I’m still chipping away at the tower of books I received as Christmas and birthday gifts. Some of these volumes are virtual, some are physically present on my nightstand. I have been enjoying all of them, slowly, savoring the radical differences among them. Because they were chosen by others, they represent genres beyond my usual mystery series fiction and poetry. Discovering new authors and subjects is a great way to cure the reading rut into which I often dig myself. Here are some of my new selections.
"Slash and Burn: A Dr. Siri Mystery Set in Laos" was written by Colin Cotterill, a new name to me. Although there is a mystery to be solved, most of the story revolves around a varied team of searchers, looking for the remains of a downed pilot. Yes, there are deaths, some occurring in the past, some occurring during the trek into the jungle. What I found most interesting was the interplay among the characters, and the intertwining of Eastern and Western cultures. Needless to say, the murders were righteously resolved, and my virtual trek into Laos was without discomfort. Reading this novel on my Nook in no way detracted from the tale, and allowed me to read late at night without benefit of other illumination.
"Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)" by Jenny Lawson took me on quite a different kind of adventure. While I enjoy memoirs and autobiographies as a whole, I had trouble getting past the overly detailed descriptions of the work of the author’s father, a Texas taxidermist. While many of the memories of childhood were humorously retold, the line between truth and fiction was needlessly blurred by huge doses of hyperbole. After reading several chapters, I put the hardcover book down, and was never inclined to pick it up again. I had too many other choices waiting for me.
"The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachael Joyce was a joy in every way. Harold Fry, a quiet (almost dull) retiree, set off one day to mail a letter to an old friend. His journey continued far past the nearest postbox, and this reader followed him determinedly the whole way. True to the "what would happen if?" genre, Rachel Joyce allows us to discover the secrets of Harold’s life as he discovers the wonders of the world around him. The conclusion was satisfactory, and not without a few tears.
My current read is another journey book. It’s called: "The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared," a paperback by Jonas Jonasson.
I’ve only read the first couple of chapters, but I’ve already smiled a lot and believe that before I finish I will have laughed out loud at the adventures of the centenarian called Allan Karlsson. Only time will tell.
What I do know for certain is that my myopic little world, centered in a cozy Berkshire nest, is enriched tremendously by my encounters with all these books and authors. Even when my feet stay planted at home, my mind ranges the world, soaking up the sights and sounds of foreign landscapes, and participating in adventures I’d never have dreamed possible.
It is impossible to underestimate the power of words and stories. Through the magic of written language, ideas are magnified, truths are shared, and lives are changed. In a quiet room, we are free to enter into someone else’s life, and see things from their perspective. We are able to ponder the meanings of creeds and philosophies different from our own, sometimes incorporating other truths into our own belief system. Barriers such as prejudice and distrust can be shattered by the simple act of opening a book (or powering up a reading device). That’s what I call some kind of wonderful.
Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.