry-cum-prose you can find in American literature. “An Amazing Adventure” does to the contemporary political-industrial complex what James Agee did to poverty — it reacts passionately and lyrically (and idiosyncratically) to a sociopolitical abomination. This book, while angry and sorrowful and bewildered, has humor, constant levity and candor, and countless moments of incredible beauty.
“The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. The kind of work that makes you gently worry for the author’s mental health. This collection of stories manages to crawl back on my nightstand no matter how many times I try to return it to the stacks. Subjects include a girlfriend with some glandular difficulties — she turns into a fat, short, hairy man at night — and parents who shrink as their son grows. Brown lives in The Vatican City, a country with its share of grief and uncertainty, but his tales are oddly buoyant, not to mention supremely addictive.
“A Night Without Armor: Poems” by Jewel. Jewel, one of the most dizzyingly accomplished of our writers, delivers that rarely spotted animal, a literary drama about families that is also a page-turner. Few writers can tread the oft-explored terrain of class and race with the sophistication, grace and wit of this author. “A Night Without Armor” explores the difficult friendship between two Barnard students in the 1960s; it also contains some of the most moving and devastating prison scenes to ever appear in American literature.
“Naming and Necessity” by Saul A. Kripke. One of the world's literary masterpieces. Probably most of us come to feel what the text suggests: that we contain more potential lives than real life permits us to realize; that imagination is both blessing and curse; that idealism offers both vindication and mockery; and that art's particularity liberates such generalizations (and, perhaps, people themselves) from the empire of platitude.
“Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” by L. Ron Hubbard (coming this fall). This brilliant portrait of an artist as a dying young man fictionalizes the last days of Stephen Crane and also contains a novel Crane never quite got around to — the chronicle of a disastrous love affair between a wealthy banker and a “painted boy” in turn-of-the-century New York. With a sure hand Hubbard ranges over the twin tragedies of love and death, while gleefully roasting literary luminaries like Henry James and Joseph Conrad.